Slave Auction handbill

13th Amendment

Agreed to by Congress January 31, 1865; ratified and in force December 6, 1865.

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

Section 2. Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.


Also spelled out as the Thirteenth Amendment or Amendment XIII, the 13th Amendment to the United States Constitution officially ended slavery, and with limited exceptions, such as those convicted of a crime, prohibits involuntary servitude.

The 13th Amendment completed legislation to abolish slavery in America begun with President Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation. By the time of the amendment, slavery only existed in five states, Delaware, Kentucky, Missouri, Maryland and New Jersey.

The United States Senate voted 38 to 6 in favor April 8, 1864, but the House of Representatives was against adding the amendment to the constitution. However, Lincoln insisted on including support for it in the 1864 Republican Party platform, and the House finally agreed to the 13th Amendment January 31, 1865 on a vote of 119 to 56. It was ratified by the required three-fourths of the states and in force December 6, 1865, with Georgia casting the deciding vote.

The thirteenth was the first of the three constitutional amendments commonly referred to as the Reconstruction Amendments, the other two being the 14th Amendment (1868) and 15th Amendment (1870).