is pleased to present “The End of Slavery: The Creation of the
Thirteenth Amendment” as a public service for students, teachers,
and interested citizens who wish to explore the nation’s transition
from slavery to freedom. The narrative begins with unsuccessful
efforts to reach a compromise on the slavery issue in the winter of
1860-1861 in order to avoid secession of the Southern slave states
and a clash of arms between the sections. It continues through the
various plans offered or enacted by President Abraham Lincoln, the
U.S. Congress, and Union generals during the Civil War, including
Lincoln’s famous Emancipation Proclamation declaring slaves in
Confederate-held territory to be “thenceforward, and forever free.”
Although there was much opposition, more white Americans in the
Northern and Border States (slave states loyal to the Union) became
increasingly supportive of emancipation as the war progressed.
Out of all the different methods
suggested for ending slavery—presidential proclamation, federal law,
state law, gradualism, compensation, and colonization—the final
settled-upon course was a constitutional amendment that immediately
abolished the institution of slavery in the entire United States.
It had taken time for Americans to adjust to the idea because no
amendment had been added to the U.S. Constitution since 1804. The
Thirteenth Amendment was passed by two-thirds majorities in the U.S.
Senate on April 8, 1864, and the U.S. House on January 31, 1865, and
was ratified by three-quarters of the states (including former
Confederate states) on December 6, 1865. Twelve days later,
Secretary of State William Henry Seward declared the Thirteenth
Amendment officially part of the United States Constitution.
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.
The primary source materials for this
website are taken from the pages of Harper’s Weekly, the
leading American illustrated newspaper in the second-half of the
nineteenth century. The items include editorials, feature stories,
news items, illustrations, cartoons, a poem, and an advertisement.
Of special interest are the documents printed in Harper’s Weekly
from the key political and military figures themselves:
proclamations, correspondence, and congressional messages from
President Abraham Lincoln; proclamations from Union military
generals; a letter from a prominent Confederate; and an illustration
and correspondence from a Union soldier in the field. In addition,
HarpWeek has added an annotated timeline, beginning with the
Northwest Ordinance of 1787 and continuing through ratification of
the Thirteenth Amendment in December 1865; biographical sketches of
significant players in the emancipation drama; and a glossary of
Historian Robert C. Kennedy selected,
organized, and wrote commentary for this website. Greg Weber and
Richard Roy provided the technical skills to make it function
effectively on the Internet.
If you have any questions or
comments, please feel free to contact Robert Kennedy at firstname.lastname@example.org.
John Adler, Publisher