Thirteenth Amendment Facts

December 6, 1865

Key fact about the Thirteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

William H. Seward, Secretary of State, Portrait, Brady

On December 18, 1865, Secretary of State William Seward verified the ratification of the Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution. Image Source: Library of Congress.

  • In December 1863, Ohio Republican Congressman James Ashley proposed a constitutional amendment to ban slavery in the United States.
  • In January 1864, Missouri Senator John B. Henderson introduced a joint congressional resolution to abolish slavery.
  • On February 11, 1864, Illinois Senator Lyman Trumbull guided a bill through the senate judiciary committee that would eventually become the Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution.
  • On March 28, 1864, Illinois Senator Lyman Trumbull introduced to the full Senate a proposal for a constitutional amendment to abolish slavery in the United States.
  • On April 8, 1864, by a vote of 38 – 6, the U.S. Senate approved Illinois Senator Lyman Trumbull’s proposal for a constitutional amendment to abolish slavery in the United States.
  • On June 15, 1864, by a vote of 93 – 65, the U.S. House of Representatives rejected a proposed amendment to the constitution to abolish slavery. Although the measure received simple majority approval, it did not meet the constitutionally required two-thirds majority required for proposals to amend the Constitution.
  • Interpreting his reelection in 1864 as a mandate for abolition, President Lincoln urged Congress to approve the Thirteenth Amendment before the end of his first term.
  • On January 31, 1865, by a vote of 119 – 56 (two votes more than the constitutionally required two-thirds majority) the U.S. House of Representatives endorsed the proposed Thirteenth Amendment.
  • On February 1, 1865, President Lincoln’s adopted home state of Illinois became the first state to ratify the proposed Thirteenth Amendment.
  • On February 9, 1865, Virginia became the first former Confederate state to ratify the proposed Thirteenth Amendment.
  • On April 14, 1865, the day John Wilkes Booth assassinated President Lincoln, Arkansas became the twenty-first state to ratify the proposed Thirteenth Amendment.
  • On December 6, 1865, the proposed Thirteenth Amendment reached the constitutionally required three-fourths majority when Georgia became the twenty-seventh state to ratify.
  • On December 18 1865, Secretary of State William Seward verified the ratification results and the Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution became law.
  • The wording of the Thirteenth Amendment was modeled after the Northwest Ordinance of 1787.
  • The Thirteenth Amendment has two sections.
  • Section one of the Thirteenth Amendment abolished slavery and involuntary servitude in the United States, except as a punishment for crime.
  • Section two, of the Thirteenth Amendment, often referred to as the Enforcement Clause, bestowed Congress with broad powers to enforce section one.
  • Congress used the authority granted in section two of the Thirteenth Amendment to enact a bevy of legislation in 1866 and 1867 to protect the civil rights of African-Americans.

Citation Information

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  • Article Title Thirteenth Amendment Facts
  • Date December 6, 1865
  • Author
  • Website Name American History Central
  • Access Date June 16, 2024
  • Publisher R.Squared Communications, LLC
  • Original Published Date
  • Date of Last Update June 11, 2024

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