A proposed Thirteenth Amendment to prevent secession, 1861
Proposed thirteenth amendment to protect slavery sent to Maryland for approval, April 30, 1861. (Gilder Lehrman Collection)
In the wake of the presidential election of 1860 that brought Abraham Lincoln to the White House, the slaveholding states of the American South, led by South Carolina, began withdrawing from the nation. In the midst of this constitutional crisis, President James Buchanan, still in office until Lincoln’s inauguration in March 1861, tried to reassure the South that their slave property would remain safe, even under the incoming Republican administration. He asked Congress to draw up what he called an “explanatory amendment” to the Constitution that would explicitly recognize the right of states to sanction human bondage and allow slaveholders to retain their human property. In response, the House of Representatives established a thirty-three member committee under the leadership of Representative Thomas Corwin of Ohio ...
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