Commemorating the 150th Anniversary of the Thirteenth Amendment’s Ratification

‘Years of slavery would be legally abolished. Millions of slaves would win their freedom. And a country would set off on a new path.’

WASHINGTON, D.C.The U.S. Senate held a ceremony today commemorating the 150th Anniversary of the Ratification of the Thirteenth Amendment, which abolished slavery. The following are Leader McConnell’s remarks delivered during the ceremony, which took place in Emancipation Hall, in the U.S. Capitol:

“It was a January afternoon.

“The air was frozen in apprehension. It was leavened with anticipation.

“Hope and fear danced together that day, intermingling as they sometimes do at such important moments in our history.

“But only briefly.

“From a presiding officer came the news.

“Ayes, 119. Noes, 56.

“Minds processed the calculations silently.

“In one instant, nervous calm.

“In the next, uproarious cheer.

“It was two-thirds, if only just.

“The House of Representatives had passed the Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, as the Senate had done the previous year.

“Here’s how the moment was described when House Speaker Colfax announced the results:

A moment of silence succeeded, and then, from floor and galleries, burst a simultaneous shout of joy and triumph, spontaneous, irrepressible and uncontrollable, swelling and prolonged in one vast volume of reverberating thunder…

“On the floor, members wept and hugged.

“In the galleries, the thunder that was described — joyous and hopeful — rumbled on. Some onlookers who, because of the color of their skin, had been denied access to that very gallery until just the year before, were now celebrating congressional passage of the Thirteenth Amendment.

“From there, history.

“President Lincoln would soon add his signature, even though the President plays no formal role in the ratification process.

“Within just a few short months, the amendment would be ratified.

“Years of slavery would be legally abolished.

“Millions of slaves would win their freedom.

“And a country would set off on a new path.

“Wounded, but hopeful.

“Scarred, but capable.

“Always striving. Always believing. Looking to the future.”

Related Issues: History