13. Amendment to the United States Constitution

from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
The original document of the 13th Amendment to the Constitution

The 13th Amendment to the Constitution of the United States of America ( english The Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States of America ) abolished the slavery and forced labor , except for offenders throughout the territory of the United States from final. It was passed by Congress on January 31, 1865 , and submitted to the states for ratification , and went into effect on December 18, 1865. When it was passed, the thirteenth amendment was the first amendment in more than 60 years. Together with the constitutional amendments fourteen and fifteen that followed , it forms the Reconstruction Amendments passed after the Civil War .


Part 1


Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime where of the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.


Neither slavery nor compulsory servitude shall exist in the United States or in any territory under its jurisdiction except as punishment for a crime of which the person concerned has been found guilty in due process.

Section 2


Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.


Congress has the right to enforce this amendment by law.



Lincoln and his cabinet at the first reading of the Emancipation Proclamation ( Francis Bicknell Carpenter , 1864)

In 1860, Abraham Lincoln , a moderate opponent of slavery, was elected President of the United States of America. Lincoln, whose election was an important reason for the outbreak of the Civil War , wanted above all to prevent the expansion of the "special institution" of the south to further territories in the west and its penetration into the northern states, but only gradually and gradually expire in the actual southern states and compensate the slave owners for it. Such an abolition with compensation payments was decided by Congress in 1862 for the District of Columbia , but otherwise did not meet with further demand in the slave states that remained loyal to the Union.

The longer the Civil War lasted, however, the more Lincoln became convinced that slavery had to be finally abolished in the short term, since a war goal of gradually phasing out slavery could neither justify the high loss of human life nor the morale of its own troops on a sufficient level Level held. In 1862, after the Battle of Antietam , with the Emancipation Proclamation , he declared the slaves in the southern states that had fallen from the Union to be free on January 1, 1863. However, only those slaves who lived in the southern states occupied by Union troops received their freedom; the slaves of those southern states that had remained with the Union (Delaware, Kentucky, Maryland, Missouri, the newly formed state of West Virginia, which was formed from loyal counties of Virginia, and the capital Washington, DC) were not freed, nor were those in the Union , of course successfully occupied parts of the Confederation.

As president, however, Lincoln could not take action against the actual institution of slavery; an amendment to the constitution was necessary for this. This addition was first proposed to Congress in April 1864, and it was immediately passed by 38 to 6 votes by the US Senate , in which the Republicans had a large majority since the Southern Senators left the country. However, he missed the necessary two-thirds majority in the House of Representatives , as he only received three votes from the Democrats and thus a total of thirteen votes too few.

With the elections to the 39th United States Congress in 1864, the Republicans won a three-quarters majority and could have passed the addition from the legislature of the 39th Congress in March 1865. However, Lincoln wanted both party MPs to approve the draft. In his fourth annual address to Congress on December 6, 1864, he recommended "reconsidering and adopting" the addition. Thereupon the addition was proposed again to the House of Representatives on January 31, 1865 and this time achieved the majority required to be submitted to the states for ratification : 119 MPs, 16 of them Democrats, voted for the draft, 56 against, making the required quorum was narrowly exceeded by 117 votes. When the result of the vote was announced, a storm of cheers broke out in parliament and among the spectators, which lasted several minutes and was later supported by a 100-round salute from several cannons.


The 13th Amendment was passed by Congress on January 31, 1865 and submitted to the states for ratification by their legislatures . Since the United States had 36 member states at the time, the amendment had to be ratified by at least 27 of them in order to achieve the three-quarter majority required by Article V of the Constitution. The first state to ratify was Illinois just one day after it was passed by Congress, followed by Rhode Island and Michigan on February 2nd. In the following months, 23 other states adopted the constitutional amendment, and with Georgia on December 6, 1865 the quorum of 27 was reached: Secretary of State William H. Seward announced the 13th amendment on December 18 as part of the American nationwide validity Constitution. By 1870, with the exception of Delaware , Kentucky, and Mississippi, all other states adopted the text. Delaware and Kentucky did so in 1901 and 1976, respectively; On March 16, 1995, Mississippi became the last state in the United States to consent to the signing of the constitutional amendment. Since the ratification was inadvertently not communicated to Congress, it only became legally binding on February 7, 2013 after this oversight became known and the documents had been submitted to the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA).

