We The Kids

“Returning God
to America’s Story”

The Land of Lincoln and the Thirteenth Amendment – by Daniel W. Sheridan

#OTD, January 31, 1865, Americans make amends as Congress passes the Thirteenth Amendment, consistently applying the words of the Declaration of Independence, that “all men are created equal.” 

I was sharing with my daughter the story of the Thirteenth Amendment since my home state played a significant role in its passage.

Illinois instructed its congressional delegation to vote for the Thirteenth Amendment, and President Abraham Lincoln signed it on February 1st. Then the amendment went to the States for ratification. The amendment reads,

“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.”

Senator Lyman Trumbull from Illinois, a co-author of the amendment, telegraphed Illinois Governor Richard J. Oglesby moments after President Lincoln approved it, earnestly encouraging the President’s home state legislature to be the first to ratify. They did that very day.

Oglesby, like Lincoln, was always opposed to slavery. He urged the legislature to ratify because, “It is just, it is constitutional, it is right to do so.”

Illinois became the first state to ratify the Thirteenth Amendment by the end of that February day. During that same session, the horrible “Black Laws,” which had been in force since the state’s birth, were also repealed.

The Thirteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution became part of our nation’s governing document on December 6, 1865. My little girl is proud of our home state, and so am I. I know you are too.

“Not without thy wondrous story, Illinois, Illinois,

Can be writ the nation’s glory, Illinois, Illinois…”

“Die when I may,” Lincoln said, “I want it said of me by those who knew me best, that I always plucked a thistle and planted a flower where I thought a flower would grow.”