Portrait of John Henderson

In January 1864, Missouri Senator John B. Henderson introduced a joint congressional resolution to abolish slavery. A month later, Massachusetts Senator Charles Sumner recommended similar legislation. On February 11, 1864, Illinois Senator Lyman Trumbull guided a bill through the judiciary committee that eventually was to become the Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution. [Wikimedia Commons]

Thirteenth Amendment Facts

December 6, 1865

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

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  • 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.
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Citation Information

The following information is provided for citations.

  • Article Title Thirteenth Amendment Facts
  • Coverage December 6, 1865
  • Author
  • Website Name American History Central
  • Access Date March 7, 2021
  • Publisher R.Squared Communications, LLC
  • Original Published Date
  • Date of Last Update February 17, 2021