Hello. Come on in. The daddy writes about current events, literature, music and, once in a while, drops something on you from back in the day to make you pause and ponder, stop and stare, and begin to wonder. Who knows? You may start to pace the floor, shake your head from side to side, then fall down on bended knees in a praying position and cry, "Lawd, have mercy! What is this world coming to?" Check yourself! But this blog is NOT about the daddy. It's about you: your boos, your fam, your hood, your country...our hopes and dreams of a better tomorrow. So let's make a pact: the daddy will put it on the track if you'll chase it down and hit him back. Together, we can definitely take it to another level. Shall we?"

Saturday, December 6, 2008

The 13th Amendment-- Happy Freedom, People!

"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." --Article 1 of the 13th amendment

Today, the daddy is feeling the 13th amendment. It was ratified on this day, December 6, 1865. It legally abolished slavery. Here is an article with a brief background on the 13th amendment. Happy Freedom, people!

The Thirteenth Amendment

by Gordon Leidner

The 13th Amendment to the United States Constitution, passed by the Senate on April 8, 1864, by the House on January 31, 1865, and ratified on December 6, 1865, abolished slavery as a legal institution.

The Constitution, although never mentioning slavery by name, refers to slaves as "such persons" in Article I, Section 9 and “a person held to service or labor” in Article IV, Section 2. The Thirteenth Amendment, in direct terminology, put an end to this. The amendment states:

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."


The history behind this amendments adoption is an interesting one. Prior to the Civil War, in February 1861, Congress had passed a Thirteenth Amendment for an entirely different purpose--to guarantee the legality and perpetuity of slavery in the slave states, rather than to end it. This amendment guaranteeing slavery was a result of the complicated sectional politics of the antebellum period, and a futile effort to preclude Civil War. Although the Thirteenth Amendment that guaranteed slavery was narrowly passed by both houses, the Civil War started before it could be sent to the states for ratification.

But the final version of the Thirteenth Amendment--the one ending slavery--has an interesting story of its own. Passed during the Civil War years, when southern congressional representatives were not present for debate, one would think today that it must have easily passed both the House of Representatives and the Senate. Not true. As a matter of fact, although passed in April 1864 by the Senate, with a vote of 38 to 6, the required two-thirds majority was defeated in the House of Representatives by a vote of 93 to 65. Abolishing slavery was almost exclusively a Republican party effort--only four Democrats voted for it.

It was then that President Abraham Lincoln took an active role in pushing it through congress. He insisted that the passage of the Thirteenth Amendment be added to the Republican party platform for the upcoming presidential elections. He used all of his political skill and influence to convince additional democrats to support the amendments' passage. His efforts finally met with success, when the House passed the bill in January 1865 with a vote of 119-56. Finally, Lincoln supported those congressmen that insisted southern state legislatures must adopt the Thirteenth Amendment before their states would be allowed to return with full rights to Congress.

The fact that Lincoln had difficulty in gaining passage of the amendment towards the closing months of the war and after his Emancipation Proclamation had been in effect 12 full months, is illustrative. There was still a reasonably large body of the northern people, or at least their elected representatives, that were either indifferent towards, or directly opposed to, freeing the slaves.

The Effect of the Emancipation Proclamation

Modern historians occasionally criticize Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation, declaring it a hollow document that "freed no slaves." Signed by President Lincoln on January 1, 1863, it proclaimed that "all persons held as slaves within any State, or designated part of a State, the people whereof shall then be in rebellion against the United States, shall be then, thenceforward, and forever free."

Lincoln correctly realized that as President, he had no legal grounds to single-handedly terminate the institution of slavery--but that this had to be done by a constitutional amendment. The Emancipation Proclamation was simply a war powers action by he, the commander in chief of the armies, in which he attempted to remove all the slaves from the southern peoples "in rebellion against the United States." Even in this, Lincoln was very anxious about the legality of his actions. He worded the document very carefully, in legal terms, in his attempt to make it legally binding in future courts of law.

He recognized that the Emancipation Proclamation would have to be followed quickly by a constitutional amendment in order to guarantee the abolishment of slavery.

Although the Emancipation Proclamation had no theoretical effect on the legal status of slaves in the border states, or slaves in regions of the country not currently under the control of southern armies, it had, in fact, a great deal of practical impact on the legality of slavery everywhere--North and South. As northern armies marched through the south, which General Sherman and his army soon began doing, thousands of slaves followed in their wake--and were never again under the legal authority of their former masters. So the argument that the Emancipation "freed no slaves" is a specious one. Until the Thirteenth Amendment was was fully ratified by the necessary majority of the states in December of 1865, the Emancipation Proclamation was the document used to justify separating slaves from their masters, and by late 1865 there were no slaves remaining in the United States. Consequently, the Emancipation Proclamation was truly the beginning of the end of slavery.

For further reading, check "Lincoln and Freedom: Slavery, Emancipation, and the Thirteenth Amendment" by Herman Belz, et. al.


SagaciousHillbilly said...

