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January 1863

Emancipation Proclamation:
On January 1, President Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation.  By his “war power” as commander-in-chief, Lincoln declared that all the slaves in Confederate-held territory as of that date were “thenceforward, and forever free.”  Excluded from the presidential order were the loyal Border States of Delaware, Maryland, Kentucky, and Missouri; the state of Tennessee (then under Union control); the counties of what would soon become the state of West Virginia, and certain counties in Virginia and Louisiana.  The document affirmed that black men would be used in the Union military.

June 1863 Statehood for West Virginia:
On June 20, West Virginia officially became a state under a constitution enacting gradual emancipation.  In 1862, the statehood bill had been approved by the U.S. Senate on July 14 and the U.S. House on December 10, and then signed by President Lincoln on December 31.  West Virginia voters ratified it on March 26, 1863.
December 1863

Annual Presidential Message to Congress:
On December 8, Lincoln promised not “to retract or modify the Emancipation Proclamation.”  Announced in the message, his Reconstruction plan required former Confederate states to accept all congressional and presidential wartime measures dealing with emancipation.  Slavery in the Border States was not mentioned. 

Abolition Amendments Proposed:
On December 14, Congressman James Ashley, Republican of Ohio, introduced a bill in support of a constitutional amendment to ban slavery in the entire United States.  Shortly afterward, Congressman James Wilson, Republican of Iowa, introduced a similar proposal to end slavery by constitutional amendment. 

January 1864

Abolition Amendment Considered:
On January 11, Senator John Henderson of Missouri, a War Democrat, submitted a joint resolution for an abolition amendment.  It was referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee, chaired by Republican Lyman Trumbull of Illinois, which began drafting an amendment from the various proposals.

February 1864

Abolition Amendment Proposed:
On February 8, Senator Charles Sumner, Republican of Massachusetts, submitted a constitutional amendment to abolish slavery and guarantee equality under the law.  

Thirteenth Amendment Approved by
Senate Committee:

On February 10, the Senate Judiciary Committee reported to the full Senate an abolition amendment based upon drafts submitted by Congressmen Ashley and Wilson and Senator Henderson.  The final language was similar to that used in the Territorial Emancipation Act (1862) and the Northwest Ordinance (1787). 

First House Vote on the Thirteenth Amendment:
On February 15, the first House vote on the proposed Thirteenth Amendment fell far short of the necessary two-thirds majority, with 78 votes in favor and 62 against.

March 1864

Abolition in Arkansas:
On March 16, voters in the former Confederate state of Arkansas (then under Union control) ratified a new state constitution abolishing slavery.

April 1864

Thirteenth Amendment Approved by
the Senate:
On April 8, the proposed Thirteenth Amendment passed the Senate, 38-6, which was eight votes more than the constitutionally required two-thirds majority. 

May 1864 Radical Democracy Convention:
Meeting in Cincinnati on May 31, the Radical Democracy endorsed the Thirteenth Amendment and federal protection of civil rights.  Delegates nominated a Republican, General John C. Fremont, for president, and a Democrat, former Congressman John Cochrane, for vice president.
June 1864

Second House Vote on the Thirteenth Amendment:
The second vote in the U.S. House on the proposed Thirteenth Amendment fell 11 short of the constitutionally necessary two-thirds majority.

July 1864

National Union Convention:
Meeting in Baltimore on July 7-8 under the National Union banner, Republicans and a few War Democrats nominated President Abraham Lincoln for a second term and endorsed an abolition amendment in the party platform (without specifically mentioning the proposed Thirteenth Amendment passed by the Senate).

August 1864

Democratic National Convention:
Meeting in Chicago on August 29-30, the Democratic Party endorsed a platform calling for a truce and negotiated settlement to end the Civil War.  Delegates nominated a War Democrat for president, General George B. McClellan, who later tried to distance himself from the peace plank, and a Peace Democrat for vice president, Congressman George Pendleton.

September 1864

Slavery Abolished in Louisiana:
On September 5, voters approved a new state constitution for the former Confederate state of Louisiana (then under Union control), which abolished slavery.

November 1864

Slavery Abolished in Maryland:
On November 1, a new state constitution, which abolished slavery immediately in the Border State of Maryland, took effect.  The state’s voters had approved it on September 18. 

Election Results:
On November 8, President Abraham Lincoln was reelected in an Electoral College landslide, 212-21, over Democrat George B. McClellan.  Lincoln’s popular vote margin was 55%-45%.  Republicans also gained seats in Congress to retain commanding control, 149-42 in the House and 42-10 in the Senate.

December 1864

Presidential Address to Congress:
On December 6, President Lincoln’s annual message to Congress interpreted the result elections as a mandate for swift passage of the Thirteenth Amendment by the outgoing Congress. 

Chief Justice Appointed:
On December 6, President Lincoln nominated former Treasury Secretary Salmon P. Chase, an abolitionist and civil rights advocate, as chief justice of the United States.  The U.S. Senate approved the appointment on the same day.  Chase was sworn into office on December 15, replacing the recently deceased Roger Taney, author of the Dred Scott decision. 


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