When Abraham Lincoln was elected the first Republican President in 1861 (along with the first ever Republican Congress), southern pro-slavery Democrats saw the handwriting on the wall. They left the Union and took their States with them, forming a brand new nation: the Confederate States of America, and their followers became known as Rebels. During the
It is always important to note that the Emancipation Proclamation only symbolically ended slavery, as it had no recognized legal jurisdiction in the places it claimed to abolish slavery and declined to abolish it where it did have jurisdiction.
The 13th Amendment was passed by the Senate in 1864 with 100% of the Republican votes, 50% of the Unconditional Unionist votes, 23% of the Democratic Votes, and 0% of the Unionist votes.
Rather than ruling through executive orders and proclamations, Lincoln undertook to free the slaves using the proper constitutional means of passing the 13th Amendment.
An amendment required an enormous amount political effort, as 2/3’s of Congress needed to approve it. This was portrayed in Steven Spielberg’s movie, Lincoln (2012).
Lincoln proclaimed a second National Day of Fasting to be observed on April 30, 1863:
“We have forgotten God. We have forgotten the gracious Hand which preserved us … and we have vainly imagined, in the deceitfulness of our hearts, that all these blessings were produced by some superior wisdom and virtue of our own.
Intoxicated with unbroken success, we have become too self-sufficient to feel the necessity of redeeming and preserving grace, too proud to pray to the God that made us …
Let … the united cry of the nation will be heard on high and answered with blessing no less than the pardon of our national sins and the restoration of our now divided and suffering country.”
Two days later, on May 2, 1863, Confederate soldiers shot one of their own best generals — Stonewall Jackson, as he was returning at twilight during the Battle of Chancellorsville.
Most Civil War historians hold that if Jackson had not been shot and was present at the Battle of Gettysburg two months later, the South may have won.
Lincoln then helped push through the Coinage Act of 1864, which placed the phrase “In God We Trust” on a two-cent coin.
The 13th Amendment to abolish slavery was passed in the U.S. Senate on April 8, 1864. All 30 Republican Senators voted in favor of it, joined by only 4 Democrats.
The U.S. House passed the 13th Amendment on January 31, 1865, with all 86 Republicans voting in favor, joined by 15 Democrats, 14 Unconditional Unionists, and 4 Union men.
Voting against the 13th Amendment were 50 Democrat Congressmen, joined by 6 Union men.
Though not necessary, Lincoln — the first Republican President — added his signature to the 13th Amendment after the words “Approved February 1, 1865.”
On March 2, 1865, Confederate General Robert E. Lee sent a message to Union General Ulysses S. Grant asking for a meeting.
On March 3, 1865, Lincoln established the Freedmen’s Bureau and signed the Act placing “In God We Trust” on all gold and silver coins.
Though Republicans were successful in their efforts to officially abolish slavery with the 13th Amendment, Democrats in Southern States passed Black Codes, Jim Crow Laws, and created racist vigilante organizations.
Republicans responded by enlarging the Federal Government’s power with the 14th Amendment in 1868 to ensure civil rights for freed slaves in the Southern States.
When Democrats enacted racial voting restrictions, Republicans countered by enacting the 15th Amendment in 1870, ensuring the right of freed slaves to vote.
These Amendments were “instruments of good,” nevertheless, they did have the unanticipated consequence of enlarging the Federal Government’s control over the States to an unprecedented degree.
Earlier in his career, at Independence Hall, Philadelphia, February 22, 1861, Lincoln shared his hopes that America would help inspire freedom in other countries of the world:
“The Declaration of Independence gave liberty not alone to the people of this country, but hope to all the world for all future time.
It was that which gave promise that in due time the weights would be lifted from the shoulders of all men, and that all should have an equal chance …
This is the sentiment embodied in the Declaration of Independence … I would rather be assassinated on this spot than surrender it.”