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The relationship between the United States Constitution and slavery comes from the 13th Amendment, which dealt with the repeal of slavery. The 13th Amendment abolished slavery and involuntary servitude, unless it is punishment for a crime. Passed by the Senate on 8 April 1864 and by the House on 31 January 1865, it was adopted on 6 December 1865.
Before the U.S. was founded in 1776, slavery existed in North America for more than a century until there was any connection between the Constitution and slavery. In fact, there were about 4 million slaves in the U.S. in 1860. Slavery became a divisive issue and was widely debated.
During the 1860 presidential election, Republican candidates denounced slavery, and Southern Democrats endorsed its continuance. The Northern Democrats said people could decide on slavery at the local level. The Constitutional Union Party said everything else should be compromised because the survival of the Union was at stake. After Abraham Lincoln won the election, his stance against slavery and the fact that he did not appear on the ballot in 10 southern states caused the South to secede from the Union, beginning the American Civil War.
Before the Civil War, bills related to slavery protected it. This would remain until 14 December 1864, when James Mitchell Ashley, an Ohio Republican, introduced a bill to abolish slavery. Congress and the public took notice, and as the number of anti-slavery proposals started growing, the Senate Judiciary Committee presented an amendment proposal to the Senate. After the House declined a similar proposal, President Lincoln took a more active role in working on its passage through the House. It would finally succeed on 31 January 1865, passing by a vote of 119-56.
Starting with the Emancipation Proclamation issued by President Lincoln in 1863, slavery was abolished, and the 13th Amendment established the connection between the Constitution and slavery. The amendment would then be ratified by the legislatures of 30 of the then 36 states by the end of 1865. Iowa, New Jersey, Texas, Delaware, Kentucky and Mississippi would follow, although Mississippi did not ratify it until 1995 — more than a century later.
The 13th Amendment not only established the connection between the Constitution and slavery, it began the relationship between the Constitution and equal rights for all races. The 14th Amendment gave blacks civil rights in 1868. The 15th Amendment then banned race-based voting restrictions in 1870.
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