The Corwin Amendment

The Amendment ratified in 1865 was actually the "third" thirteenth United States Constitutional Amendment and the second to be debated during the 1860s. In March 1861, towards the end of President James Buchanan's term of office , Congress passed an amendment to the constitution with an extremely narrow margin (133 votes in favor in the House of Representatives and 24 in the Senate with 132 and 24 respectively) an amendment to the constitution, which was called the Corwin Amendment ( named after the deputies Thomas Corwin of Ohio , who introduced him in the house was known) and a last attempt figured to prevent war between North and South. The text of this addendum provided that no constitutional amendment should ever be passed that would allow Congress to abolish slavery. The constitutional amendment was still ratified by three states, but then disappeared from the consciousness of politics in the course of the war of civil secession and by far missed the necessary three quarters of the US states. Instead, today's 13th amendment to the Constitution was passed and ratified in 1865.

The Titles of Nobility Amendment

Another planned amendment to the constitution, which, if successful, would have been the thirteenth, had already been proposed by Congress in 1810. Even the original text of the constitution forbade the bestowal of noble and honorary titles within the United States; the proposed addition should also prohibit Americans from wearing foreign titles of nobility and honor, accepting funds from foreign states, and exercising state office abroad, on the penalty of losing American citizenship. Since only 12 of the then 17 states ratified (13 would have been necessary), the Titles of Nobility Amendment , like the Corwin Amendment, never came into force.

Further amendments in the following period

With the 13th amendment to the constitution, the colored slaves had gained their freedom, although the addition did not require any additional legislative measures. In response to this, however, so-called black codes were passed in numerous states , which curtailed the rights of former slaves. Only with amendments 14 and 15 were the Afro-Americans finally granted all civil and electoral rights. After about a decade of relative freedom, however, civil rights were again largely disregarded from around 1877 and blacks were again suppressed by tricky so-called “ Jim Crow laws” and acts of violence, this time without any significant resistance from the northern states. It was not until the 1960s that reached civil rights movement ( "Civil Rights Movement") an end to legal discrimination.

Abolition of Slavery in Other Countries

In France , slavery was abolished in the course of the French Revolution, with its ideals of freedom, equality and fraternity in 1794. Napoleon reintroduced it in 1802, and it took 46 years for slavery to be abolished in the French overseas territories with the Décret d'abolition de l'esclavage on April 27, 1848. Great Britain abolished slavery with the Slavery Abolition Act in 1833 , after the slave trade had been banned in 1807. The Netherlands put an end to the practice in their colonies in 1863, around the same time as the USA. There was, however, a ten-year transition period: until 1873 slaves who had previously worked on plantations had to continue to do so, but now for money and with the right to change employers. Spain abolished slavery in its overseas possession of Cuba even later, in February 1880. In Brazil, slavery was not finally abolished until 1888 with the “Golden Law” ( Lei Áurea ).

Legislative powers based on the 13th Amendment to the Constitution

According to the wording, the 13th amendment prohibits both slavery and forced labor. In addition, in its early case law, the United States Supreme Court interpreted the competency of the Addendum rather broadly for Congress. In the Civil Rights Cases of 1883, for example, he ruled that the 13th Amendment to the Constitution grants Congress the power to pass all laws that are necessary and appropriate to abolish every occurrence and every sign of slavery (to pass all laws necessary and proper for abolishing all badges and incidents of slavery) . In the years that followed, however, the power delegated by the constitutional amendment was interpreted more narrowly by the Supreme Court before reverting to the original interpretation in 1968 in Jones v. Alfred H. Mayer Co. In the opinion of some constitutional lawyers, however, the court has not yet formulated a clear doctrine of the occurrence and signs of slavery.

Failure to apply the 13th Amendment to the Constitution

While the 13th Amendment prohibits both slavery and forced labor (except as a punishment for a crime), it is inapplicable in many cases. For example, the Supreme Court ruled that certain services to the state (such as military service or serving as a jury member in court) are not covered by the 13th Amendment. A similar decision was taken in the case of seafarers, some of whose contracts required the abandonment of a certain degree of personal freedom. In 1995, the Second Federal Court of Appeals also ruled that schools may require their students to do charitable work as part of their teaching program without violating the 13th Amendment.

