Tahlequah Daily Press

Features

May 27, 2014

Slavery abolished with 13th Amendment

TAHLEQUAH — During the decades preceding the Civil War, the U.S. Constitution was not tweaked through amendment by Congress and the states.

America’s document of supreme law went more than 60 years between passage of the 12th and 13th amendments, but the nation’s war between North and South brought a quick flurry of three adjustments known as the Reconstruction Amendments.

The initial amendment was the 13th, which reads:

“Section 1. 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.

“Section 2. Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.”

On Jan. 1, 1863, Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation through his war powers. The measure declared all slaves free in the 10 rebellious states, but didn’t mention slavery in states that remained within the union. There were no takers when Lincoln issued the Proclamation for Amnesty and Reconstruction in December 1863. That decoration offered rebel states peaceful reunification with the U.S. if they abolished slavery.

“Lincoln realized the Emancipation Proclamation could be reversed or found invalid after the war,” said State Rep. Mike Brown, D-Tahlequah. “After winning the election in 1864, he made passage of the 13th Amendment his main legislative priority.”

With the South absent from Congress, there was abundant sentiment to abolish slavery. Representatives James Mitchell Ashley of Ohio and James F. Wilson of Iowa introduced bills proposing an amendment, as did Sen. John Henderson of Missouri.

After clearing committee, the amendment easily passed the Senate 38-6, but failed to attain a supermajority during a first vote in the House of Representatives, 93-65. The vote largely followed party lines.

House Democrats were concerned the amendment infringed on a state issue, or that freeing millions of black Americans amounted to a revolution.

Republicans denounced slavery as barbaric. Both sides eventually softened, with some Democrats realizing any support for slavery was a political ashcan, and some Republicans assuring doubters that white Americans would retain their socioeconomic advantage.

House passage was narrowly achieved, 119-56 on Jan. 31, 1865.

Within a month of passage by Congress, 18 states - including Louisiana - approved the 13th Amendment. Despite its secession, the majority of Louisiana’s population was black, with 47 percent of the population in slavery and a large freedman community, resulting in many northern sympathizers.

Furthermore, much of the state was essentially pacified when Baton Rouge was abandoned on April 24, 1862, federal troops seized New Orleans on April 25 to establish control of the Mississippi River, and the cotton trade resumed. Confederate units such as the Army of Western Louisiana were usually outnumbered, and most attempts to disrupt Union control failed.

Arkansas approved the amendment on April 14, 1865, five days after General Robert E. Lee surrendered his forces at Appomattox Court House. South Carolina approved in November, and Alabama, North Carolina and Georgia all passed the amendment during the first week of December to give the amendment the requisite sanction of 27 states.

The 13th Amendment is straightforward and has little case history, because nobody has lobbied the courts for the incongruous “right” to own slaves.

There have been cases of people seeking redress against laws or arrangements that could be construed as slave-like, and the first precedents undermined federal capacity to uphold the 13th Amendment.

Enforcement legislation was passed in 1866 with the Civil Rights Act, which guaranteed black citizens equal protection. But cases such as Bylew v. U.S. (1872), which precluded federal civil rights protections for murder victims, and Plessy v. Feguson, which upheld Jim Crow laws, undermined those protections.

Brown said most freedmen in the south were doing the same work as before emancipation. Though free, they had no land, no money, and were mostly without legal status or protection.

“Unfortunately, many southern states responded to the 13th Amendment by passing a number of laws known as Black Codes,” he said. “Since the 13th Amendment still permitted labor as punishment for convicted criminals, these laws were simply an effort to maintain a form of slavery by convicting blacks of all types of petty crimes, including vagrancy, obscene language, or even selling cotton after sunset.”

Dr. Daniel Savage, chair of the Department of Geography, Political Science and Sociology at Northeastern State University, said most freedmen were illiterate, and that only craftsmen had a shot at non-agricultural employment.

“Few blacks had the money to pay for land, so the sharecropping system began,” Savage said. “Under this system, landowners - in some cases, the same people who used to own the plantations - would rent out their land in exchange for money or crops.”

Penniless sharecroppers borrowed to buy seed, livestock, food and shelter, until the first crop came in.

“They usually had to borrow these things from the landowners,” Savage said. “They then had to pay the landowner a share of the crop. Rent, and the cost of goods, frequently exceeded what could be produced by the first year’s crop. So a sharecropper may end up in debt to the landowner after the first year. Each year, the amount owed might grow, so that sharecroppers were frequently indebted to the landowners for years after. Anyone attempting to run out on a debt could be arrested and made to work for free.”

Dr. John Yeutter, associate professor of accounting at NSU, pointed to a modern 13th Amendment case, McGarry v. Pallito.

Tried in 2012 in the U.S. Second Circuit Court of Appeals, the case involved a plaintiff’s alleging he was forced to work for 25 cents an hour in an unsanitary laundry at Chittenden Regional Correctional Facility in Vermont while awaiting trial. Refusal meant being placed alone in “administrative segregation.”

The court based its dismissal entirely on the grounds that the plaintiff failed to claim legal injury under the 13th Amendment.

“So while we would hope that slavery doesn’t exist in the US, we find instead that our ‘justice’ system treats those who are presumed to be innocent as slaves,” Yeutter said.

