Home >> Encyclopedia Americana, Volume 27 >> 58 Political Parties to Or The Ottoman Em >> Four Teenth and Fifteenth_P1

Four Teenth and Fifteenth Amend Ments to the Constitution 38 the Thirteenth

congress, war, amendment, time, slavery, proclamation, resolution and declared

Page: 1 2

38. THE THIRTEENTH, FOUR TEENTH AND FIFTEENTH AMEND MENTS TO THE CONSTITUTION. These three lmendments to the Constitution are popularly known as the War Amendments. This designation is not without justification in their origin. The difficulties involved in amend ing the Constitution are so great that but for the conflict with which in the popular mind these amendments are associated, it is doubtful if the principles which they embody could ever have been incorporated into it. These amend ing articles primarily concerned the negro race and their adoption marked the transition of these people from slavery to citizenship. They meant that within a period of five years more had been accomplished than had been by half a century of polemical discussion. They embodied the re sults of such a revolution of public sentiment as only war could have effected. The emancipa tion of the American negro was never a more remote probability than at the outbreak of the Civil War. Almost the entire time of the last session of the 36th Congress, 3 Dec. 1860 to 2 1861, was devoted to the consideration of various measures calculated to compromise sectional differences. Every plan proposed had as its basis an effort more specifically to guar antee against outside interference the institu tion of slavery in the States wherein it then existed. On 11 Feb. 1861, without a dissenting vote the House agreed to a resolution of Mr. Sherman of Ohio which indicated the spirit of that body. It declared that neither Congress nor the people of the non-slave-holding States had any right to interfere with the institution in any State in which it was established. A few days later the House went much further than this, and by a vote of 133 to 65 passed the Corwin Resolution, proposing an amendment to the Constitution. This provided that the Con stitution should never be so amended as to em power Congress in any way to interfere with slavery in the States. It is significant of the sentiment which then pervaded the country that this resolution secured the support of such men as Charles Francis Adams, Schuyler Colfax. Henry Winter Davis, Justin S. Morrill and John Sherman. On the last day of the session, 2 March it received the constitutional majority in the Senate and was duly proposed to the country .as the Thirteenth Amendment. Few more striking contrasts are presented in the history of the development of the Constitution than that between the amendment with which Congress would thus have commemorated the opening of the great conflict and the one which marked its close. This resolution was ratified

by Ohio, Maryland and Illinois, but its fate possesses scant interest now, if indeed it did even at that time. Men soon realized that the hour of compromise had passed — that the great issues which had so long disturbed the repose of the country had been removed from the halls of Congress and submitted to the arbitrament of the sword.

Mr. Lincoln's attitude at this time was thor oughly in accord with that of Congress. In his inaugural address he declared that he had no purpose, inclination or right to interfere with slavery in the States. To emphasize his tion he quoted from the platform on which he had been elected and also declared that as in his opinion the proposed Corwin amendment was already "implied constitutional laws he had "no objection to its being made express and irrevocable?' There can he no question that in these declarations Mr. Lincoln gave expression to his most earnest convictions. The fact that within two years after he uttered them he felt compelled, "upon military necessity," to issue the Emancipation Proclamation affords some idea of the significance and magnitude of the events which made for the first of the war amendments. When, on 1 Jan. 1863, Mr. Lin coln followed his provisional proclamation of the preceding September by one unconditional in its terms, no one knew better than he that it was literally no more than it purported to be on its face — a war measure, pure and simple. The Emancipation Proclamation designated cer tain States and parts of States within the field of military operations as "in rebellion," and de clared free all slaves within such districts. It advised the slaves so emancipated to labor for wages and to refrain from acts of violence and announced that they would be received into the armed service of the government. Such a proclamation was mere bruturn fulmen without military force behind it. It meant no more to the slaves in territory not actually occupied by the Union army, so far as their status at that time was concerned, than a piece of blank paper. Its immediate effectiveness anywhere was dependent upon the force of arms, the perpetuity of its declarations upon the ultimate outcome of war. The very limitations which its own terms placed upon its geographic ap plication carried with them the necessity of a constitutional ratification in order to render the principle enunciated both general and perma nent. From the date of that document another amendment to the Constitution became an event contingent only upon the triumph of Union arms.

Page: 1 2