Thirteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution

(1865)

Audience

The Thirteenth Amendment was designed to appeal to northern Republicans and Democrats alike in order to keep both groups behind the war effort; partly for that reason, the authors avoided addressing controversial issues of enforcement, citizenship, and voting rights for the former slaves, which later amendments would address. As the amendment had to be ratified by some southern states as well, its shapers had further incentive to keep its language and provisions as uncontroversial as possible. Too, the uncertain question of how it would be read and interpreted by the courts, then and in the future, loomed large.

President Lincoln, like other northern leaders during the Civil War, was also acutely conscious that steps to end slavery in America would be lauded and appreciated by another very meaningful audience: posterity. “We of this Congress and this administration will be remembered in spite of ourselves,” he had assured legislators in his annual message to Congress...

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The Thirteenth Amendment (National Archives and Records Administration)

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