Thirteenth Amendment

From Ohio History Central

The Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution formally ended slavery in the United States of America.

At the beginning of the American Civil War, most Northerners and Southerners agreed that slavery was not the fundamental issue behind the conflict. As the war progressed, many Northerners, including President Abraham Lincoln, began to question whether or not a reunited nation could survive if slavery continued to exist. In September 1862, Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation. This document stated that slavery would end in any areas still in rebellion against the United States on January 1, 1863. The Emancipation Proclamation ended slavery in most Confederate states with the exception of Louisiana and parts of Virginia and a few other states. Slavery continued to exist in states that allowed slavery but that did not secede from the Union. These states included Missouri, Kentucky, Maryland, and Delaware. Lincoln believed that he did not have the power to end slavery everywhere in the United States. The United States Constitution granted the president certain war powers. Lincoln believed that these war powers included ending slavery but only in areas in rebellion.

During 1864 and early 1865, the Congress of the United States, with President Lincoln's support, moved to end slavery in the remainder of the United States. The Congress, which principally included Radical Republicans who favored slavery's end, proposed the Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution. The amendment stated:

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

The United States Congress approved this amendment in January 1865 and submitted it to the individual states for approval. For an amendment to be added to the United States Constitution, three-fourths of the states must approve it. On December 18, 1865, the final state necessary for ratification of the amendment agreed to it.

Most Ohioans supported the adoption of the Thirteenth Amendment. Only one of Ohio's representatives in Congress opposed the ratification of the amendment. Governor John Brough encouraged the Ohio General Assembly to approve the amendment. Both houses approved it with significant majorities.

See Also


  1. Barrett, Anna Pearl. Juneteenth!: Celebrating Freedom in Texas. Austin, TX: Eakin Press, 1999. 
  2. Dee, Christine, ed. Ohio's War: The Civil War in Documents. Athens: Ohio University Press, 2007.  
  3. Foner, Eric. Nothing but Freedom: Emancipation and Its Legacy. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1983.
  4. Foner, Eric. Reconstruction: America's Unfinished Revolution, 1863-1877. New York, NY: Harper & Row, 1988.
  5. Franklin, John Hope. The Emancipation Proclamation. Garden City, NJ: Doubleday, 1963.
  6. Klingaman, William K. Abraham Lincoln and the Road to Emancipation, 1861-1865. New York, NY: Viking, 2001.
  7. McPherson, James M. Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era. New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 1988.  
  8. Roseboom, Eugene H. The Civil War Era: 1850-1873. Columbus: Ohio State Archaeological and Historical Society, 1944.  
  9. Schmukler, Charles. "Public Opinion in Ohio Concerning the Preliminary Proclamation of September 22, 1862 and the Emancipation Proclamation of January 1, 1862." M.A. thesis. The Ohio State University. 1934.
  10. Trefousse, Hans Louis. Lincoln's Decision for Emancipation. Philadelphia, PA: Lippincott, 1975.
  11. Vorenberg, Michael. Final Freedom: The Civil War, the Abolition of Slavery, and the Thirteenth Amendment. New York, NY: Cambridge University Press, 2001.