Artistic reception

The political disputes in the run-up to the vote on the 13th Amendment in the House of Representatives form the core of the 2012 film Lincoln with Daniel Day-Lewis in the title role; Directed by Steven Spielberg . 13th (2016) is a documentary by Ava DuVernay that sheds light on the United States' prison system , particularly convict leasing of freedmen . The film was nominated for an Oscar and received the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Documentary or Nonfiction Special .

See also


  • William M. Carter Jr .: Race, Rights and the Thirteenth Amendment: Defining the Badges and Incidents of Slavery. In: UC Davis Law Review. Vol. 40, No. April 4, 2007, ISSN  0197-4564 , pp. 1311-1379.
  • Shelby Foote : The Civil War. A narrative. Volume 3: Red River to Appomattox (= Civil War library ). Vintage Books, New York NY 1986, ISBN 0-394-74622-8 .
  • Michael Vorenberg: Final Freedom. The Civil War, the Abolition of Slavery, and the Thirteenth Amendment (= Cambridge historical studies in American law and society ). Cambridge University Press, Cambridge u. a. 2004, ISBN 0-521-54384-3 .
  • Margaret E. Wagner, Gary W. Gallagher, Paul Finkelman (Eds.): The Library of Congress Civil War Desk Reference. Simon & Schuster, New York (NY) a. a. 2002, ISBN 0-684-86350-2 .

Web links



  1. a b German translation of the American Embassy in Germany, according to the document Constitution of the United States of America (PDF; 201 kB), accessed on May 5, 2013
  2. Eric Foner: Reconstruction - America's Unfinished Revolution. New York, 1988, p. 6
  3. ^ Wagner, Gallagher, Finkelman: Civil War Desk Reference , p. 763
  4. James M. McPherson: Battle cry of freedom: the Civil War era. Oxford University Press, 1988, pp. 706, 788.
  5. ^ Wagner, Gallagher, Finkelman: Civil War Desk Reference , p. 764
  6. infoplease.com: Lincoln's Fourth Annual Message to Congress
  7. ^ Wagner, Gallagher, Finkelman: Civil War Desk Reference , p. 764
  8. Shelby Foote: The Civil War. A narrative. Red River to Appomattox , p. 748
  9. For a German translation of the corresponding article, see Constitution of the United States of America on wikisource
  10. 102nd American Congress (ed.): The Constitution of the United States of America , 1992, p. 18
  11. 102nd American Congress (ed.): The Constitution of the United States of America , 1992, p. 18
  12. Mississippi finally ratifies 13th Amendment outlawing slavery , The Washington Times, Feb. 18, 2013; Historic oversight corrected ( Memento from March 7, 2013 in the web archive archive.today ), Clarion Ledger, February 17, 2013 (both in English)
  13. American Broadcasting Company : Mississippi Officially Abolishes Slavery, Ratifies 13th Amendment , February 18, 2013
  14. See the detailed article on Wikipedia: Corwin Amendment
  15. For the text see House.gov ( Memento of July 2, 2012 in the Internet Archive ): Constitutional Amendments Not Ratified
  16. FindLaw: US Constitution: Thirteenth Amendment: Annotations pg. 1 of 3 . Caselaw.lp.findlaw.com. Retrieved June 20, 2010.
  17. See also the article on Wikipedia; see the texts on the Slave Trade Act 1807 and the Slavery Abolition Act 1833
  18. Emmer: The Dutch Slave Trade, 1500-1850 , 2006, p. 128
  19. Civil Rights Cases on findlaw.com
  20. Carter: Race, Rights and the Thirteenth Amendment:, p. 1325
  21. Jones v. Alfred H. Mayer Co. at findlaw.com
  22. Carter: Race, Rights and the Thirteenth Amendment:, p. 1314
  23. Law.cornell.edu: Situations in Which the Amendment Is inapplicable
  24. See u. a. also the judgment on the Selective Draft Cases , 245 US 366 from 1918
  25. Law.cornell.edu: Situations in Which the Amendment Is inapplicable
  26. Immediato v. Rye Neck School District on Findlaw.com
This version was added to the list of articles worth reading on May 23, 2006 .