Final Freedom: The Civil War, the Abolition of Slavery, and the Thirteenth Amendment

By Michael Vorenberg | Go to book overview

8
The Contested Legacy of
Constitutional Freedom

The Thirteenth Amendment was commemorated before it was even ratified. Requests for official copies of the amendment flooded into Congress right after the measure's adoption. Souvenir collectors asked those who voted for the amendment to sign the duplicates, and the most industrious autograph hunters procured as well the signatures of President Lincoln and Vice-President Hamlin.1 State legislatures vied to be the first to ratify. Senator Lyman Trumbull and Governor Richard Oglesby of Illinois pressed their state's legislature to ratify at once, even before Secretary of State Seward's official notification arrived. The legislature complied, making Illinois the first state to vote for the amendment and assuring it a prominent place in the emancipation record.2 Opponents of the amendment also wished to add their distinctive mark. An Ohio state assemblyman proposed that his fellow legislators wear a “badge of mourning” for thirty days to acknowledge this “first step towards a centralized despotism. ”3 Two weeks after the momentous vote in the House of Representatives, in the very chamber where the measure had passed, the New York minister Henry Highland Garnet delivered a rousing address commemorating the amendment-the first speech delivered by an African American in Congress. Garnet, who was there by invitation of President Lincoln, used the occasion to demand equal rights beyond emancipation: “When and where will the demands of the reformers of this and coming ages end?…When emancipation shall be followed by enfranchisement…when there shall be no more class-legislation, and no more trouble concerning the black man and his rights. ”4 All wanted their

____________________
1
John G. Rhodehamel and Seth Kaller, “A Census of Copies of the Thirteenth Amendment to the U. S. Constitution Signed by Abraham Lincoln, ” Manuscripts, 44 (1992), 93–114.
2
Richard J. Oglesby letter book, January to April, 1865, pp. 143, 154–55, 191–92, Illinois State Archives, Springfield; Chicago Tribune, February 1, 1865, p. 1.
3
Cincinnati Enquirer, February 3, 1865, p. 2.
4
Henry Highland Garnet, A Memorial Discourse, in James M. McPherson, ed., The Negro's Civil War: How American Negroes Felt and Acted during the War for the Union (1965; repr., Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1982), 289–90. See David Quigley, “Reconstructing Democracy: Politics and Ideas in New York City, 1865–1880” (Ph. D. diss., New York University, 1997), 23–26.

-211-

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Final Freedom: The Civil War, the Abolition of Slavery, and the Thirteenth Amendment
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Cambridge Historical Studies in American Law and Society *
  • Title Page *
  • Contents ix
  • Illustrations xi
  • Acknowledgments xiii
  • Abbreviations xvii
  • Introduction 1
  • 1 - Slavery's Constitution 8
  • 2 - Freedom's Constitution 36
  • 3 - Facing Freedom 61
  • 4 - Debating Freedom 89
  • 5 - The Key Note of Freedom 115
  • 6 - The War Within a War: Emancipation and the Election of 1864 141
  • 7 - A King's Cure 176
  • 8 - The Contested Legacy of Constitutional Freedom 211
  • Appendix: Votes on Antislavery Amendment 251
  • Bibliography 253
  • Index 297
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