The 13th Amendment to the Constitution declared that “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.” Formally abolishing slavery in the United States, the 13th Amendment was passed by the Congress on January 31, 1865, and ratified by the states on December 6, 1865.
This collection contains congressional publications from 1774 to 1875, including debates, bills, laws, and journals.
- The text of the 13th Amendment can be found the United States Statutes at Large, volume 13, page 567 (13 Stat. 567) and in volume 13, pages 774-75 (13 Stat. 774).
References to debate on the 13th Amendment (S.J. Res. 16) can be found in the Congressional Globe on the following dates:
- March 31, 1864 – Debated in the Senate (S.J. Res. 16).
- April 4, 1864 – Debated in the Senate.
- April 5, 1864 – Debated in the Senate.
- April 6, 1864 – Debated in the Senate.
- April 7, 1864 – Debated in the Senate.
- April 8, 1864 – The Senate passed the 13th Amendment (S.J. Res. 16) by a vote of 38 to 6.
- June 14, 1864 – Debated in the House of Representatives.
- June 15, 1864 – The House of Representatives initially defeated the 13th Amendment (S.J. Res. 16) by a vote of 93 in favor, 65 opposed, and 23 not voting, which is less than the two-thirds majority needed to pass a Constitutional Amendment.
- December 6, 1864 – Abraham Lincoln’s Fourth Annual Message to Congress was printed in theCongressional Globe: “At the last session of Congress a proposed amendment of the Constitution, abolishing slavery throughout the United States, passed the Senate, but failed for lack of the requisite two-thirds vote in the House of Representatives. Although the present is the same Congress, and nearly the same members, and without questioning the wisdom or patriotism of those who stood in opposition, I venture to recommend the reconsideration and passage of the measure at the present session.“
- January 6, 1865 – Debated in the House of Representatives (S.J. Res. 16).
- January 7, 1865 – Debated in the House of Representatives.
- January 9, 1865 – Debated in the House of Representatives.
- January 10, 1865 – Debated in the House of Representatives.
- January 11, 1865 – Debated in the House of Representatives.
- January 12, 1865 – Debated in the House of Representatives.
- January 13, 1865 – Debated in the House of Representatives.
- January 28, 1865 – Debated in the House of Representatives.
- January 31, 1865 – The House of Representatives passed the 13th Amendment (S.J. Res. 16) by a vote of 119 to 56.
- February 1, 1865 – President Abraham Lincoln signed a Joint Resolution submitting the proposed 13th Amendment to the states.
- December 18, 1865 – Secretary of State William Seward issued a statement verifying the ratification of the 13th Amendment.
The complete Abraham Lincoln Papers at the Library of Congress consists of approximately 20,000 documents. The collection is organized into three “General Correspondence” series which include incoming and outgoing correspondence and enclosures, drafts of speeches, and notes and printed material. Most of the 20,000 items are from the 1850s through Lincoln’s presidential years, 1860-65.
A selection of highlights from this collection includes:
- Congress, Wednesday, February 01, 1865 (Joint Resolution Submitting 13th Amendment to the States; signed by Abraham Lincoln and Congress)
- John G. Nicolay to Abraham Lincoln, Tuesday, January 31, 1865 (Telegram reporting passage of 13th Amendment by Congress)
Search the Abraham Lincoln Papers using the phrase “13th amendment” to locate additional documents on this topic.
This collection documents the life of Abraham Lincoln both through writings by and about Lincoln as well as a large body of publications concerning the issues of the times including slavery, the Civil War, Reconstruction, and related topics.
- Abolishing Slavery. Joint resolution of the thirty eight Congress of the United States of America, proposing an amendment to the Constitution of the United States, abolishing slavery
- The Triumph of freedom over slavery. Thirty eighth Congress of the United States of America
This collection presents 396 pamphlets from the Rare Book and Special Collections Division, published from 1822 through 1909, by African-American authors and others who wrote about slavery, African colonization, Emancipation, Reconstruction, and related topics.
- Report of special committee on the passage by the House of Representatives of the constitutional amendment for the abolition of slavery. January 31st, 1865.
- Speech of Gen. Hiram Walbridge, on the proposed amendment to the federal Constitution forever prohibiting slavery in the United States : delivered before the Committee on Federal Relations, in the Assembly Chamber of New York, at Albany, Jan. 27, 1865.
- Speech of Hon. T.B. Van Buren, on the bill to ratify the amendment to the Constitution of the United States prohibiting slavery : in the New York House of Assembly, March 15, 1865.
Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers
This site allows you to search and view millions of historic American newspaper pages from 1836 to 1922. Search this collection to find newspaper articles about the 13th Amendment.
A selection of articles on the 13th Amendment includes:
- “Freedom Triumphant,” New-York Daily Tribune. (New York, NY), February 1, 1865.
- “Glory to God! The Constitutional Amendment Passed the House by a Vote of 119 to 56,” Fremont Journal. (Fremont, OH), February 3, 1865.
- “The Constitutional Amendment,” The Daily Phoenix. (Columbia, SC), December 14, 1865.
- “The Official Announcement of the Adoption of the Constitutional Amendment–Opinions of the Leading Press,” Daily National Republican. (Washington, D.C.), December 21, 1865.
The Constitution of the United States of America: Analysis and Interpretation (popularly known as the Constitution Annotated) contains legal analysis and interpretation of the United States Constitution, based primarily on Supreme Court case law. This regularly updated resource is especially useful when researching the constitutional implications of a specific issue or topic. It includes a chapter on the 13th Amendment. (PDF, 201 KB)
This exhibit marks the publication of The African-American Mosaic: A Library of Congress Resource Guide for the Study of Black History and Culture. This exhibit is a sampler of the kinds of materials and themes covered by this publication. Includes a section on theabolition movement and the end of slavery.
This exhibition showcases the African American collections of the Library of Congress. Displays more than 240 items, including books, government documents, manuscripts, maps, musical scores, plays, films, and recordings. Includes a brochure from an exhibit at the Library of Congress to mark the 75th Anniversary of the 13th Amendment.
An online exhibit of the engrossed copy of the 13th Amendment as signed by Abraham Lincoln and members of Congress.
This exhibition, which commemorates the fiftieth anniversary of the landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964, explores the events that shaped the civil rights movement, as well as the far-reaching impact the act had on a changing society.
The Teachers Page
The Emancipation Proclamation and Thirteenth Amendment freed all slaves in the United States. This page links to related primary source documents.
The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln, Abraham Lincoln Association
Documents from Freedom: A Documentary History of Emancipation, 1861-1867, University of Maryland
“I Will Be Heard!” Abolitionism in America, Cornell University Library, Division of Rare and Manuscript Collections
Mr. Lincoln and Freedom, The Lincoln Institute
Our Documents, 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, National Archives and Records Administration
Proclamation of the Secretary of State Regarding the Ratification of the Thirteenth Amendment, National Archives and Records Administration
Proposed Thirteenth Amendment Regarding the Abolition of Slavery, National Archives and Records Administration
The Thirteenth Amendment, National Constitution Center
Avins, Alfred, comp. The Reconstruction Amendments’ Debates: The Legislative History and Contemporary Debates in Congress on the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments. Richmond: Virginia Commission on Constitutional Government, 1967. [Catalog Record]
Hoemann, George H. What God Hath Wrought: The Embodiment of Freedom in the Thirteenth Amendment. New York: Garland Pub., 1987. [Catalog Record]
Holzer, Harold, and Sara Vaughn Gabbard, eds. Lincoln and Freedom: Slavery, Emancipation, and the Thirteenth Amendment. Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 2007. [Catalog Record]
Maltz, Earl M. Civil Rights, the Constitution, and Congress, 1863-1869. Lawrence, Kan.: University Press of Kansas, 1990. [Catalog Record]
Richards, Leonard L. Who Freed the Slaves?: The Fight Over the Thirteenth Amendment. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2015. [Catalog Record]
Tsesis, Alexander, ed. The Promises of Liberty: The History and Contemporary Relevance of the Thirteenth Amendment. New York: Columbia University Press, 2010. [Catalog Record]
—–. The Thirteenth Amendment and American Freedom: A Legal History. New York: New York University Press, 2004. [Catalog Record]
Vorenberg, Michael. Final Freedom: The Civil War, the Abolition of Slavery, and the Thirteenth Amendment. Cambridge; New York: Cambridge University Press, 2001. [Catalog Record]
Biscontini, Tracey and Rebecca Sparling, eds. Amendment XIII: Abolishing Slavery. Detroit: Greenhaven Press, 2009. [Catalog Record]
Burgan, Michael. The Reconstruction Amendments. Minneapolis: Compass Point Books, 2006.[Catalog Record]
Schleichert, Elizabeth. The Thirteenth Amendment: Ending Slavery. Springfield, N.J.: Enslow Publishers, 1998. [Catalog Record]