On December 18, 1865, the ratification of the 13th Amendment was verified, formally abolishing slavery in the United States. The 13th Amendment declared that, “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.”
The ratification of the 13th amendment came 8 months after the end of the Civil War. Slavery had been protected in the original Constitution through different clauses such as the Three-Fifths Compromise. Many slaves were declared free by Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation in 1863. However, Lincoln felt that a Constitutional Amendment was necessary to ensure the end of slavery, as the Emancipation Proclamation was largely symbolic, freeing only slaves in the ten states that were still in rebellion. The post-war status of the slaves was also uncertain. Additionally, the Emancipation Proclamation was based on Lincoln’s authority as commander in chief, and was not a law passed by Congress.
In 1864, Congress debated several different proposals for the Amendment. The Senate Judiciary Committee provided the eventual language, borrowing from the Northwest Ordinance of 1787 in which slavery was banned from the area north of the Ohio River.
Abraham Lincoln’s overwhelming victory in the 1864 presidential election guaranteed the success of the amendment. The Democratic platform called for the restoration of states’ rights (which would include the possibility that the states could maintain slavery), while the Republican side called for the complete and utter destruction of slavery.
The 13th Amendment, formally abolishing slavery in the U.S., was passed by Congress on January 31, 1865 and ratified by the states on December 6, 1865. It was then officially verified as ratified on December 18, 1865.