H_Res 80Joint Resolution to amend the Constitution of the United StatesResolved by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled. State the following article be proposed to the Legislatures of the several(?) states as an amendment to the Constitution of the United States, which, when ratified by three-fourths of said Legislatures shall be valid, to all intent and purposes as part of said Constitution, (?)Article XIII. No amendment shall be made to the Constitution which will authorize or give to Congress the power to abolish or interfere, within any state, with the domestic institutions thereof, including that of persons held to labor or service by the laws of said State.Passed the house of RepresentativesFebruary 28th, 1861Senate of the United StatesMarch 3, 1861Resolved (two-thirds of the senate present concurring therein) that this Joint Resolution do pass.
Out-going President James Buchanan, a Democrat, endorsed the Corwin Amendment by taking the unprecedented step of signing it. His signature on the Congressional joint resolution was unnecessary, as the Supreme Court, in Hollingsworth v. Virginia (1798), ruled that the President has no formal role in the constitutional amendment process.
The only thing needed for this to become an actual amendment would be the three-fourths of states ratification. Three union states ratified it: Ohio, Maryland, and Illinois. If the seven southern states had wished, they could have come back and ratified it as well. It would have protected slavery, and as written, would not be able to be rescinded. That would have given 10 states out of the 36 to have passed it. It would have needed only seventeen more states to ratify it. And since the Civil war was about slavery, and 11 states eventually seceded, the other four surely would have also ratified, right? That would have left only thirteen. Lincoln, in desperate attempts to reconcile the union, stated if he could make slavery legal to save the union, he would do it. Surely, he could have influenced other states to ratify it, couldn't he? But a president ever do that?
Just weeks prior to the outbreak of the Civil War, Lincoln sent a letter to each state's governor transmitting the proposed amendment, noting that Buchanan had approved it.
The Corwin Amendment was the second proposed "Thirteenth Amendment" submitted to the states by Congress. The first was the similarly ill-fated Titles of Nobility Amendment in 1810.
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