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The Thirteenth Amendment: The abolition of Slavery - Essay Example

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The Thirteenth Amendment: The abolition of Slavery.
Between 1865 and 1875, the United States Congress, led by the Republican Party, attempted to make the four million black slaves in America into free and equal citizens of the United States (Berlin 85). …
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The Thirteenth Amendment: The abolition of Slavery
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Download file to see previous pages Through amendments to the United States Constitution and the enactment of laws, Congressional Republicans sought to place the legal status of blacks on a firm, permanent foundation. The creation of the Thirteenth Amendment on February 1, 1865 constituted their first major step to achieve this goal. The Amendment stipulated that "neither slavery nor involuntary servitude…shall exist within the United states…" (Amendment XIII Sec. 1). It also included a section granting Congress the authority to enforce the Amendment through appropriate legislation.
Although African Americans had been officially freed from bondage by the Amendment, their status remained uncertain. Congress attempted to rectify this situation when it enacted in April 1866 the first civil rights bill in American history. The civil Rights Act of 1866 declared that "all persons born in the United States… are hereby declared to be citizens of the United States…" (Civil Right Act of 1866 14 Stat. 27). In addition to granting citizenship to the ex-slaves, the act stipulated that:
citizens of every race and color… shall have the same right … to make and enforce contracts, to sue, be parties, and give evidence, to inherit, purchase, lease, sell, hold, and convey real and personal property, and to full and equal benefit of all laws and proceedings for the security of person and property, as is enjoyed by white citizens (Civil Rights Act of 1875, 18 Stat. 335)....
y real and personal property, and to full and equal benefit of all laws and proceedings for the security of person and property, as is enjoyed by white citizens (Civil Rights Act of 1875, 18 Stat. 335). The Thirteenth Amendment, they believed, provided the constitutional basis for this act. But numerous people doubted that an amendment merely outlawing slavery could support such a law (Zuczek 21). Determined not to be thwarted in their efforts to secure these rights for African Americans, Congress, during that same year, then passed a proposed amendment that they thought would clarify the situation. Ratified in 1868, the Fourteenth Amendment, like the Civil Rights Act, granted citizenship to all persons born in the United States. It also included a somewhat vague and controversial section stipulating that: No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws (Amendment XIV of U.S Constitution). In 1870, America witnessed the ratification of the last of the Reconstruction-era amendments to the Constitution. The Republican-dominated Congress passed the Fifteenth Amendment to provide African American males with the right of suffrage. Although the amendment did not stipulate this explicitly, it did declare that the right to vote "shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude." This amendment, like its predecessors, contained a section authorizing Congress to pass proper enforcement legislation. In 1870 and 1871, Congress exercised this authority ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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