Saturday, February 9, 2013

Drama versus History: On Slave States vs. Free; Republicans vs. the Party of Slavery

"You don’t know my state. My state was a slave state … my state is the 8th largest black population in the country" -- Vice President Joe Biden, 2007

by Clifford F. Thies

A Congressman from Connecticut has noticed that his state was besmirched in the movie "Lincoln." According to the movie, two of the state's three Congressmen voted against the 13th Amendment, when, in historical fact, all four of the state's Congressmen voted in favor.

The screenwriter of the movie has defended his portrayal of the vote, saying his attempt was "to clarify to the audience the historical reality that the Thirteenth Amendment passed by a very narrow margin that wasn't determined until the end of the vote."

Excuse me, but as we discussed in January here at LR, the Amendment breezed through the Senate (38 to 6) and the House (119 to 56), and then breezed through the states (being ratified by the requisite number of states in 24 days according to one interpretation of how to count the states, although it wasn't certified by the Secretary of State until 306 days had passed).

To be sure, the vote in the House was relatively close to the required two-thirds majority. What was that about? Were there still some Democrats up in the North thinking slavery was a good thing?

I hate to be the only person in the entire world who looks to what actually happened back in history, instead of passing along the gobbledygook that historians keep repeating to each other until, by their consensus, it becomes the truth. But, here it goes: When the House received the resolution from the Senate, a debate ensued as to how to treat loyal slaveowners in the states of Delaware, Kentucky, Maryland and Missouri that had stayed in the Union. In fact, this was an almost academic concern.

President Lincoln had provided, in the Emancipation Proclamation, for compensated emancipation for the slaveowners in the loyal states. (The Congress had already provided for compensated emancipation when it abolished slavery in the District of Columbia.) Basically, the Emancipation Proclamation provided that slaveowners would receive the enlistment bonus upon their slaves joining the Union Army, and those slaves would get their freedom. Accordingly, slavery was just about ended all throughout the country by the Emancipation Proclamation.

So, while compensation was an almost academic issue, on the day the House of Representatives debated the resolution it had received from the Senate, there it was: should the federal government be fair to slaveowners, if there were any, in the states that had remained loyal. The Republican leadership in the House wasn't having any of that stuff, since a procedural vote showed that they had the required two-thirds majority. The actual vote on the amendment was a foregone conclusion, as was the subsequent vote to reconsider the question. There was never any doubt as to passage.

Immediately upon passage of the resolution by the House, the states took up the matter. The Republican-controlled states passed the resolution in very quick order. But, a potential problem existed because three-fourths of the states were needed to ratify the amendment, and many of the states were in rebellion, and three other states were controlled by the Democrats (Delaware, Kentucky and New Jersey). As the Nashville Daily Union said on February 2, 1865, immediately upon hearing of the vote in the House, it was important to quickly organize new governments in the states in rebellion upon their being reclaimed to the Union. In fact, not one of the states controlled by the Democrats ratified the 13th Amendment until it had been certified by the Secretary of State to have become part of the Constitution.

So, what is the truth about the vote on the 13th Amendment? Is it, as Hollywood wants you to believe, that you can't trust white people to do the right thing? Or, is it that you can't trust Democrats?

1 comment:

mitsukurina said...

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