Corwin amendment

Corwin amendment

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The Corwin Amendment is a proposed amendment
Article Five of the United States Constitution
Article Five of the United States Constitution describes the process whereby the Constitution may be altered. Altering the Constitution consists of proposing an amendment and subsequent ratification....

 to the United States Constitution
United States Constitution
The Constitution of the United States is the supreme law of the United States of America. It is the framework for the organization of the United States government and for the relationship of the federal government with the states, citizens, and all people within the United States.The first three...

 passed by the 36th Congress, 2nd Session, on March 2, 1861, in the form of House (Joint) Resolution No. 80. It would forbid subsequent attempts to amend the Constitution to empower the Congress to "abolish or interfere" with the "domestic institutions" of the states, including "persons held to labor or service" (a reference to slavery).

Ohio
Ohio
Ohio is a Midwestern state in the United States. The 34th largest state by area in the U.S.,it is the 7th‑most populous with over 11.5 million residents, containing several major American cities and seven metropolitan areas with populations of 500,000 or more.The state's capital is Columbus...

 Republican
Republican Party (United States)
The Republican Party is one of the two major contemporary political parties in the United States, along with the Democratic Party. Founded by anti-slavery expansion activists in 1854, it is often called the GOP . The party's platform generally reflects American conservatism in the U.S...

 Representative Thomas Corwin
Thomas Corwin
Thomas Corwin , also known as Tom Corwin and The Wagon Boy, was a politician from the state of Ohio who served as a prosecuting attorney, a member of the Ohio House of Representatives, the United States House of Representatives, and the United States Senate, and as the 15th Governor of Ohio 20th...

 offered the amendment in an attempt to forestall the secession of Southern states. Corwin's resolution emerged as the House of Representatives's
United States House of Representatives
The United States House of Representatives is one of the two Houses of the United States Congress, the bicameral legislature which also includes the Senate.The composition and powers of the House are established in Article One of the Constitution...

 version of an earlier, identical proposal in the Senate offered by New York Republican Senator William H. Seward
William H. Seward
William Henry Seward, Sr. was the 12th Governor of New York, United States Senator and the United States Secretary of State under Abraham Lincoln and Andrew Johnson...

. However, the newly formed Confederate States of America
Confederate States of America
The Confederate States of America was a government set up from 1861 to 1865 by 11 Southern slave states of the United States of America that had declared their secession from the U.S...

 was committed to independence and so it ignored the Corwin Amendment.

This proposed amendment is still pending before the state legislatures for ratification, because Congress submitted it to the state legislatures without a deadline. Since the Thirteenth Amendment
Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution
The Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution officially abolished and continues to prohibit slavery and involuntary servitude, except as punishment for a crime. It was passed by the Senate on April 8, 1864, passed by the House on January 31, 1865, and adopted on December 6, 1865. On...

 abolishing slavery was adopted in 1865, the Corwin Amendment lost whatever momentum it had.

Text


The proposed amendment reads:

The text refers to slavery with terms such as "domestic institutions" and "persons held to labor or service" and avoids using the word "slavery", following the example set at the Constitutional Convention, which referred to slavery in its draft of the Constitution with comparable descriptions of legal status: "Person held to Service", "the whole Number of free Persons..., three fifths of all other Persons", "The Migration and Importation of such Persons..."

Legislative history


In the Congressional session that began in December 1860, more than 200 resolutions with respect to slavery, including 57 resolutions proposing constitutional amendments, were introduced in Congress. Most represented compromises designed to avert military conflict. Mississippi
Mississippi
Mississippi is a U.S. state located in the Southern United States. Jackson is the state capital and largest city. The name of the state derives from the Mississippi River, which flows along its western boundary, whose name comes from the Ojibwe word misi-ziibi...

 Democratic
Democratic Party (United States)
The Democratic Party is one of two major contemporary political parties in the United States, along with the Republican Party. The party's socially liberal and progressive platform is largely considered center-left in the U.S. political spectrum. The party has the lengthiest record of continuous...

 Senator Jefferson Davis
Jefferson Davis
Jefferson Finis Davis , also known as Jeff Davis, was an American statesman and leader of the Confederacy during the American Civil War, serving as President for its entire history. He was born in Kentucky to Samuel and Jane Davis...

 proposed one that explicitly protected property rights in slaves. One group of House members proposed a national convention to accomplish secession as a "dignified, peaceful, and fair separation" that could settle questions like the equitable distribution of the Federal government's assets and rights to navigate the Mississippi River.