While modern civil rights may be more far-reaching than those of the late 19th Century, many Americans argue that true protection for all people under the law is still not attained and must be pursued.

“Almost 150 years after the ratification of the 13th Amendment, civil rights in the United States is an ongoing process,” Brown said. “We must continue to ensure our nation provides equal protection under the law and equality for all our citizens.”

1
Text Only
Features
  • rf-Faith-7-29.jpg New opportunity opens door for local pastor

    A unique opportunity for ministry training will begin next year in Tahlequah.
    The River Ministries will be launching The River Training Center, a complete ministry school. The training center will also perform community outreach and sponsor mission trips, all beginning in January 2015.
    The founder of the school, Pastor Brandon Stratton, was raised in Tahlequah and previously pastored Calvary Assembly of God Church.

    July 29, 2014 1 Photo

  • 22ndAmendment.jpg Presidential terms limited by 22nd Amendment

    The past 30 years have been marked by occasional grumbling from one American political party, and celebration from the other - depending on who occupies the White House - about the disqualification of a president after eight years of service.
    For much of the nation’s history, a presidency could last indefinitely.

    July 26, 2014 1 Photo

  • sg-Paperbacks.jpg Paperbacks still survive in the digital age

    In an era when mobile technology is always at hand, most people can access an electronic book at any time. Such literary luxuries weren’t widely available to previous generations until the dawn of the paperback book.
    Wednesday, July 30, is set as a day to celebrate the low-cost, portable book during National Paperback Book Day.

    July 25, 2014 1 Photo

  • rf-skydiver-tomahawk.jpg Former resident tapped for national skydiving award

    A man known locally for putting Tahlequah on the international map by bringing world-class skydiving events to town is being inducted in the National Skydiving Museum Hall of Fame in October.
    Norman Heaton said he’s very honored to be selected for the prestigious award given to people who have made significant contributions to the sport of skydiving.

    July 22, 2014 1 Photo

  • 20th-Amendment.jpg Inauguration day changed by 20th Amendment

    Sometimes an amendment is added to the U.S. Constitution that is uncontroversial and virtually unlitigated.
    Such is the 20th Amendment, which moved the seating of the new Congress and the presidential inauguration day to January, and enumerates procedure if a president-elect dies or cannot take office.
    Because the “Lame-Duck Amendment” addresses procedure, it is long.

    July 21, 2014 1 Photo

  • rf-School-Fashion.jpg Fashion show to feature local teachers

    A fun fashion event that will provide funds for one lucky area school is coming up next weekend.
    Local teachers and students have until Tuesday, July 22, to sign up for the Teacher and Student Back 2 School Fashion Show at Arrowhead Mall in Muskogee.

    July 21, 2014 1 Photo

  • rf-actress.jpg TV’s ‘Mistresses’ has second local tie

    Tahlequah has at least two ties to the TV drama “Mistresses.”
    Local florist Josh Cottrell-Mannon designed the flower arrangements for the show’s season finale, and Arriane Alexander, daughter of local resident Sharilyn Young, is portraying a television news reporter.

    July 16, 2014 1 Photo

  • rf-Stark-Sequoyah.jpg Stark enjoys making a difference

    Kristin Stark, Sequoyah Elementary Teacher of Year, loves teaching, and has a desire to make a positive difference in the lives of children.
    “I love making a difference in the lives of children; it is a wonderful feeling to make a positive impact on a child,” said Stark.

    July 15, 2014 1 Photo

  • sr-19thAmendment.jpg Women got the vote with 19th Amendment

    During its first 140 years, the United States Constitution underwent a series of changes intended to extend voting rights to those who were not white or didn’t own property - but as the American experiment entered the 20th Century, half the adult population still had no protection to vote.
    Though they certainly had political opinions, women could not cast a ballot in most states. That changed with passage of the 19th Amendment.

    July 13, 2014 1 Photo

  • renee-storyteller.jpg Cherokee, Tlingit storytellers to share their craft during special NSU event

    Two Native American cultures will be represented during a storytelling workshop featuring Cherokee Gayle Ross and Tlingit and Cherokee dancer and storyteller Gene Tagaban, of Seattle.

    July 10, 2014 1 Photo

Poll

Do you believe school administrators and college presidents in Oklahoma are paid too much?

Strongly agree.
Somewhat agree.
Somewhat disagree.
Strongly disagree.
Undecided.
     View Results
Tahlequah Daily Press Twitter
Follow us on twitter
AP Video
US Ready to Slap New Sanctions on Russia Kerry: Not Worried About Israeli Criticism Boater Rescued From Edge of Kentucky Dam Girl Struck by Plane on Florida Beach Dies Rodents Rampant in Gardens Around Louvre House to Vote on Slimmed-down Bill for Border Looming Demand Could Undercut Flight Safety Raw: 2 Shells Hit Fuel Tank at Gaza Power Plant Raw: Massive Explosions From Airstrikes in Gaza Giant Ketchup Bottle Water Tower Up for Sale Easier Nuclear Construction Promises Fall Short Kerry: Humanitarian Cease-fire Efforts Continue Raw: Corruption Trial Begins for Former Va Gov. The Carbon Trap: US Exports Global Warming Traditional African Dishes Teach Healthy Eating
Stocks