LINCOLN, Abraham. THIRTEENTH AMENDMENT. UNITED STATES, 38TH CONGRESS. Manuscript document signed ("Abraham Lincoln") as President, comprising the text of the Thirteenth Amendment as a Joint Resolution to Amend the Constitution, submitted to the States for Ratification, also signed by Vice President H. Hamlin, Schuyler Colfax and J.W. Forney (Speaker and Secretary respectively of the Senate) and 38 Senators and 114 members of the House of Representatives. [Washington, D.C.,] 1 February 1865.
Large folio (20 5/8 x 15 3/8 in.). FINELY ENGROSSED IN INK ON PARCHMENT. Within a dark blue line border, the bold calligraphic heading "Thirty-Eight Congress of the United States, A Resolution Submitting to the Legislatures of the Several States a proposition to amend the Constitution of the United States," followed by the full text of the resolution, and "Article XIII," beneath, the ink signatures of "J.W. Forney, "Schuyler Colfax," "H. Hamlin," and at the right, "Approved February 1 1865 Abraham Lincoln." Below are the signatures of the Senators and Congressmen, arranged in two groups and disposed in five neatly ruled columns. Lincoln's signature dark and clear, the text very readable, the vellum without the usual soiling or marginal defects.
"NEITHER SLAVERY NOR INVOLUNTARY SERVITUDE SHALL EXIST WITHIN THE UNITED STATES": ONE OF 13 EXAMPLES OF THE 13TH AMENDMENT SIGNED BY PRESIDENT LINCOLN, ONE OF THE FINEST EXTANT COPIES AND ONE OF THE LAST STILL IN PRIVATE HANDS
Section 1. Neither slavery nor involuntary servi-
tude, except as a punishment of crime whereof the
party shall have been duly convicted shall exist in
the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction
Section 2. Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.
One of the finest known Congressional copies of the 13th Amendment Resolution, boldly signed by Lincoln in testimony to his role as its architect, his unswerving committment to its ratification, and his profound dedication to the fundamental moral principle that it embodies. During the course of the Civil War, the struggle for the universal and permanent abolition of slavery evolved from the avowed end of a small, vocal minority--the abolitionists--to become, through Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation, a crucial and revolutionary part of the President's and the Union's military strategy. And finally, it became a war aim in itself when the Republican platform of 1864 boldly called for an Amendment to the Constitution prohibiting slavery, terming it a practice "hostile to the principles of republican government, justice and national safety." In the end, "it was the outcome of the war," James M. McPherson writes, "that transformed and expanded the concept of liberty to include abolition of slavery, and it was Lincoln who was the principal agent of this transformation" ("Lincoln and Liberty," in Abraham Lincoln and the Second American Revolution, p.45).
Lincoln as Commander-in-Chief issued the Emancipation Proclamation-- theoretically freeing slaves in the territories then in rebellion--as a military measure, recognizing that it was not within the power of his office to summarily abolish slavery throughout the nation. That definitive act, Lincoln rightly believed, required a Constitutional amendment. Resolutions calling for such an amendment were drafted in the Republican-controlled Senate as early as April 1864; the final version, largely the work of Connecticut Senator Lyman Trumbull, chairman of the Judiciary Committee, adopted wording strikingly similar to that drafted by Jefferson in 1787 for the Northwest Ordinance, prohibiting slavery in the new territories of the northwest. The Senate passed the resolution quickly, on a vote of 38 to 6, but in the House of Representatives, with tenacious opposition from Democrats, it was defeated in balloting on June 15, 1864. So matters rested until the critical November elections. Then, in the wake of important Union victories on the battlefields, Lincoln was re-elected and his party's policies--including their call for an amendment prohibiting slavery--received the powerful endorsement of the electorate. Even though the composition of Congress was the same as it had been when the resolution was voted down in June, the bill was resubmitted to the lame duck Congress on 31 January 1865, and the Amendment's opponents again maneuvered to defeat the resolution.
When informed that the Amendment was still two votes short of passage, Lincoln is reported to have told a delegation of Republicans "I am the President of the United States, clothed with great power. The abolition of slavery by Constitutional provision settles the fate, for all coming time, not only of the millions now in bondage, but of unborn millions to come--a measure of such importance that those two votes must be procured. I leave it to you how it shall be done..." With a Union victory seemingly assured and with the help of powerful behind-the-scenes advocacy from the Lincoln White House, the resolution finally passed on a vote of 119 to 56. It passage touched off jubilant celebrations in anti-slavery circles. The final step in the adoption of the Thirteenth Amendment, ratification by three-quarters of the states, began immediately: the day after passage of the joint resolution, Illinois became the first state to ratify it, and over the next 10 months, ratification continued at a steady pace, until on 18 December 1865, with the assent of three-quarters of the states, the Thirteenth Amendment became an integral part of the Constitution. Ironically, the principal architect of this transforming act, Lincoln, was dead by the time it finally became law.
An unknown number of examples of engrossed copies of the resolution submitting the Amendment to the states were prepared at the time the joint resolution passed Congress. Thirteen copies signed by Lincoln are recorded in the standard 1992 census, seven of which are in permanent institutional collections. Of the 13, three are signed by Lincoln and various members of the Senate, while only six, denominated "Congressional Copies," bear the signatures of Lincoln and the members of both the Senate and House. The present is ONE OF ONLY TWO COPIES OF THE JOINT CONGRESSIONAL RESOLUTION SIGNED BY LINCOLN TO APPEAR AT AUCTION IN 25 YEARS. The Oliver Barrett copy, sold in 1952, was reoffered in 1990 (sale, Sotheby's, 30 October 1990, lot 73, $200,000). An unknown number of copies not signed by Lincoln are also extant, prepared to commemorate an event no less momentous today for the passage of 235 years.
John H. Rhodehamel and Seth Kaller, "Census of Copies of the Thirteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution Signed by Abraham Lincoln," in Manuscripts, vol.44, no.2 (Spring 1992), pp.93-114, the present recorded as no.8.
Provenance: A "Colorado Collector," in 1954, according to Justin G. Turner -- The Roy P. Crocker Lincoln National Savings and Loan Collection (sale, Sotheby Parke Bernet, 28 November 1979, lot 216, illustrated, $35,000, by a considerable margin the highest price achieved by any of the 347 lots).