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20 June 2020


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LA Sox Fan

There is no reason to believe these amendments would have been ratified by 2/3s of the states if the Civil War was delayed. The Republican Party was an abolitionist party and it’s candidate had just won the presidential election. That’s why the South Carolina and the other Southern states left the Union. They could tell the days of slavery were numbered. They also most likely saw these proposed amendments to the Constitution never would be ratified by 2/3 of the states.



Good stuff but IMO the word "appeasement" is inappropriate. The Southern states were equal partners in the Union. The Northern states could have let their "erring sisters" go in peace. Instead, the North and four slave states went to war to re-integrate the seceded states in their Union. Why did they do it? You believe that abolition was not the reason they went to war? Why did they do it?


LA Sox Fan. The Republican Party had been created out of Northern Whigs, Know-nothings, the anti-masonic party, and Freesoilers. The abolitionist party was a small faction until the butcher's bill became so high after the first couple of years that a moralistic cause had to be proclaimed to keep the masses in line. The mid-term congressional elections in 1862 were a warning that the North would only sacrifice so many of its own sons to reunify the country under Northern control. Foreigners enlisted overseas and Blacks enlisted for less pay than Whites kept the numbers up long enough to win. Oh yes, the Army of The Potomac had lost so many men by the time Grant took over that the big fat fortress artillery regiments that had "defended" Washington had to be brought out and committed as infantry where they lost their hats, asses and overcoats in the Overland Campaign.


LA Sox Fan,

Ratification requires 3/4 of the States, not 2/3. That would be an even larger hill to climb which amplifies your point that ratification would have been nigh impossible.

Polish Janitor


Wow, this was truly fascinating! It is interesting to imagine how different America's constitutional foundation would have become had these proposal been passed as the laws of the land. Couple of points came to my mind after reading this post:

#1 based on these new findings and your analysis, it could be inferred that the North (and the Congress?) would have followed through with the compromise that went further than the "popular sovereignty" plan of Stephen Douglas and would have actually protected the institution of slavery at the federal level for the ultimate purpose of preserving the Union.

#2 Would these new amendments have passed under a natural rights interpretation of the phrase "all men are created equal", as Harry Jaffa in this book "The Crisis of the House Divided" argued? Jaffa also puts forth his thesis that Abraham Lincoln was against Stephen Douglas's popular sovereignty plan and slavery as they clearly violated the universal rights of all men and the most fundamental tenet of the Declaration of Independence.

#3 If the Congress was comfortable with such a pro-slavery proposal by passing it with two-thirds majority and on top of that president Buchanan actually signing it into law (a version of it as you mentioned), the whole spirit of the Declaration of Independence and the very idea of the establishment of the U.S. as a 'free' nation based on the preservation of natural rights would have been thrown down the gutter. I understand that there are popular and even established interpretations that reject the idea that natural rights interpretation of the Declaration of Independence never meant to be extended beyond the 'white male land owners' (i.e. the progressive historiography) and that the framers never included them in order to protect their social, political and economic privileges. I believe that America has seen the gradual but firm movement toward extending natural rights to groups that were not explicitly mentioned within the legal framework, i.e. African Americans, women, native Americans. To me Lincoln represents a historical turning point that ultimately led the effort to include the recognition and protection of African Americans' natural rights. Same thing can be said in the case of the passage of fourteen amendment.

#4 Had democracy prevailed and popular vote was set to determine the legal status of slavery in new states, and the southern political elites waited long enough to see Congress passing the new pro-slavery amendments and seeing their demands being tuned into federal law, America would have taken a drastically different turn indeed.

This post made me think about more recent cases, where the constitutionality of certain issues has been determined not by reason but by popular sentiments. Examples are numerous so I will not mention them.

Barbara Ann

Great find TTG, very interesting.

I see that the version of the Thirteenth Amendment that the 36th Congress passed is known as the Corwin Amendment. Its wiki is educational. The amendment reads as follows and the intent is crystal clear:

No amendment shall be made to the Constitution which will authorize or give to Congress the power to abolish or interfere, within any State, with the domestic institutions thereof, including that of persons held to labor or service by the laws of said State.
Lincoln supported the amendment, explicitly stating as much in his first inaugural address.

Many of the respondents to @TheViewFromLL2's Twitter thread seem to have missed the central point; that the Congress that passed this amendment certainly didn't have abolition foremost in their minds - quite the opposite.

As for the war, it seems clear that holding the Union together by force was the primary casus belli, with abolition being the excuse used to justify the war after the fact. It is a shame Lincoln's first inaugural address is not read as often as his Gettysburg address. What might have been.




"The idea that "all men are created equal" had literally meant *all* men was "too absurd to talk about."

Justice Roberts and four of his colleauges will probably have a go at defining the meaning of the word "men" soon.

Cold War Colonel

This is interesting. I am familiar with the proposed 13th Amendment (it wasn't the first, there was a proposed 13th Amdt to prohibit Titles of Nobility), but the 14th through 18th was news to me.

