Do I not destroy my enemies when I make them my friends?
—ABRAHAM LINCOLN (FIGURE 1.1)
On December 14, 1863, Ohio Congressman James Ashley opened more than a few eyes in the House of Representatives by introducing one of the most controversial constitutional amendments in history. Missouri Senator John Brooks Henderson brought the amendment to the Senate floor on January 11, 1864. Three months later, the Republican‐majority Senate approved the Thirteenth Amendment to abolish slavery, but the Democrat‐controlled House blocked the final passage. On June 15, 1864, the amendment failed to pass by a mere 13 votes.
During the heated summer of 1864, bloody battles pitted brother against brother on dusty fields across a dozen states. Convinced that final passage of the amendment might eventually heal a divided country, President Abraham Lincoln became impassioned to push it through. During his campaign, he called for the “utter and complete extirpation” of slavery as “a fitting, and necessary conclusion” to the war.
After winning the election, Lincoln kept his promise and petitioned for the passage of the Thirteenth Amendment. In December 1864, as part of his annual message to legislators, Lincoln made it clear ...