Emancipation Amendment Fails in House of Representatives

June 15, 1864

While in Virginia the Second Battle of Petersburg begins, the House of Representatives votes on the 13th Amendment to the Constitution, already passed by the Senate. The New York Times reported that Congressman “Fernando Wood of New York said that this was no time for a change of the organic law. We were in the midst of civil war. The din of the conflict and the groans of the dying and wounded are sad evidences of the destruction around us. The entire people are involved directly or indirectly in the dreadful conflict. There was too much excitement in the public mind to admit of calm and cautious investigation. If such a change could be made in the Constitution, this was not the time for it. The effect of such an amendment would produce a revulsion widespread and radical in character and add to the existing sectional hostility, and if possible, make the conflict more intense.”

“Among his reasons for opposing the resolution, he said it proposed to make social institutions subject to the Government, and this was an antagonism to the principles which underlie our republican system. It was unjust. It was the breach of good faith, and not reconcilable even with expediency. It struck at property, and involved the extermination of the whites of the Southern States and the forfeiture of their property, and lands to be given to the black race, who may drive the former out of existence.”

The House vote was 93 in favor, 65 opposed, and 23 not voting.   The result fell short of the two-thirds necessary for passage. Historian Roy P. Basler wrote in A Touchstone for Greatness regarding the proposed amendment to abolish slavery: “Personal rivalry with historical overtones developed when Senator Trumbull of Illinois, chairman of the Judiciary Committee, reported a substitute Joint Resolution differing from both Henderson’s and Sumner’s versions and following the language of the Northwest Ordinance of 1787: ‘Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as punishment for crime, whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.’ Sumner tried to reinsert his ‘equal before the law’ phrase, but Trumbull’s resolution was adopted by the Senate without change. In the House, however, it failed to obtain the necessary two-thirds vote, when only four Democrats joined the unanimous eight-seven Republicans voting for it on June 15, 1864.

“Lincoln expected its defeat and saw that the proposal for complete abolition of slavery by amendment to the Constitution would be the key issue of his campaign for reelection. Even while the House was debating the resolution he called the chairman of the National Republican Committee, Senator Edwin D. Morgan of New York, to the White House, and asked him to make the keynote of his speech opening the convention a plea for the amendment, and to place the amendment as a plank in the Republican platform. Lincoln’s wishes were followed, and the delegates responded with great enthusiasm.”

Congress passes legislation authorizes equal pay for black troops retroactively to January 1, 1864

President Lincoln writes to Secretary of the Treasury Salmon P. Chase: “The Governor of Iowa and some of the M.C.’s have a little embarrassment about the removal of a Mr. Atkinson, in your department, and the appointment to the place of a Mr. Sill, [2] I think. They claim a promise, which I know I never made, except upon the condition that you desired the removal of Atkinson. Please help me a little. If you will write me a note that you do not wish Atkinson removed, that will end the matter. On the contrary, if you do wish him removed, or even are indifferent about it, say so to me, accompanying your note with a nomination for Sill.”

“Have just read your despatch of 1 P.M. yesterday. I begin to see it. You will succeed. God bless you all,” President Lincoln wires General Ulysses S. Grant.   The general-in-chief had written the president: “Our forces will commence crossing the James to-day. The enemy show no signs yet of having brought troops to the south side of Richmond. I will have Petersburg secured, if possible, before they get there in much force. Our movement from Cold Harbor to the James River has been made with great celerity and so far without loss or accident.”

Published in: on June 15, 2014 at 9:00 am  Leave a Comment  

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