Little Bits of History

Better Late Than Never

Posted in History by patriciahysell on March 16, 2015
James Mitchell Ashley proposed an amendment abolishing slavery in 1863

James Mitchell Ashley proposed an amendment abolishing slavery in 1863

March 16, 1995: Mississippi ratifies the Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution. The 13th Amendment abolished slavery and involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for a crime. It was passed by the US Senate on April 8, 1864 and the House on January 31, 1965. Slavery existed in all original thirteen colonies in America. The United States Constitution did not use the words “slave” or “slavery” at all in the text. There were provisions for “unfree persons”. For instance, in Article I, Section 2, the Three-Fifths Clause allocated seats in the House based on “the whole Number of free Persons” and “three fifths of all other Persons”. Under what came to be known as the Fugitive Slave Clause (Article IV, Section 2) the fugitive person was one held in “Service or Labour in one State”.

In the Fifth Amendment, which states “No person shall… be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law” it was understood that slaves weren’t people, but rather property. This was brought into legal dispute with Dred Scott v. Sandford in 1857. While the Northern states gradually abolished slavery, the Southern states went so far as to secede from the Union rather than give up their slaves. The US Civil War brought the Union back together but then something needed to be done with former property. Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863 but it was not a national law, it concerned only the states in which he was not President.

A new Amendment to the Constitution was proposed by Representative James Mitchell Ashley on December 14, 1863. Representative James F Wilson had a similar proposal. Senator John B. Henderson submitted a joint resolution on January 11, 1864. The Senate Judiciary Committee was chaired by Lyman Trumbull to merge the different proposals. With the new Amendment finally written, it passed both the Upper and Lower Houses and went out for ratification. Illinois was the first state to ratify on February 1, 1865. By the end of the month, 18 states had ratified the new amendment. By the end of the year, Georgia became the 27th state to ratify and thus give the three-fourths of the 36 states in the union at the time. The count included even those states which had been in rebellion at the time.

Secretary of State Seward certified the Thirteenth Amendment had become valid on December 18, 1865. Before the year’s end, three more states added their voice to the ratification process. The following year, Iowa and New Jersey also ratified, even though New Jersey had initially rejected the Amendment on March 15, 1865. Texas finally ratified in 1870. Delaware finally nodded its approval in 1901 after having rejected it on February 8, 1865. Kentucky finally came around in 1976 reversing its rejection of February 24, 1865. And finally, on this day, Mississippi became the 36th and last state to ratify the 13th Amendment after their initial rejection from December 5, 1865 was reversed. The state finally certified their ratification on February 7, 2013 – 148 years later.

Emancipate yourself from mental slavery, None but ourselves can free our minds. – Bob Marley

All restraints upon man’s natural liberty, not necessary for the simple maintenance of justice, are of the nature of slavery, and differ from each other only in degree. – Lysander Spooner

Talk of the abuses of slavery! Humbug! The thing itself is the essence of all abuse! – Harriet Beecher Stowe

The cause of the great War of the Rebellion against the United Status will have to be attributed to slavery. – Ulysses S. Grant

Also on this day: Wanting to Win – In 1994, Tonya Harding pled guilty to interfering with an investigation into the Nancy Karrigan attack.
Army Corps of Engineers – In 1802, the Military Peace Establishment Act became law.
Rain, Rain Go Away – In 1952, a record rainfall hit Cilaos, Rèunion.
Aldo Moro – In 1978, the Italian politician was kidnapped.
Space Age Booster – In 1926, Robert Goddard launched a rocket.

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