The United States ratifies the 13th Amendment to the Constitution

Date: 
Wed, 1865-12-06

The 13th Amendment to the Constitution of the United States was ratified on this date in 1865.

It reads, "Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude" shall exist in the United States. It gave Congress the power to enforce this article by legislation. this amendment had been preceded by a federal restriction on the importation of slaves in 1808, by the Emancipation Proclamation of 1863, and by legislative bans against slavery in many of the states prior to 1865. but the 13th Amendment was the first unconditional constitutional action to terminate the institution of slavery and the first of the amendments to protect the equal status of black people (others are the 14th, 15th, and 24th amendments).

The 13th amendment to the Constitution of the United States was proposed to the legislatures of the several states by the Thirty-eighth Congress, on January 31, 1865 . the Secretary of State declared, in a proclamation dated December 18, 1865, to have been ratified by the legislatures of 27 of the 36 states.

The dates of ratification were: Illinois, February 1, 1865; Rhode Island, February 2, 1865; Michigan, February 2, 1865; Maryland, February 3, 1865; New York, February 3, 1865; Pennsylvania, February 3, 1865; West Virginia, February 3, 1865; Missouri, February 6, 1865; Maine, February 7, 1865; Kansas, February 7, 1865; Massachusetts, February 7, 1865; Virginia, February 9, 1865; Ohio, February 10, 1865; Indiana, February 13, 1865; Nevada, February 16, 1865; Louisiana, February 17, 1865; Minnesota, February 23, 1865; Wisconsin, February 24, 1865; Vermont, March 9, 1865; Tennessee, April 7, 1865; Arkansas, April 14, 1865; Connecticut, May 4, 1865; New Hampshire, July 1, 1865; South Carolina, November 13, 1865; Alabama, December 2, 1865; North Carolina, December 4, 1865; Georgia, December 6, 1865.

Ratification was completed on December 6, 1865. The amendment was next ratified by Oregon, December 8, 1865; California, December 19, 1865; Florida, December 28, 1865 (Florida again ratified on June 9, 1868, upon its adoption of a new constitution); Iowa, January 15, 1866; New Jersey, January 23, 1866 (after having rejected the amendment on March 16, 1865); Texas, February 18, 1870; Delaware, February 12, 1901 (after having rejected the amendment on February 8, 1865); Kentucky, March 18, 1976 (after having rejected it on February 24, 1865). Mississippi rejected the amendment, December 4, 1865.

The 13th Amendment has been interpreted by the Supreme Court to include prohibition of public or private racial discrimination in the disposal of property, in making and enforcing contracts, and in private employment. Although specifically directed against slavery, the ban against involuntary servitude (“except as a punishment for crime”) has been viewed by the federal courts as applicable to other conditions of forced labor.

Reference:
Historic U.S. Cases, 1690-1993:
An Encyclopedia New York
Copyright 1992 Garland Publishing, New York
ISBN 0-8240-4430-4

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