Portrait of Thomas Corwin

On December 4, 1860, by a vote of 145 to 38, the House formed a select committee to entertain ideas to avert disunion. Known as the Committee of Thirty-three, the group comprised one representative from each state. On December 11, Thomas Corwin of Ohio chaired the first meeting of the committee. The members considered various proposals during its existence, which ended on January 14, 1861. [Wikimedia Commons]

Committee of Thirty-three

1860 - 1861

The Committee of Thirty-three was a select committee of the House of Representatives established on December 4, 1860 to explore possibilities for resolving the nation's secession crisis.

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Background

On November 6, 1860, American voters elected Republican Abraham Lincoln as the sixteenth President of the United States. Alarmed by what they considered to be extremist views held by Lincoln and Radical Republicans, Southerners began escalating their threats to leave the Union. On November 10, only four days after Lincoln’s victory, South Carolina was the first state to act, calling for a state convention to consider secession. On December 3, 1860, when the second session of the 36th Congress convened, President James Buchanan sent the legislature a message requesting an “exploratory amendment” to deal with the secession crisis. Congressmen from both houses responded with a flurry of proposals to save the Union.

Members

On December 4, 1860, by a vote of 145 to 38, the House formed a select committee to entertain ideas to avert disunion. Known as the Committee of Thirty-three, the group comprised one representative from each state. The members of the committee were:

Name State Political Party
Houston, George S. Alabama Democrat
Rust, Albert Arkansas Democrat
Burch, John C. California Democrat
Ferry, Orris F. Connecticut Republican
Whiteley, William G. Delaware Democrat
Hawkins, George S. Florida Democrat
Love, Peter E. Georgia Democrat
Kellogg, William Illinois Republican
Dunn, William M. Indiana Republican
Curtis, Samuel Iowa Republican
Bristow, Francis Kentucky Opposition
Taylor, Miles Louisiana Democrat
Morse, Freeman H. Maine Republican
Davis, Henry W. Maryland American
Adams, Charles F. Massachusetts Republican
Howard, William A. Michigan Republican
Windom, William Minnesota Republican
Davis, Reuben Mississippi Democrat
Phelps, John S. Missouri Democrat
Tappan, Mason New Hampshire Republican
Stratton, John L. N. New Jersey Republican
Humphrey, James New York Republican
Winslow, Warren North Carolina Democrat
Corwin, Thomas Ohio Republican
Stout, Lansing Oregon Democrat
Campbell, James H. Pennsylvania Republican
Robinson, Christopher Rhode Island Republican
Boyce, William W. South Carolina Democrat
Nelson, Thomas A. R. Tennessee Opposition
Hamilton, Andrew J. Texas Democrat
Morrill, Justin S. Vermont Republican
Millson, John S. Virginia Democrat
Washburn, Cadwallader C. Wisconsin Republican

 

Proposed Constitutional Amendment

On December 11, Thomas Corwin of Ohio chaired the first meeting of the committee. The members considered various proposals during its existence, which ended on January 14, 1861. In the committee’s majority report, Corwin informed the full House that the members could not agree on compromise solutions regarding the crucial issues dividing the nation.

The committee did, however, endorse a proposed constitutional amendment first introduced by Charles Adams and later sponsored by Corwin. Nearly identical to a measure introduced earlier in the Senate by William Seward, the Corwin Amendment aimed to reassure Southerners (particularly those living in the Border States) that the incoming administration had no intention of meddling with slavery in states where it already existed. The measure would have prohibited Congress from interfering with the institution of slavery in any state. Both houses of Congress eventually endorsed the proposed amendment, but it never became law because only two state legislatures (Ohio and Maryland) ratified it.

Secession

As was the case with the Senate Committee of Thirteen, the House Committee of Thirty-three could not find enough common ground to prevent the dissolution of the Union and the onset of civil war.

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Citation Information

The following information is provided for citations.

  • Article Title Committee of Thirty-three
  • Coverage 1860 - 1861
  • Author
  • Keywords committee of thirty-three
  • Website Name American History Central
  • Access Date December 5, 2021
  • Publisher R.Squared Communications, LLC
  • Original Published Date
  • Date of Last Update February 11, 2021
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