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Charles Sumner, photograph, ca. 1867

Senator Charles Sumner of Massachusetts supported abolition. He used the petition campaign of the Women’s Loyal National League to strengthen his arguments for a constitutional amendment to end slavery.

Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress

slavery as a unit, one and indivisible, is the guilty origin of the rebellion, but that its influence everywhere, even outside the rebel States, has been hostile to the Union, always impairing loyalty, and sometimes openly menacing the national government… such a monster, wherever it shows its head, is a national enemy, to be pursued and destroyed as such

- Charles Sumner, “The Prayer of One Hundred Thousand” Speech, February 9, 1864

Charles Sumner

Petitioning for the Thirteenth Amendment

The Thirteenth Amendment, abolishing slavery, was the first amendment brought about by a public campaign. Antislavery petitions, such as the one the Women’s Loyal National League submitted to Congress in 1864 with 100,000 signatures, were instrumental. Senator Charles Sumner of Massachusetts presented that petition to Congress with a speech, “The Prayer of One Hundred Thousand,” which was published to solicit even more signatures.  The Thirteenth Amendment passed both houses of Congress, and the states ratified it in December 1865.

The Undersigned,…earnestly pray that your Honorable Body will pass, at the earliest practicable day, an Act emancipating all persons of African descent held to involuntary service or labor in the United States

Women’s Emancipation Petition, 1864