The United States Congress determined to address this issue, and various bills were debated to determine what should be done. Several different Constitution Amendments were suggested to prohibit slavery. Eventually in early 1864 the Senate Judiciary Committee worked to merge multiple versions into one amendment. The committee introduced it to the Senate on February 10th, and it was passed with a vote of 38 to 6 on April 8, 1864. Next the amendment would have to pass the House, and there it encountered some trouble. In June the amendment failed to pass, with not enough Democrats supporting the measure to reach the two-thirds majority required by the Constitution.
strikes at one of the most essential principles of our commingled system of national and of State governments. ... The absorption of the sovereignty ... to the general Government ... would be revolutionary and destructive of our system....1
We have had upon the pages of our public history, our public documents, and our public records some of the sublimest truths that every fell from human lips; and there never has been in the history of the world a more striking contrast than we have presented to heaven and earth between the grandeur and sublimity of our professions and the degradation and infamy of our practice.2After many debates, the House did not have the votes to pass the amendment. Abraham Lincoln supported it, but not publicly, as he did not want to hurt his chances in the November 1864 election. After he was safely reelected, he turned his attention to getting the amendment passed as quickly as possible. Republican politicians like Secretary of State William Seward were willing to use any means necessary to win over votes. Government jobs or even direct bribes were offered to Democrats to try to convince them to change their position. Lincoln himself worked to convince representatives to support the amendment.
|The 13th Amendment, with Lincoln's signature|
|Congress passes the amendment|
|Blue: Ratified amendment|
Green: Ratified amendment after it was enacted
Pink: Rejected amendment, later ratified after enactment
1. Great Debates in American History, (New York: Current Literature Publishing Company, 1915) vol. 6, p.
2. Ibid, p. 400.