This Day in the Law
December 6

Ratification of Amendment Equals the End of Slavery (1865)

On December 6, 1865, the 13th Amendment to the United States Constitution was ratified. The 13th Amendment reads as follows: "Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction." After several years of bloody battle, the Civil War had ended, and the United States moved forward in the direction of equality for all people.

In 1861, when the Civil War began, the true force behind the struggle was the goal to reunify the states. However, as the battles ensued, the face of the war changed, and the main purpose became the obliteration of slavery. After the Union prevailed, several proposals to amend the U.S. Constitution were submitted to Congress. The proposal that prevailed was one from the Senate Judiciary Committee. This Committee used language from the Northwest Ordinance of 1787, which prohibited slavery from any territory north of the Ohio River.

In April 1864, the Senate passed the proposal to amend the U.S. Constitution. It wasn’t until January 1865 that the House of Representatives passed the same proposal. The obvious support from Congress came just two months after President Lincoln won the election in November 1864. From there, the proposal was submitted to the states for ratification. On December 6, 1865, Georgia became the final state to ratify the 13th Amendment, thus officially abolishing slavery in the United States.

Related This Day in the Law
On January 1, 1863, President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation, freeing many slaves from the Confederate states during the Civil War.
On February 18, 1861, the states that seceded from the Union to form the Confederate States of America inaugurated Jefferson Davis as the first (and only) president of the new Confederacy.
On March 6, 1857, the U.S. Supreme Court decided in Dred Scott v. Sandford (1857) that slaves were not citizens under the United States Constitution.
On April 12, 1861, the American Civil War began when Confederate forces fired on Fort Sumter in Charleston, South Carolina.