The that played into causing the Civil War,

The 13th
Amendment is defined as abolishing slavery except as punishment for a crime. The
ratification process, impact and major history involved, are critical to
understanding the amendment altogether. For decades Americans struggled with
the idea of abolishing slavery. The discourse defined our politics and nearly
tore America in half.

“A house divided against itself cannot
stand. I believe this government cannot endure, permanently, half slave and
half free…… It will become all one thing or all the other.” -Abraham Lincoln,
1858, upon accepting Illinois’s republican nomination for the US Senate.

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Slavery was
the single most important cause, on both sides, for the Civil War. Slavery was
indirectly allowed through the three-fifths compromise in the United States
Constitution (Finkelman, 2013). Though on lawmaker’s minds, it was never completely
resolved. The rise of the abolitionist movement then proceeded to give way to
John Brown’s raid on Harpers Ferry (1859). The raid was one of many events that
played into causing the Civil War, southern states were on the defensive and
felt empowered through their states militias. The final spark of secession was
the election of Abraham Lincoln in
November 1860 (Trust, N.D).

In January of
1863 Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation, stated but was unable to
completely enforce, that slaves were declared free. Many were unsure as to what
slave’s status would be post-Civil War. Lincoln expressed his concerns with the
possibility of the judicial branch overturning his executive order (Greene
& McAward, N.D).  In the final years
of the Civil War, lawmakers sought various solutions with pressure from
Lincoln.  A radical republican, Senator
Charles Sumner, who was physically beaten on the senate floor for his speech
opposing slavery in Kansas, proposed a denied draft in early 1864 in which he
wanted to include elements of the 14th amendment (Senate, 2017). Various
other drafts were proposed resulting in the Senate Judiciary Committee becoming
involved to help merge ideas. On February 10th 1864 the committee
decided on a proposal based on drafts of Representative Ashley, Representative
Wilson and Senator Henderson. The committee was also influenced from the
phrasing of the Northwest Ordinance of 1787 (Senate, N.D)

The senate
passed the measure quickly on April 8th, 1864 though two months later the house
failed to pass. At this time President Lincoln made direct appeals to
individual members of congress. William Seward, Secretary of State, was known
to have a fund for direct bribes to influence lame duck lawmakers.  In January of 1865, the amendment passed
through the house, barely reaching the two-thirds majority and was signed by
President Lincoln.  The only ratified
amendment to be signed by a president, though not a necessity. Submitted to the
states on February 1st, 1865, the ratification process took almost a year, the
measure passed on December 6th, 1865 (Congress, N.D).

Upon
ratification the effects were far reaching and in some circumstances instant.  Freedman sought to marry and find their family
members. Newly freed slaves were free on paper, but they couldn’t vote, defend
their families from violence and in many cases obtain a job. Nearly all four
million freed slaves were in poverty and the history of racial disparities
continued. In the south, “Black Codes” and convict leasing resulted in freedman
being arrested in masse for petty crimes such as loitering or vagrancy. This
resulted in the nation’s first prison boom. They were sentenced to labor and
helped rebuild the south’s suffering economy post-civil war (Foner, 2015). The
13th Amendment is acknowledged as a great breakthrough for freedom,
in actuality, it’s more problematic but it is the first concrete stepping stone
to equality.

The 14th
(1868) and 15th (1870) amendments were also crucial (and part of the
trio of reconstruction amendments) but not enough to end segregation. In the
south, Jim Crow laws were in effect, though dwindling, until the Civil Rights
Act of 1964 and Voting Rights Act of 1965 passed (Obama, 2015). America is
founded on the premise that all are created equal and the 13th
Amendment helps to fulfill this key principle.

“We hold these Truths
to be self-evident, that all Men are created
equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights,
that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness….”