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Letter from Charles Sumner to Abraham Lincoln, November 20, 1864

Republican Senator Charles Sumner of Massachusetts was a leading abolitionist in Congress. In this letter to the president, Sumner expressed his view that slavery was the main cause of the Civil War and that emancipation, once declared, could not be revoked. He urged President Lincoln to take a strong stand in dealing with the leaders of the rebellion.

Excerpt:

I have replied . . . that freedom once given could not be reclaimed, & that the country was solemnly bound to the immediate present freedom of every slave in the rebel states.

Manuscript Division, Letter of Congress

Letter from Charles Sumner to Abraham Lincoln, November 20, 1864 Letter from Charles Sumner to Abraham Lincoln, November 20, 1864 (with excerpt highlighted)

The Thirteenth Amendment

On January 1, 1863, President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation. Designed to weaken the Confederacy, it declared that all persons enslaved in a state, or part of a state, then in rebellion against the United States were and would be forever free. The Thirteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, passed by Congress and ratified by the states in 1865, abolished slavery nationwide.

Section 1. Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude except as punishment for a crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall hereafter exist within the United States or any place subject to their jurisdiction.

Thirteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution