The 13th Amendment to the United States Constitution was a long and contested legal battle between Union President Abraham Lincoln (pictured with pen) and the Confederate states that resisted freeing slaves and officially abolishing slavery. Although Lincoln knew his efforts would not overturn the practice of slavery without the backing of Congress, he would still go forth and present his first draft of the Emancipation Proclamation, which was an executive order declaring that slaves would be free in 10 states that were in rebellion, on this day in 1862.
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Lincoln read the draft to his cabinet members and used their input to make some changes. Below is an excerpt from the preliminary and revised version of the document.
From the preliminary draft of the Emancipation Proclamation:
That on the first day of January, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, 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; and the Executive Government of the United States, including the military and naval authority thereof, will recognize and maintain the freedom of such persons, and will do no act or acts to repress such persons, or any of them, in any efforts they may make for their actual freedom.”
Lincoln was both praised and criticized for the document in both the North and South, writing in one instance to Vice President Hannibal Hamlin:
It is six days old, and while commendation in newspapers and by distinguished individuals is all that a vain man could wish, the stocks have declined, and troops come forward more slowly than ever. This, looked soberly in the face, is not very satisfactory.
Later, when Lincoln approved the final version, which went into effect on January 1, 1863, the president was pleased with his decision and felt he had performed a just act.
The 13th Amendment would be enacted on January 31, 1865, just months before Lincoln’s death.
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