Members of the 38th Congress sign the amendment abolishing slavery

    13th Amendment, Congressional Manuscript Copy, Signed by Members of the 38th Congress. One vellum sheet, 15" x 20.25", [Washington, D.C.], circa February 1865. This handwritten congressional copy of the 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution that abolished slavery is signed by at least 139 members of the 38th Congress. The manuscript reads:

    "Thirty-Eighth Congress of the United States

    Joint resolution: Submitting to the Legislatures of the several states a proposition to amend the Constitution of the United States. Resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, (two-thirds of both Houses concurring,) That 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 intents and purposes, as a part of the said Constitution.

    Article XIII.
    Section 1. Neither Slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment of a crime, whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.
    Section 2. Congress shall have power to enforce this Article by appropriate legislation.
    Vice President of the United States and President of the Senate [Blank-not signed]
    Speaker of the House of Representatives [Signed] Schuyler Colfax
    Secretary of the Senate [Blank-not signed]
    Clerk of the House of Representatives [Signed] Edward McPherson

    In Senate April 8, 1864
    [The signatures of 27 of the 38 senators who voted for the amendment are discernible.]

    In the House of Representatives Jan. 31, 1865
    [The signatures of 112 of the 119 members of the House who voted for the amendment are discernible.]"

    The 38th Congress met from March 4, 1863, through March 4, 1865, with a Republican majority in the Senate and a Republican plurality in the House. (The eleven Southern states that seceded in 1861 left their Congressional seats empty.) On April 8, 1864, the Senate passed the 13th Amendment with a vote of 38-6. On January 31, 1865, the amendment narrowly passed the required two-thirds majority in the House, only months before the Civil War ended. In general in both Chambers, Republicans favored the amendment, while Democrats opposed it. One central horizontal fold exists on this manuscript. Minor staining and soiling. Mounting remnants on verso. Some words in the text of the amendment have been traced in pencil. All original ink text, including signatures, has faded.

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