On February 27, 1861, the House of Representatives considered the following text of a proposed constitutional amendment:
Corwin proposed his own text as a substitute and those who opposed him failed on a vote of 68 to 121. The House then declined to give the resolution the required two-thirds vote, with a tally of 120 to 61, and then of 123 to 71. On February 28, 1861, however, the House approved Corwin's version by a vote of 133 to 65. The contentious debate in the House was relieved by abolitionist Republican Owen Lovejoy
Owen Lovejoy
Owen Lovejoy was an American lawyer, Congregational minister, abolitionist, and Republican congressman from Illinois. He was also a "conductor" on the Underground Railroad...

 of Illinois, who questioned the amendment's reach: "Does that include polygamy, the other twin relic of barbarism?" Missouri Democrat John S. Phelps
John S. Phelps
John Smith Phelps was a politician, soldier during the American Civil War, and the 23rd Governor of Missouri.-Early life and career:...

 answered: "Does the gentleman desire to know whether he shall be prohibited from committing that crime?"

On March 2, 1861, the United States Senate
United States Senate
The United States Senate is the upper house of the bicameral legislature of the United States, and together with the United States House of Representatives comprises the United States Congress. The composition and powers of the Senate are established in Article One of the U.S. Constitution. Each...

 adopted it, 24 to 12. Since proposed constitutional amendments require a two-thirds majority, 132 votes were required in the House and 24 in the Senate. The Senators and Representatives from the seven slave state
Slave state
In the United States of America prior to the American Civil War, a slave state was a U.S. state in which slavery was legal, whereas a free state was one in which slavery was either prohibited from its entry into the Union or eliminated over time...

s that had already declared their secession from the Union did not vote on the Corwin Amendment, as they had already vacated their seats in Congress. The resolution called for the amendment to be submitted to the state legislatures and to be adopted "when ratified by three-fourths of said Legislatures." Its supporters believed it had a greater chance of success in the legislatures of the Southern states than in their conventions, which were voting to secede from the Union just as Congress was considering the Corwin Amendment.

Departing President
President of the United States
The President of the United States of America is the head of state and head of government of the United States. The president leads the executive branch of the federal government and is the commander-in-chief of the United States Armed Forces....

 James Buchanan
James Buchanan
James Buchanan, Jr. was the 15th President of the United States . He is the only president from Pennsylvania, the only president who remained a lifelong bachelor and the last to be born in the 18th century....

 endorsed the Corwin Amendment by taking the unusual step of signing it. The Corwin Amendment also has the distinction of being the only constitutional amendment offered to the states by Congress to have an actual numerical designation prematurely assigned to it by Congress—it appears as "Article Thirteen" in the proposing Congressional resolution.

Abraham Lincoln
Abraham Lincoln
Abraham Lincoln was the 16th President of the United States, serving from March 1861 until his assassination in April 1865. He successfully led his country through a great constitutional, military and moral crisis – the American Civil War – preserving the Union, while ending slavery, and...

, in his first inaugural address
Lincoln's first inaugural address
Abraham Lincoln's first inaugural address was delivered by President Abraham Lincoln, on Monday, March 4, 1861, as part of his taking of the oath of office for his first term as the sixteenth President of the United States...

, said of the Corwin Amendment:
Just weeks prior to the outbreak of the Civil War
American Civil War
The American Civil War was a civil war fought in the United States of America. In response to the election of Abraham Lincoln as President of the United States, 11 southern slave states declared their secession from the United States and formed the Confederate States of America ; the other 25...

, Lincoln sent a letter to each state's governor transmitting the proposed amendment, without taking a position on it, and noting that Buchanan had approved it.

On February 8, 1864, during the 38th Congress, with the prospects for a Union victory improving, Republican Senator Henry B. Anthony of Rhode Island introduced Senate (Joint) Resolution No. 25to withdraw the Corwin Amendment from further consideration by the state legislatures and halt the ratification process. That same day, Anthony's joint resolution was referred to the Senate's Committee on the Judiciary. On May 11, 1864, Illinois Senator Lyman Trumbull, Chairman of the Judiciary Committee, received the Senate's permission to discharge Senate (Joint) Resolution No. 25 from the Committee, with no action having been taken on Anthony's joint resolution.

