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Senator Charles Sumner’s “The Prayer of One Hundred Thousand” Speech, February 9, 1864

Senator Charles Sumner of Massachusetts, a leading abolitionist, presented the first 100,000 signatures of the Women’s Loyal National League petition to the Senate on February 9, 1864. Calling it a prayer from the heart, he said, “They ask nothing less than universal emancipation; and this they ask directly at the hands of Congress.”

Rare Book and Special Collections Division, Library of Congress

Senator Charles Sumner’s “The Prayer of One Hundred Thousand” Speech, February 9, 1864

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