Lincoln fought against great odds in accomplishing what he did.
It's so sad that a country founded on the rich ideals of freedom and democracy had to actually struggle with slavery.
It is almost surreal to contemplate that in the time of our grandfather's fathers slavery was an accepted institution. Then again, my children will someday, if they haven't already, contemplate the fact that in their father's lifetime jim crow laws existed.
Now Barack Obama is the President of the United States.
We really are making progress. Too bad it comes so slow.
Happy 13th Amendment Day Daddy!!

Anonymous said...

Mr. MacDaddy, I wish my children knew about their history. Maybe they wouldn't take everything for granted.
I don't think the schools help much.

rainywalker said...

Very educational and historical blog daddyBstrong. I wonder if Lincoln sometimes walked the halls of the White House at night alone thinking about the heavy burdens facing America. No staff, just the weight of great sad decisions which needed answers. The 13th Amendment should have been in the Constitution from the start and there would have been less bloodshed and death. But reflection does not allow us to go back and change history, only learn from our terrible mistakes.

I have started an excellent history on "Slavery in the American Mountain South [Appalachian states] by Wilma A. Dunaway 2003. If you have it at the library, etc. you may want to check it out, heavy reading. said...

Hello there!

Thank you for sharing this.

Unfortunately, many do not want to admit that America still firmly believes in slavery. It still relentlessly practices commodification of human beings.

We really need to remove the blinders. The chains are now invisible but the captivity of humans that is founded on the notion that one race in this country is STILL superior to all "others"...these mechanisms are STILL in existence. They were never dismantled...they were only re-engineered and placed in different packaging.

Peace, blessings and DUNAMIS!

Anonymous said...

Thanks, MacDaddy, for reminding us of our history (and therefore informing us of its remnants). I agree with the last post that slavery persists, but in more insidious forms.

By the way "To Kill a Mockingbird" is on cable this evening. If you haven't read the book or seen the movie, please do. it's a stark reminder of our history and a classic tale.

Revvy Rev said...

Thank you for this post! The nation is still struggling with race but at least some of the fog has cleared.

SagaciousHillbilly said...

We still have grave issues of race class and color to address in this country. We still have a dominant culture that controls much more of the comings and goings of the people on many levels than it should. We still have ignorant masses who don't understand the meaning of equality to whom anything at all intellectual is completely foreign.
Yes, we still have some very serious problems of oppression, but yes, slavery is a thing of the past. Many people fought and died and many people made brave decisions that resulted in their death or marginalization to make it go away. We shouldn't disrespect their memories by claiming otherwise.
We should respect and celebrate their sacrifices just as MacDaddy has done in this post.
Just my not so humble opinion.

MacDaddy said...

Everyone: Thanks for your comments. They are informative, provocative, and insightful. It's Sunday and I'm still feeling good about December 6, the date of the ratification of the 13th amendment. Blessings. said...
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@ Sagacious Hillbilly

If I may offer a dissenting view...

You have said, "...slavery is a thing of the past".

I am quite sure that there are many who may believe that.

Slavery - in the form that was being most openly practiced - is a thing of the past, maybe.

Let us not be in long as the mechanisms that reinforced the subjugation of human beings and made one group superior to all were not/are not dismantled...then the infrastructure of slavery has NEVER been abolished.

As long as the infrastructure has not been demolished, captivity can still flourish in other forms.

So let us not be in denial...there are Americans who are still living in capitivity EVERY SINGLE DAY of their lives due to the white supremacist rule in the educational system, the commerce system, the justice system, the political system, etc...

In slavery, there were rare occasions when a slave owner would grant freedom to a slave. Because ONE SLAVE was "allowed" to have what the other slaves where NOT given access to DOES NOT MEAN that captivity had changed for the masses of slaves...all it meant was that ONE SLAVE was "allowed" to access freedom. Slavery still existed for all of the rest.

Obama was elected president by being willing to be dictated to by following the directions and desires of white people who hold power strings in this nation.

They told him what to say and what not to say, who he could be friends with and who he could not be friends with, what his wife could do and what she could not do, what she could say and what she could not say.

Let's not be fooled.

There is cosmetic racial progress and then there is authentic racial progress.

It is a authentic mark of progress when black people access the echeleons of power on our OWN TERMS...not when they do so by kowtowing to white supremacists factions that offer great reward for obedience.

Kellybelle said...

I'm reading Kingblood Royal by Sinclair Lewis. It's about race and it's set in the '40s. In it someone casually says that Congress is thinking about bringing back slavery.

That made me think. Back in the day, when Freedom was 10, 20, 50 years old, it was still precarious. I take freedom for granted. But my newly freed great, great, great grandpa was looking over his shoulder trying to see if his free was real.

That's deep.

Christopher said...

It's so interesting that it took another 143 years for this nation to elect its first African American president.

Like SagaciousHillbilly said, it's surreal to think there was ever a time when Black people were viewed as less than human -- as property.

We got it wrong with slavery but we got it correct with the 13th Amendment and we certainly got it correct with Barack Obama.