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The Art of Mort Künstler / The American Spirit / The Civil War

Here you will find a pictorial chronicle of the drama and excitement of American History. These paintings give the viewer an insight into the tumultuous life of this young nation that mere words cannot achieve.

13th Amendment Passed

Historical Information

The Emancipation Proclamation, signed by President Lincoln on January 1, 1863, unlocked the door to abolition, but getting through it for good proved a difficult task. Would a wartime decree by the president hold up against postwar challenges?

In April 1864, at Lincoln's prodding, the Senate cleared a thirteenth amendment abolishing slavery by a 38-6 vote. In the House of Representatives, however, Northern so-called Copperhead Democrats and border-state conservatives opposed passage as an encroachment on state rights. The vote there was 93-65, thirteen votes short of the necessary two-thirds. Any adoption by the House would have to come at the next session of Congress.

On January 11, 1865, after intense lobbying and a reminder by a Democratic congressman that his colleagues had suffered political defeats in the autumn elections "because we [would] not venture to cut loose from the dead carcass of negro slavery," the measure passed on a 119-56 vote. In the packed galleries, this first amendment to the Constitution in sixty years evoked loud cheers, embracing and weeping with joy.

On June 19, 1865, Union solders led by Major General Gordon Granger arrived in Galveston, Texas with news that the Civil War had ended and that the enslaved were now free – two and half years after the Emancipation Proclamation was signed into law. Granger read aloud General Order Number 3, which began with: "The people of Texas are informed that in accordance with a Proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free."

Ratification by the states became official in December 1865. It was the first amendment to make a radical change in American society. One could say it was final shot of the Civil War.


All illustrations by Mort Künstler. Text by Michael Aubrecht, Dee Brown, Henry Steele Commager, Rod Gragg, Mort Künstler, Edward Lengel, James McPherson, and James I. Robertson, Jr. - Copyright © 2001-2022. All Rights Reserved. No part of the contents of this web site may be reproduced or utilized in any form by any means without written consent of the artist.