In Abraham’s Lincoln’s early political days, he was not an abolitionist and often strove to stay out of the debate over slavery.
In 1834, a number of groups that were opposed to what they referred to as King Andrew Jackson, banded together to form a new political party – the Whig Party.
In 1846, Lincoln was elected to the US House of Representatives from the State of Illinois. At the time, Lincoln was a staunch member of the Whig Party
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In 1941, William Henry Harrison was sworn in as the first President of the United States as a member of the Whig Party. Over the next decade, slavery became more of an issue and members of Whig Party proved to be too weak or unwilling to stand up for the abolitionist views of many northern states.
The death blow to the Whig Party came with the introduction of the Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854. The act was designed to replace the Missouri Compromise and allow western territories wanting admittance to the Union to decide for themselves whether they wanted to be a free or slave state. Whig politicians were not able to stop the legislation and their party fractured.
A number of anti-slavery Whig members began meeting in February 1854 to discuss forming their own political party that stood firm against slavery.
On March 20, 1854, key anti-slave members of the Whig Party met in Ripon, Wisconsin and made the decision to formally created the Republican Party as the party to oppose slavery. They chose the name ‘Republican’ referencing back to the Democratic-Republican Party of Thomas Jefferson. They also chose the name because they wanted to commit to the inalienable rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness in which they believed slavery as a violation of those rights.
In 1856, John Fremont was the first Republican to run for the presidency. Although he won 11 of the 16 northern states, he carried none of the southern states, losing the election to his Democratic challenger James Buchanan.
In 1856, Lincoln joined the Republican Party and ran for the US Senate from Illinois. The campaign was noted in history because of the debates held between Lincoln and Stephen Douglas. Lincoln lost the election.
By 1860, when Lincoln ran for the presidency as a Republican, he made it known publicly that he was against slavery, but some who knew him personally stated that he was still undecided on the issue. Due to his public stance against slavery, his election caused the southern states to begin seceding from the Union, leading to the Civil War.
During the early days of the Civil War, Lincoln realized that many southern slaves were being used to support the Confederate war effort. They were used to help dig trenches and build fortifications as well as tend to the wounded and sick and as general laborers for many menial tasks. This final realization of just how much southern slavery was helping the South, Lincoln finally decided to do something to end slavery.
On September 22, 1862, Lincoln issued the preliminary version of his famous Emancipation Proclamation.
On January 1, 1863, the Emancipation Proclamation went into effect. In reality, this proclamation did not free every slave, just those in the Confederate states as many northern states had already passed laws against slavery. The first paragraph stated:
“That on the first day of January, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, all persons held as slaves within any State or designated part of a State, the people whereof shall then be in rebellion against the United States, shall be then, thenceforward, and forever free; and the Executive Government of the United States, including the military and naval authority thereof, will recognize and maintain the freedom of such persons, and will do no act or acts to repress such persons, or any of them, in any efforts they may make for their actual freedom.”
From March 31 through April 7, 1864, the US Senate debated a proposed 13th Amendment to the United States Constitution. The purpose of the 13th Amendment was to amend the Constitution to totally abolish slavery.
On April 8, 1864, the US Senate passed the bill proposing the 13th Amendment by a 38-6 vote.
On June 14, 1864, the US House of Representatives began debate on the 13th Amendment.
On June 15, 1864, the House voted on the 13th Amendment. The vote was 93 yes, 65 no and 23 no votes. Constitutional amendments require a two-thirds majority but efforts to pass the 13th Amendment failed to reach the number of votes required.
On December 6, 1864, Lincoln asked members of the House to reconsider the 13th Amendment during his annual message to Congress.
On January 6, 1865, the House again began debate on the proposed 13th Amendment.
On January 31, 1865, the House passed the 13th Amendment by a vote of 119 to 56.
On February, 1, 1865, President Abraham Lincoln signed a Joint Resolution on the 13th Amendment, which then sent it to the states for ratification. The 13th Amendment reads:
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.
Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.”
On February 1, 1865, Illinois became the first state to ratify the 13th Amendment.
On May 9, 1865, less than a month after the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln, the Civil War officially ended with the surrender at the Appomattox Courthouse. By the time the Civil War ended, 22 states had ratified the 13th Amendment. At the time, there was 36 states which meant that it took 27 states (three-fourths) to ratify a constitutional amendment.
On this day, December 6, 1865, Georgia became the 27th state to ratify the 13th Amendment. Making the 13th Amendment a part of the US Constitution.
On March 30, 1870, the 15th Amendment to the United States Constitution was officially ratified and became law, guaranteeing the right to vote to every citizen of the United States, regardless of ‘race, color, or previous condition of servitude.’
On March 18, 1976, Kentucky became to final state to formally ratify the 13th Amendment. Kentucky rejected the 13th Amendment on February 24, 1865 and then revisited and approved it 111 years later.
Sources for the above includes: Emancipation Proclamation; Emancipation Proclamation; Amendments 11-27 to the U.S. Constitution; 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution; The Thirteenth Amendment; Thirteenth Amendment; 13th Amendment Ratified; Thirteenth Amendment; Today, March 30, 1870: African-Americans Granted the Right to Vote; Today, March 20, 1854: The Republican Party was Established; The United States Ratifies the 13th Amendment to the Constitution