With respect to this proposed 13th Amendment, I don't think President Lincoln intended to keep his support for it a secret. Once he took office, the newly sworn-in President Abraham Lincoln addressed it in his first inaugural address. His quote:

"I understand a proposed amendment to the Constitution--which amendment, however, I have not seen--has passed Congress, to the effect that the Federal Government shall never interfere with the domestic institutions of the States, including that of persons held to service. To avoid misconstruction of what I have said, I depart from my purpose not to speak of particular amendments so far as to say that, holding such a provision to now be implied constitutional law, I have no objection to its being made express and irrevocable."

In other words, President Lincoln at the time of his swearing-in believed that the federal government had no right to interfere with slavery in the states, and he had no objection to that amendment making that understanding "express and irrevocable."

Anyone arguing that the Civil War was fought over slavery is oversimplifying a vary complex period in American history. It may have evolved in the North (the victors and therefore writers of history) into a moral fight over slavery to justify the grievous, huge and nearly pyrrhic losses, but it certainly didn't start out that way in the North.

JP Billen

On 4 March 1861 Lincoln said in his first inaugural address: "I have no purpose, directly or indirectly, to interfere with the institution of slavery in the States where it exists. I believe I have no lawful right to do so, and I have no inclination to do so."


Five weeks later the militia in SC fired on Ft Sumter. The north responded. Unfortunate that. If hostilities had not started then there would have been no way that ratification of any kind of emancipation amendment would ever have passed the 3/4 state threshold (if it had even been proposed and passed by congress?).

For myself I believe that war was started by hotheads on both sides. Too bad! We could have saved ourselves an ocean of blood, the destruction of much of the south, and 155 years of bitterness and animosity towards each other.


And the authenticity of these original draft documents ......"just laying around" ...was verified exactly how? Sounds a bit like finding the long missing Hilary Clinton's Rose Law Firm files suddenly on the White House dining room table. Trust, but verify?

The Twisted Genius


Why do I think the Union fought? It was to preserve the Union. They thought the immense agricultural wealth of the South was important to sustaining a prosperous and growing United States. A Union without the Southern States would be a diminished Union. While the North feared an increasingly wealthy and powerful South if slavery expanded into the western territories, slavery as an institution was not abhorrent to them. At the same time, the South feared the growing power of the North and their efforts to keep slavery out of the western territories. Slavery was an integral part of their engine of growth and they fought to preserve that institution. I think the Confederates overestimated the influence of the abolitionists.


The congregation of Boston minister, Cotton Mather, gifted him a slave, Onesimus. Onesimus introduced Cotton to smallpox inoculation. A disease that ravaged the colonies, not to mention the native Americans, on a regular basis. It was crude since it caused a milder smallpox but the fatality rate was 3% compared to 20% or more for those that otherwise caught it. But that wasn't his legacy. Seems Cotton got caught up in Witch Hunts for which he is mostly remembered.

scott s.

We shouldn't ignore the influence the Fugitive Slave Act had on opinion in the north. See for example In re: Booth and the opinion of the Wisconsin State Supreme Court, and the passage of personal liberty laws in other states. Then add Kansas-Nebraska and the LeCompton constitution and the corrupt dealings of Taney and Buchanan over Dred Scot. All leading to the conclusion that a slave power was taking over the national government.

As an aside it's interesting to see in SF they tore down Grant's statue. I guess he wasn't woke. But he did strongly dislike (I don't think hate is too strong) Gordon Granger who issued the "Juneteenth" proclamation. Grant also disliked his boss Canby. So Grant got the war department to install Sheridan as a higher headquarters so Sheridan could counter-mand Canby's orders to Granger. As far as Grant and Granger IMHO Grant hated Rosecrans and that rubbed off on all of Rosecrans subordinates (in particular Thomas and Granger).

Babak makkinejad


I think you are missing an essential aspect of the War Between the States, viz. the religious sentiment of the anti-slavery Notherners and not only the so-called Abolitionists.

John Brown was not trying to preserve the Union, he was carrying out a Righteous Religious Mission with the aims of which millions of real human beings agreed, in my opinion.

I have not seen a discourse on the causes of this change in sentiments in the North. Clearly, something changed between 1776 to 1856 that caused the institution of chattel slavery to become paramount in the minds of so many.


TTG et al

So, a "version" of that passed both houses by 2/3 and went to the states for ratification which actually began only to be halted by Ft. Sumter? How was the version passed different from this draft? Who voted for it in Congress? Which if any states ratified? There were 33 states in 1860. 3/4 would be 25 would it not? The 11 states of the Confederacy and the 4 slave states that stayed in the Union later might have ratified. That would be 15. I can't imagine that 10 states in the NE, Mid-West and Pacific coast could have been found to ratify, so it is really just a historical oddity is it not?



