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Tag: legal slavery

The other 13th Amendment

Joint Resolution Proposing a 13th Amendment to the Constitution signed by President James Buchanan, March 2, 1861. National Archives, General Records of the U.S. Government

Joint Resolution Proposing a 13th Amendment to the Constitution signed by President James Buchanan, March 2, 1861. National Archives, General Records of the U.S. Government, RG 11.

The year 1861 was a dire one for the United States. In its opening months, five southern states joined South Carolina in seceding from the Union. In the recent 1860 election, the victor Abraham Lincoln hadn’t even appeared on the ballots of a third of the states in the Union. A bloody civil war loomed. In their final hours in office, President Buchanan ¬†and Congress were desperate to preserve the Union, even if it meant preserving the practice of slavery.

On March 2, 1861, two days before leaving office, Buchanan endorsed an amendment to the Constitution that had been approved by the Senate and the House of Representatives just weeks before South Carolina seceded. It read:

The following article be proposed to the legislatures of the several States as an amendment to the Constitution of the United States, which, where ratified by three-fourths of said legislatures, shall be valid to all intents and purposes, as part of the said Constitution, viz:

Article XII. No amendment shall be made to the Constitution which will authorize or give to Congress the power to abolish or interfere, within any State, with the domestic institutions thereof, including that of persons held to

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