Freedoms Constitution

The Gettysburg Address offered only the promise of freedom, not a specific plan of emancipation. After the address, in the winter of 1863-64, Lincoln and the new Thirty-eighth Congress finally began to craft legislation that would secure black freedom in the reconstructed Union. Because the antislavery constitutional amendment was ultimately adopted, we naturally assume that Civil War-era lawmakers always had the amendment in mind as the obvious complement to the Emancipation Proclamation. But, in fact, the amendment was not part of a prearranged agenda. Instead, it was born from a complex tangle of party politics, popular anti-slavery fervor, and constitutional theory. And far from being an obvious supplement to the proclamation, the amendment represented, for many northerners, a critique of the president's emancipation program.

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