A fully signed and recently restored copy of the congressional
resolution for a 13th Amendment to the Constitution, the official
act that would abolish slavery in the United States, will be on
display in the museum's Treasures Gallery starting Feb. 1, the 147th
anniversary of the signing of the resolution. The vellum document,
20 by 16 inches, bears Abraham Lincoln's original signature plus
those of Vice President Hannibal Hamlin and 139 members of Congress
who voted for the resolution. Lincoln and the others had signed this
and a few other commemorative copies on Feb. 1, 1865, after the
House passed the resolution in a tight vote the night before.
document was carefully restored free of charge by Graphic
Conservation Co. of Chicago and returned to presidential library and
museum officials in December.
There are 15 remaining original copies signed by Lincoln of the
resolution for a 13th Amendment. Only eight of these also include
the congressional signatures, including Illinois' copy, and only
three of these eight also have Lincoln's note "Approved, February 1,
1865" on it. Moreover, the Illinois copy is unique in having the
signatures in four columns instead of five, making them a little
easier to read and suggesting that this was the first one made.
The state of Illinois purchased its copy in June 1941, and it has
since been part of the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and
The 13th Amendment will be part of a Treasures Gallery display
that includes other original artifacts pertaining to slavery -- a
reward notice that was posted in Springfield in 1841 for a family of
escaped slaves from Missouri, and an 1859 slave sale document from
Lincoln's birth county in Kentucky.
"These documents tell the three-part story of slavery in
Lincoln's life," said James Cornelius, curator of the Lincoln
Collection at the presidential library and museum. "He was born
surrounded by it in Kentucky, and it continued in his home county.
In Springfield, freedom-seekers hid out just four blocks from his
rented room. And finally, his and Congress' final great action of
his presidency ended the national travesty."
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There was no legal reason for the 13th Amendment copies to be
created, but the signers wanted to capture the historic change
permanently in ink for friends in either chamber of Congress. When
the vote passed, joyful congressmen had "wept like children," and
women in the observer's gallery "rose in their seats and waved their
handkerchiefs," according to the Congressional Globe. The next
morning, the Washington Daily Morning Chronicle vowed that the
signers' names would go into history with those who signed the
Declaration of Independence.
Two of the principal architects of the 13th Amendment were U.S.
Sen. Lyman Trumbull from Alton, who suggested the final wording, and
Under the U.S. Constitution, any such resolution from Congress
has to be approved by three-quarters of the state legislatures. The
Illinois General Assembly was proud to be the first to ratify the
13th Amendment, within minutes of the passage of the House
resolution in Washington, since they were following its progress by
telegraph from the Old State Capitol in Springfield.
President Lincoln did not live to see the amendment officially
enacted, though there was little doubt that the states would agree.
When Georgia's newly reorganized state government ratified it on
Dec. 9, 1865, the amendment cleared the final hurdle, and slavery
was forever dead in the United States.
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