|A Year of Indiana History - 2016|
Indiana became the fourteenth state to ratify the Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution. The Amendment, if ratified by twenty-seven states, would ban slavery in all states of the United States.
The Emancipation Proclamation
President Abraham Lincoln had issued the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863. The Proclamation did not outlaw slavery in the Border States, nor in the areas of the south under Union control. It only freed the slaves in states that were still in active rebellion. Lincoln felt that was as far as he could go under the Constitution. Even then, he feared his Proclamation would be found invalid or some future President could rescind it. He worked for a Constitutional Amendment to solve the problem of slavery permanently.
The Evolution of Slavery
A Dutch ship called the White Lion brought the first blacks to Jamestown in 1619. Though the status of these blacks is uncertain, their arrival began the evolution of black slaves serving as indentured servants to the institution of slavery that divided the nation in the years preceding the Civil War. By the end of the Revolutionary War slavery existed in all thirteen states. The northern states banned the institution entirely during the early years of the Republic. The southern states did not. The numbers of slaves grew until reaching an estimated four million slaves in the south when war broke out.
The Thirteenth Amendment
Lincoln's next move was to issue the "Proclamation for Amnesty and Reconstruction," in December 1863. In this proclamation, he asked the southern states to abolish slavery and collect loyalty oaths from ten percent of their population. If they did so, they would be permitted to rejoin the Union. No southern state accepted this offer and the war drug on. After several unsuccessful attempts at passage, the Congress finally mustered the two-thirds majority needed for passage on January 31, 1865. The Constitutional amendment process was still new and many felt that Lincoln's signature was still needed to legitimatize it. Lincoln signed it on February 1, 1865 and Congress sent it out to the states for approval the same day. Congress later passed a resolution that made the President's signature on a Constitutional Amendment unnecessary. Thus, the Thirteenth Amendment is the only Amendment that bears a Presidential signature.
Illinois ratified the amendment on February 1, 1865. Twelve other states followed in quick succession, Indiana becoming the fourteenth on February 13. Georgia's ratification on December 6, 1865 completed the process, as they were the twenty-seventh state to ratify.
Text of the Thirteenth Amendment
Section 1. Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.
Section 2. Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.
A Year of Indiana History - 2016
© Paul Wonning