Saturday, February 01, 2014
The Work Of Generations
After Congress passed the proposed 13th Amendment in 1865:
The President signed the joint resolution on the first of February. Somewhat curiously the signing has only one precedent, and that was in spirit and purpose the complete antithesis of the present act. President Buchanan had signed the proposed amendment of 1861, which would make slavery national and perpetual.
But many held that the President's signature was not essential to an act of this kind, and, on the fourth of February, Senator Trumbull offered a resolution, which was agreed to three days later, that the approval was not required by the Constitution ; that it was contrary to the early decision of the Senate and of the Supreme Court; and that the negative of the President applying only to the ordinary cases of legislation, he had nothing to do with propositions to amend the Constitution.
Though thus decided, that the signature of the President to an act of this kind is not required, there was a peculiar fitness in sending the joint resolution to Mr. Lincoln. It may well be believed that he never set his name to a public document with deeper satisfaction.
Seldom in the history of a nation have two men, whose character and capacities are in so marked contrast, been elevated to such vast power as James Buchanan and Abraham Lincoln. They typify two irreconcilable ideas in human government; ideas fully comprehended in the amendments, to the Constitution, which they signed.
According to the AP:
There are at least 14 duplicate copies of the 13th Amendment signed by Lincoln. Congress passed it two years after his 1863 Emancipation Proclamation and it represented the culmination of his efforts to end slavery. But he apparently stopped signing the duplicates after lawmakers complained he was overstepping his executive powers because constitutional amendments are passed by Congress and ratified by the states.
Some of the documents were signed by just Lincoln, the vice president and the House speaker; some were signed just by members of the House and some have both senators and representatives.
A nice step forward. Yet even after ratification, there obviously was a lot of work left to be done. Including the efforts of four North Carolina A&T University students on February 1, 1960, in Greensboro, North Carolina, which launched a major activist movement. One of those brave young men was Franklin E. McCain, Sr:
There was a little old white lady who was finishing up her coffee at the counter. She strode toward me and I said to myself, “Oh my, someone to spit in my face or slap my face.” I was prepared for it.
But she stands behind Joseph McNeil and me and puts her hands on our shoulders. She said, “Boys, I'm so proud of you. I only regret that you didn't do this 10 years ago.”
That was the biggest boost, morally, that I got that whole day, and probably the biggest boost for me during the entire movement.
And the work continues...
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