The 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which abolished slavery, was adopted by the 38th Congress.
On this day in 1865, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the 13th Amendment to the Constitution, abolishing slavery in America. The amendment reads, “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude…shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.”
President Abraham Lincoln planned for the restoration of the Union when the civil war began. But early in the war, the Union began keeping escaped slaves rather than returning them to their owners, so slavery essentially ended wherever the Union army was victorious.
Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation in September 1862, freeing all slaves in rebellion against the Union. This measure opened the issue of what to do about slavery in Border States that had not seceded.
An amendment abolishing slavery was passed by the U.S Senator in 1864. The election of 1864 brought Lincoln back to the White House along with significant Republican majorities in both houses, so it appeared the amendment was headed for passage when the new Congress convened in March 1865.
For Lincoln alone, the amendment received bipartisan support from Democrats, but many still resisted. The amendment passed 119 to 56, seven votes above the necessary two-thirds majority.
Several Democrats abstained, but the 13th Amendment was sent to the states for ratification, which came in December 1865. With the passage of the amendment, the institution that had indelibly shaped American history was eradicated.