"A Union without the Southern States would be a diminished Union." Yes. I think that is the essence of it. As to why the volunteers of 1861 signed up for the Union Army IMO this is yet another instance of war fever. By the time they learned that the people on the other side were fearsome opponents it was too late to go home. As one historian said the Civil War gave the average rural Southerner the chance to be all he could be and they made the best use of that chance. Their history and traditions in the old country and new all came together in 1861. My great grand-father in the 5th Wisconsin said that the Johnnies would sometimes walk around under Union rifle fire sailing over them while their own fire came in at you about knee high. There was a qualitative difference between them and most Union Infantry with the exception of the US Regulars, northern New England units and those from the mid-west like the Iron Brigade.

Barbara Ann

To me the version that passed looks even more strongly anti-abolition than the draft, as it seeks to immunize the amendment from future amendments.

Kentucky and Maryland did ratify, along with Rhode Island, Ohio & Illinois. Here are the ratification dates from Corwin Amendment wiki, all bar Kentucky were after Sumter:

Kentucky: April 4, 1861
Ohio: May 13, 1861 (rescinded ratification March 31, 1864)
Rhode Island: May 31, 1861
Maryland: January 10, 1862 (rescinded ratification in 2014)
Illinois: June 2, 1863


The threat of abolition wasn't a threat to subsistence farmers in the South, it was the (threatened) destruction of the Southern Elite by the Northern Elite. I think that's where the outcome was decided, not in frilly, feel good messaging. Keep in mind the cultural aspects of slavery were different between the North and the South. In the South slaves where generally well cared for compared to the North or the Caribbean. For the North the cost of abolition was low, and "freed" labor could be transferred to sweatshops and wage arbitrage ensured debt slavery which we still have today.
For the South the sunk costs for slaves were higher (well documented by studies on the economic costs associated) than northern "free" workers, and reticence to changing economic and traditional norms prevented the large influential plantation owners from taking advantage of the reduced cost that modern wage slavery allows. It's an example of the sunk cost fallacy, though I'm sure pride was also an issue. The economic resources of the South (largely pillaged during war and reconstruction) is rarely given as a cause for the war much like economic interests are largely discounted for our modern adventures. Today's "Spreading Democracy and Freedom" was yesterdays "Freeing the Slaves".
I'm not sure any compromise would have really averted war as I think the pivotal parties were decided on conflict. If firing on Fort Sumter (injuring no one) was enough to convince Lincoln to demand the states to call up their militias then most likely it was destined to happen eventually. What might be interesting is if there were any proposals to compensate slave owners in the South for abolition. Like what we have today with our TBTF FIRE sector where the government bails them out occasionally if they are well enough "connected". That would at least show some non-belligerence on the part of the North instead of the "Fourty Acres and A Mule" (stolen from the Native Americans no doubt).


Are there any good examinations on the prevailing politics and the public perceptions and sentiments as well as the deliberations that led to the political decisions around secession and the suppression of that through the use of military force?

I’d prefer to read something that presents the perspectives of all sides and the evolution of the politics in a chronology culminating in the war.

robt willmann

As mentioned by Barbara Ann and Cold War Colonel, the first inaugural address of Abraham Lincoln is very important to know about, because it does reveal Lincoln's position, which was to keep the union together, and if slavery continued in some states and those states did not leave the union, that was fine with him. This is why the 'main stream media' does not like to talk about the first inaugural address.

An interesting and revealing exercise is to do a word-for-word comparison of the Constitution of the Confederacy and the U.S. Constitution (at that time, and now).

Mark Logan

IMO the issue of slavery only became a very serious point of contention when the West was opened up. It could be said the Civil War didn't start at Fort Sumter, it started in Kansas and Missouri. The attempt to address that with the 13th did not address the real problem so its existence in process didn't mollify the secessionists one bit.

I suspect Lincoln's oddly hard insistence on union was based on his opinion that the two nations would have had to fight a series of wars to decide the issue, maybe endlessly, and the Great Powers would have used the opportunity to play in that game. Gave up trying to find evidence of that some time ago though. If he held that opinion he kept it to himself. It seems plausible Lincoln judged openly stating that politically and strategically unwise. It would have been a simple matter for the South to swear on a stack of bibles they would not contend for any Western territories but change their minds after the CSA was established and recognized.

Barbara Ann


Sounds like Anne Norton's book Alternative Americas fits the bill. The author divides the book into two sections dealing with the antebellum political culture of both the North and South. It is a very well referenced scholarly work. Our host recommended it and though I now have a copy it is a little way down my reading list.


Mark Logan


Mark Logan




Scott S -

Grant's dislike of General Canby had deeper roots than Granger. In the New Mexico theater, Major Isaac Lynde disgraceful performance and cowardly surrender led to charges by Canby and Lynde's dismissal from the service. Lynde was related to Grant by marriage. After the war in 1866 General-in-Chief Grant reinstated Lynde.

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