Amendment to a Resolution regarding Slavery in the District of Columbia, [10 January 1849]1
A bill for an act to abolish slavery in the District of Columbia, by the consent of the free white people of said District, and with compensation to owners–2
Section 1. Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America, in Congress assembled: That no person not now within the District of Columbia, nor now owned by any person or persons now resident within it, nor hereafter born within it, shall ever be held in slavery within said District–
Section 2. That no person now within said District, or now owned by any person, or persons now resident within the same, or hereafter born within it, shall ever be held in slavery without the limits of said District: Provided, that officers of the government of the United States, being citizens of the slave-holding states, coming into said District on public business, and remaining only so long as may be reasonably necessary for that object, may be attended into, and out of, said District, and while there, by the necessary servants of themselves and their families, without their right to hold such servants in service, being thereby impaired–
Section 3. That all children born of slave mothers within said District on, or after the first day of January in the year of our Lord one thousand, eight hundred and fifty
<Page 2>shall be free; but shall be reasonably supported and educated, by the respective owners of their mothers or by their heirs or representatives, and shall owe reasonable service, as apprentices, to such owners, heirs and representatives until they respectively arrive at the age of years when they shall be entirely free; and the municipal authorities of Washington and Georgetown, within their respective jurisdictional limits, are hereby empowered and required to make all suitable and necessary provisions for enforcing obedience to this section, on the part of both masters and apprentices–
Section 4. That all persons now within said District lawfully held as slaves, or now owned by any person or persons now resident within said District, shall remain such, at the will of their respective owners, their heirs and legal representatives: Provided that any such owner, or his legal representative, may at any time receive from the treasury of the United States the full value of his or her slave, of the class in this section mentioned, upon which such slave shall be forthwith and forever free: and provided further that the President of the United States, the Secretary of State, and the Secretary of the Treasury shall be a board for determining the value of such slaves as their owners may desire to emancipate under this section; and whose duty it shall be to hold a session for the the purpose, on the first monday of each calender month; to
<Page 3>receive all applications; and, on satisfactory evidence in each case, that the person presented for valuation, is a slave, and of the class in this section mentioned, and is owned by the applicant, shall value such slave at his or her full cash value, and give to the applicant an order on the treasury for the amount; and also to such slave a certificate of freedom–
Section 5That the municipal authorities of Washington and Georgetown, within their respective jurisdictional limits, are hereby empowered and required to provide active and efficient means to arrest, and deliver up to their owners, all fugitive slaves escaping into said District–
Section 6That the election officers of ^within^ said District of Columbia, are hereby empowered and required to open polls at all the usual places of holding elections, on the first monday of April next, and receive the vote of every free white ^male^ citizen above the age of twentyone years, having resided within said District for the period of one year or more next preceding the time of such voting, for, or against this act; to proceed, in taking said votes, in all respects not herein specified, as at elections under the municipal laws; and, with as little delay as possible, to transmit correct statements of the votes so cast to the President of the United States. And it shall be the duty of the President to canvass
<Page 4>said votes immediately, and, if a majority of them be found to be for this act, to forthwith issue his proclamation giving notice of the fact; and this act shall only be in full force and effect on, and after the day of such proclamation–
Section 7. That involuntary servitude for the punishment of crime, whereof the party shall have been duly convicted shall in no wise be prohibited by this act–
Section 8. That for all the purposes of this act the jurisdictional limits of Washington are extended to all parts of the District of Columbia not now included within th[e] present limits of Georgetown–
Strike out all ^before and^ after the word "Resolved" and insert the following, towit: That the Committee on the District of Columbia be instructed to report a bill in substance as follows, towit:3
Strike out all after the enacting clause, and insert the following, towit=4
1This document is entirely in Abraham Lincoln’s handwriting.
On December 21, 1848, Daniel Gott introduced in the House of Representatives a resolution which read as follows: “Whereas the traffic now prosecuted in this metropolis of the Republic in human beings, as chattels, is contrary to natural justice and the fundamental principles of our political system, and is notoriously a reproach to our country throughout Christendom, and a serious hindrance to the progress of republican liberty among the nations of the earth: Therefore, Resolved, That the Committee for the District of Columbia be instructed to report a bill, as soon as practicable, prohibiting the slave trade in said District.” The House refused to table the resolution by a vote of 81 yeas to 85 nays, with Lincoln voting yea. The House adopted the resolution by a vote of 98 yeas to 87 or 88 nays, with Lincoln voting nay (the House Journal and the Congressional Globe differ on the nay vote). Charles E. Stuart moved that the House reconsider this vote, and the House debated this motion continually over the next few weeks. On January 10, 1849, John Wentworth moved to table Stuart’s motion to reconsider. Lincoln requested that Wentworth withdraw his motion so he could introduce an amendment to the resolution should the House vote to reconsider. Wentworth relented, and Lincoln introduced this proposed amendment.
Cong. Globe, 30th Cong., 2nd Sess., 83-84, 212 (1849); U.S. House Journal. 1849. 30th Cong., 2nd sess., 132-33, 134-35.
2This title does not appear in the version of the amendment published in the Congressional Globe.
Cong. Globe, 30th Cong., 2nd Sess., 212.
4The House took no action on Lincoln’s amendment. The House rejected Wentworth’s motion to table Stuart’s motion to reconsider by a vote of 80 yeas to 120 nays, with Lincoln voting nay. The House then agreed to Stuart’s motion to reconsider by a vote of 119 yeas to 81 nays, with Lincoln yea. On January 13, Lincoln gave notice of his intention to introduce a bill to abolish slavery in the District, with the consent of the free white population, and with compensation to the owners. Lincoln did not introduce his bill, and the House took no further action on Gott’s resolution, but on January 31, the Committee for the District of Columbia reported a bill prohibiting the introduction of slaves into the District. The House refused to table the bill by a vote of 72 yeas to 117 nays, with Lincoln voting nay. The House read the bill twice and left it on the speaker’s table.
The language used in the House Journal to describe Lincoln’s bill suggests that Lincoln made this copy of his amendment turned bill in order to present it in the House. In 1861, Lincoln gave his reasons for not introducing the bill, explaining that upon “finding that I was abandoned by my former backers and having little personal influence, I dropped the matter knowing that it was useless to prosecute the business at that time.''
Cong. Globe, 30th Cong., 2nd Sess., 212, 216, 415, 416 (1849); U.S. House Journal. 1849. 30th Cong., 2nd sess., 229-31, 242, 347-48; H.R. 750, 30th Cong. (1849); Abraham Lincoln, Abraham Lincoln papers: Series 1. General Correspondence. 1833-1916: James Q. Howard, May 1860 Biographical notes. May, 1860. Manuscript/Mixed Material. https://www.loc.gov/item/mal0297401/.
Handwritten Document, 6 page(s), Abraham Lincoln Papers, Library of Congress (Washington, DC).