Tuesday, March 21, 2017

The Thirteenth Amendment

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.

Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.

The 12th Amendment was passed in 1804 to solve a problem created by the advent of political parties.  It took another 60-years before the politicians found it necessary to update the protections of the constitution, and then it was only because we were in the midst of a civil war.
The issue of slavery was, from our very beginnings, a political hot potato the founding fathers passed to future generations to address.  The 13th Amendment when it passed ended the right of a state to determine its legality.  In reading the debate in Congress, at the beginning, it was not the slam-dunk amendment we think it should have been with only the Northern States in session.
Beginning on the 31st of March, 1864 the Senate took up debate on what was known as SJ Res-16[i], a proposed joint resolution to amend the Constitution and abolish slavery.  If you care to read the Senate debates you will see they wrestled with the same issues we have with us today, and in the course of those debates invoked the rights of a State to best determine the role of slavery, as well as the idea we as humans, where presuming to do better than our God in determining the roles of man.
Taken from the March 31st record the opposition of Senator Willard Saulsbury (D-DE) pretty much sums up the southern position.
“…We have grown, Mr. President, vain enough to imagine that had we been the creators of the universe and of all things that exist therein, we would improve upon the workmanship of the Almighty.  Had such been the case, no Eve would have plucked the forbidden fruit; no Adam would have been doomed to earn his bread in the sweat of his brow; the earth would not have been so cursed as to bring forth briers and thistles; the air would have always been balmy….
Slavery had existed under some form or other from the first period of recorded history.  It dates back even beyond the time of Abraham, for father of the faithful, in whose seek all the nations of the earth are blessed. 
It continued among all people until the advent of the Christian era.  It was recognized in that new dispensation which was to supersede the old.  It has the sanction of God’s own apostle; for when Paul sent back Onesineus to Philemon who did he send?  A freeman?  No, sir.  He sent his doulog, [doules,] a slave, born as such…”
The Amendment passed in the Senate in April, 1864, but needing a two-thirds majority it was defeated in the House in June by a vote of 95 yeas, 64 nays and 23 not voting.   It sat idle until December of that year when Abraham Lincoln engaged in his forth message to the Congress, where he asked the House to reconsider their opposition. It was finally approved by 2/3 of the House on January 31, 1865.  Signed by President Lincoln the next day, it was approved by the required number of states.  On December 18, 1865 – Secretary of State Seward verified its ratification.

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