Core Document

Resolution Submitting the Thirteenth Amendment to the States

Abraham Lincoln

February 1, 1865

Thirty-Eighth Congress of the United States.

A Resolution Submitting to the Legislatures of the several States a proposition to amend the Constitution of the United States.

Resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, (two-thirds of both houses concurring), That the following article be proposed to the Legislatures of the several States as an amendment to the constitution of the United States, which, when ratified by three-fourths of said Legislatures, shall be valid, to all intents and purposes, as a part of the said Constitution, namely:


Section 1. Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.

Section 2. Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.

Speaker of the House of Representatives.

Vice President of the United States, and President of the Senate.

Approved, February 1, 1865. ABRAHAM LINCOLN


Although the Emancipation Proclamation seemed to put slavery on the path to extinction, President Lincoln worked tirelessly to secure approval of the Thirteenth Amendment by Congress. Because the Supreme Court had declared a constitutional right to own slaves in the Dred Scott case, it was very likely that the Emancipation Proclamation would be struck down as unconstitutional. Nothing short of a constitutional amendment could prevent this and permanently end slavery in the United States. Lincoln also knew that an amendment must be accomplished before public support for the measure abated with the Civil War’s end, which seemed to be in sight by early 1865. To achieve the high principle at stake in the amendment, Lincoln used every bit of political prudence, skill, and influence at his disposal, and often had to make difficult concessions to opponents to gain their support. But the feat was accomplished; Lincoln acquired the votes in Congress to put the amendment before the American people, and they ratified it on December 6, 1865.


Questions for consideration: Who must approve the amendment as proposed by Congress before it is officially enacted? What exception does the Amendment make to the ban on involuntary servitude? What parts of the original U.S. Constitution does this Amendment change or eliminate? is a project of the Ashbrook Center at Ashland University

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