Ratifications


Pursuant to Article V
Article Five of the United States Constitution
Article Five of the United States Constitution describes the process whereby the Constitution may be altered. Altering the Constitution consists of proposing an amendment and subsequent ratification....

 of the Constitution, consideration of the Corwin Amendment then shifted to the state legislatures. On May 13, 1861, the Ohio General Assembly
Ohio General Assembly
The Ohio General Assembly is the state legislature of the U.S. state of Ohio. It consists of the 99-member Ohio House of Representatives and the 33-member Ohio Senate...

 became the first to ratify the amendment. Next was the Maryland General Assembly
Maryland General Assembly
The Maryland General Assembly is the state legislature of the U.S. state of Maryland. It is a bicameral body. The upper chamber, the Maryland State Senate, has 47 representatives and the lower chamber, the Maryland House of Delegates, has 141 representatives...

 on January 10, 1862. Later that year, Illinois
Illinois
Illinois is the fifth-most populous state of the United States of America, and is often noted for being a microcosm of the entire country. With Chicago in the northeast, small industrial cities and great agricultural productivity in central and northern Illinois, and natural resources like coal,...

 lawmakers—sitting as a state constitutional convention at the time—also endorsed the amendment. That action is of questionable validity, because the Congress submitted the amendment to the state legislatures for ratification rather than to state ratifying conventions.

On March 31, 1864, the Ohio General Assembly rescinded its ratification of the Corwin Amendment, noting that the Civil War had rendered it irrelevant and calling it "an impediment to the free action of congress in the present exigencies of the country as well as a misrepresentation of the public sentiment of the people of Ohio, and contrary to the spirit of the age."

The Corwin Amendment is still pending before the state legislatures for ratification. It would need 35-37 ratifications to become part of the Constitution, depending on the validity of Ohio's rescission and of Illinois's questionable ratification. In 1963, more than a century after the Corwin Amendment was submitted to the state legislatures by the Congress, a joint resolution to ratify it was introduced in the Texas House of Representatives
Texas House of Representatives
The Texas House of Representatives is the lower house of the Texas Legislature. The House is composed of 150 members elected from single-member districts across the state. The average district has about 150,000 people. Representatives are elected to two-year terms with no term limits...

 by Dallas Republican Henry Stollenwerck
Henry Stollenwerck
Henry L. Stollenwerck was a Republican member of the Texas House of Representatives in the 58th Texas Legislature from January 1963 to January 1965. He is best known, during his legislative tenure, for having proposed the ratification of the Corwin amendment, more than a century after Congress...

. It was referred to the House's Committee on Constitutional Amendments on March 7, 1963, and received no further consideration.

Possible effect if adopted


When viewed as an entrenched clause, the Corwin Amendment—had it been ratified—might have been construed to prohibit the Thirteenth Amendment
Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution
The Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution officially abolished and continues to prohibit slavery and involuntary servitude, except as punishment for a crime. It was passed by the Senate on April 8, 1864, passed by the House on January 31, 1865, and adopted on December 6, 1865. On...

, ratified in 1865, which abolished slavery in the United States and gave Congress enforcement power. The Corwin Amendment might also have prevented the adoption of the Fourteenth Amendment
Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution
The Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution was adopted on July 9, 1868, as one of the Reconstruction Amendments.Its Citizenship Clause provides a broad definition of citizenship that overruled the Dred Scott v...

 and the voting rights
Suffrage
Suffrage, political franchise, or simply the franchise, distinct from mere voting rights, is the civil right to vote gained through the democratic process...

 amendments, all of which dealt with the states' internal affairs. A competing theory, however, suggests that a later amendment conflicting with an already-ratified Corwin Amendment would have either explicitly repealed the Corwin Amendment (as the Twenty-first Amendment
Twenty-first Amendment to the United States Constitution
The Twenty-first Amendment to the United States Constitution repealed the Eighteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, which had mandated nationwide Prohibition...

 explicitly repealed the Eighteenth Amendment
Eighteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution
The Eighteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution established Prohibition in the United States. The separate Volstead Act set down methods of enforcing the Eighteenth Amendment, and defined which "intoxicating liquors" were prohibited, and which were excluded from prohibition...

) or been inferred to have partially or completely repealed any conflicting provisions of an already-adopted Corwin Amendment.

See also


External links