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AN ABOLITION AMENDMENT IN CONGRESS.
had prohibited slavery. Considered, in connection with all that had gone before, and all soon to come, the action of Tennessee was of great political promise. By the terms of the national Constitution, amendments must be ratified by three-fourths of the States. Tennessee was the twentyseventh State to prohibit slavery, and completed the number whose assent was necessary to ratify an amendment abolishing the institution.
While emancipation was in progress in Louisiana, Maryland and Tennessee, Congress had been considering an amendment to the Constitution, abolishing slavery. The policy of President Lincoln was evidently to encourage the States to adopt gradual, or better, immediate abolition; and, when a sufficient number had acted, to have Congress propose an abolition amendment to the Constitution. It was a State institution and could not be obliterated without State consent. This fact regulated all the President's actions. He recognized this fact in his scheme for compensated emancipation in 1862. Again, in his annual message in 1863,1 he declared "that the General Government had no lawful power to effect emancipation in any State," and that whatever the Government attempted toward the suppression of slavery, was done as a military measure. At this time, however, he expressed his trust that Congress would omit no fair opportunity of aiding the important steps which some of the States had taken toward abolition-meaning, more particularly, Missouri and Nevada. Great events came swiftly during the next six months, so that when the National Republican Convention met at Baltimore, in June, 1864, it boldly declared slavery to be the cause and the strength of the rebellion; pronounced it always and everywhere hostile to the principles of republican government, and, in the
1 Lincoln's Works, II, 456.
TEMPER OF PUBLIC OPINION.
name of justice and national safety, demanded its utter and complete extirpation from the soil of the Republic, by an amendment to the Constitution." In November the re-election of Lincoln and of a House of Representatives having an overwhelming majority of Unionists, sufficiently indicated the temper of public opinion on the question. But almost a year before his re-election, an amendment abolishing slavery had been proposed in Congress. The conviction expressed by the President, not long before his re-election had been gradually getting possession of the public mind, that no human power could subdue the rebellion, without the abolition of slavery.
1 Third Resolution in the platform of Johnson's National Convention, p. 225.
2 The popular vote for Lincoln and Johnson in 1864 was 2,213,665; the electoral vote 212. The popular vote for McClellan and Pendleton was 1,832,237; the electoral vote was 21. The 39th Congress stood 10 Democrats and 42 Republicans in the Senate; 46 Democrats, 145 Republicans in the House.
3 Interview with John T. Mills, August (15?), 1864. Lincoln's Works, II, 562.
EMANCIPATION DISCUSSED IN CONGRESS IN THE FORM OF
A THIRTEENTH AMENDMENT.
The Thirty-eighth Congress had been in session only a week when, on the fourteenth of December, James M. Ashley, a Representative from Ohio, introduced a bill to provide for submitting to the States an amendment to the Constitution, prohibiting slavery. On the same day, James F. Wilson, a Representative from Iowa, introduced a joint resolution to the same end. The bill and the joint resolution were read twice and referred to the Committee on the Judiciary."
While these propositions were yet with the committee, the discussion of other subjects, and notably of the President's message, disclosed the real attitude of the House toward the question of abolition. An Illinois member? declared that the country was on the eve of universal emancipation. Congress could not go back, and must not halt; slavery must die, and the sooner it died the sooner there would be peace. The method of its extermination was clear. The border States by speedy action had decided for themselves. The Emancipation Proclamation had substantially abolished slavery in the region in rebellion; let Congress confirm it by prohibiting its reestablishment, and abolish it in that part of the rebel
1 Congressional Globe, First Session, 38th Congress, 1863, pp. 19-21. Ashley's Bill prohibited slavery or involuntary servitude in the States or Territories owned or acquired by the United States. Wilson's Resolution read, “Section 1, Slavery being incompatible with free government is forever prohibited in the United States; and involuntary servitude shall be permitted only as punishment for crime. Section 2, Congress shall have power to enforce the foregoing section of this article by proper legislation."
2 Isaac N. Arnold, January 6, 1864; Globe, p. 115.
States not included in the Proclamation. Slavery being thus everywhere abolished, amend the Constitution, by prohibiting its re-establishment, or existence in any part of the United States. In the exercise of its war powers, the government could abolish slavery, in time of war, wherever and whenever it might be necessary. The public defence, the general welfare, domestic tranquillity and the establishment of justice, demanded it. The only government existing in the United States was that of the Nation, as exercised by Congress and the President. The Constitution authorized Congress to make all laws necessary and proper for the execution of its powers. It also required the United States to guarantee to every State in the Union a republican form of government. If the emancipation of slaves in the rebel States would tend to the establishment, there, of a republican form, who could deny the power of Congress to emancipate? All means plainly adapted to the end, which were not prohibited by the Constitution, were lawful. The death of American slavery would work the regeneration of the Nation. This was advanced ground which it was doubtful that the majority of the House were at this time ready to occupy.
While the two propositions were yet with the Judiciary Committee of the House, the Senate took up the subject. There was a peculiar propriety in the request of John B. Henderson, a Senator from Missouri, who, on the eleventh of January, 1864, by unanimous consent, introduced a joint resolution proposing an amendment for the aboli
14 Wheaton, p. 421.
2 “This great statesman, this simple unpretending man (Mr. Lincoln),I believe to be the instrument raised up by God to work out the regeneration of the Nation by the death of American slavery.” Arnold's Speech on the Message, Globe, p. 117.
8 Globe, p. 145. A later resolution of his became the fifteenth amendment; see pp. 440-445, and 129, note.
tion of slavery. It was referred to the Committee on Judiciary, of which Lyman Trumbull of Illinois was chairman; but no word was spoken, as yet, in the House, and Henderson's resolution was apparently buried in committee. It was not until the eighth of February that the subject again came up, when Charles Sumner offered an amendment in the form of a joint resolution that “everywhere within the limits of the United States, and of each State or territory thereof, all persons are equal before the law, so that no person can hold another as a slave,” and he moved that it be referred to the Select Committee on Slavery and Freedmen, of which he was chairman. Mr. Trumbull at once remarked that the Judiciary Committee was the proper one to which to refer bills to change the Constitution; that already several propositions for the prohibition of slavery were before it, including Senator Henderson's, and would it not be well if all were considered together? Mr. Sumner thought that propositions affecting slavery should rather go to the Select Committee on Slavery, but soon consented that the proposed amendment go to the Judiciary Committee, expressing the hope, at the same time, that it would act upon it soon. It has been thought that this rivalry between the two committees hastened action upon the subject.1
Petitions for the abolition of slavery were now multiplying every day in both Houses. They came from individuals and societies, secular and religious, and from State legislatures, and their increase indicated the trend of public thought. The Judiciary Committee reported on the tenth, and the language of the amendment which it proposed was neither that of Mr. Henderson nor of Mr.
1 Nicolay and Hay's Lincoln, X, 75. 2 Globe, p. 503. January, 1864.