Repealing the Corwin Amendment

Today we saw this story coming out of Maryland.

The Corwin Amendment was an attempt to head off secession by codifying within the Constitution what was the prevailing interpretation at the time, that slavery’s status was a state concern, not a Federal concern, and that the Federal Government had no power to affect slavery in the states in which it existed.  The amendment said nothing about the expansion of slavery, which was the crux of the argument at the time of secession, so this amendment really didn’t solve anything.

Neoconfederates will often make the stupid claim that this amendment shows the argument wasn’t over slavery.  That’s because they don’t have any idea what they’re talking about.  Even if this amendment had been ratified, Lincoln and the Republicans would still seek to cut off its expansion, and Lincoln could still appoint antislavery people to patronage positions.

In any event, Maryland is now talking about repealing their ratification of the Corwin Amendment, which itself never achieved the requisite number of state ratifications to become part of the Constitution.

This action will have no effect whatsoever on anything.  Slavery is abolished by the 13th Amendment so this amendment will never become a part of the Constitution.  This is nothing but a symbolic gesture, and frankly I think the Maryland Legislature probably has more important things to spend their time on than this.

It’s also an interesting question as to whether or not a state can rescind a ratification or whether or not the state can rescind the ratification only before the action has taken effect.  What do you think?


  1. Neoconfederates will often make the stupid claim that this amendment shows the argument wasn’t over slavery.

    A ludicrous argument in deed. If anything, it demonstrates the argument was over slavery, because Congressional leaders attempted to pass an amendment in an attempt to appease the South.

    1. If we look at all the compromise schemes, they all had to do with slavery.

      1. Yep. I just don’t understand the Corwin Amendment. Is someone really claiming that a compromise, “proves” the argument was not over the issues prevalent in said compromise?

        1. They make the specious claim that if slavery were the reason for secession, the Corwin Amendment would have stopped them because they claim it was an ironclad guarantee that slavery would always exist in the United States. They also make the specious claim that it proves Lincoln didn’t care about slavery because he was willing to support it. That claim also shows they have no idea what the crux of the matter in 1861 was.

          1. It’s a circular bizarre argument.

          2. BorderRuffian · ·

            Yea-yah- the-crux-of-the-matter…

            The white politicians of the North didn’t want slavery in the territories because they didn’t want blacks in the territories – nor any other non-white.

            Their reasoning was- if you fill’em up with northern whites and white immigrants, then that territory will become a state and they’ll be voting the Republican party.

            Yeah, the North was something you boys don’t like to own up to very much- a white supremacist society complete with black codes and exclusionary laws. And Aby-baby was with it all the way.

            Why don’t you just fess up to the ugly truth?

            Yes! Yesssss!…Lincoln cared so much for the slave that he was ready to throw four million under the bus…and every generation thereafter-
            “I understand a proposed amendment to the Constitution—which amendment, however, I have not seen—has passed Congress, to the effect that the Federal Government shall never interfere with the domestic institutions of the States, including that of persons held to service. To avoid misconstruction of what I have said, I depart from my purpose not to speak of particular amendments so far as to say that, holding such a provision to now be implied constitutional law, I have no objection to its being made express and irrevocable.”
            -from Lincoln’s First Inaugural Address

          3. Someone else who has no clue about the Corwin Amendment. And you have no understanding of logic, either. Here’s a clue. A few people don’t represent the whole.

          4. Sydney Alexis Sulley · ·

            Al Mackey · February 1, 2014 – 2:47 am ·
            Someone else who has no clue about the Corwin Amendment. And you have no understanding of logic, either. Here’s a clue. A few people don’t represent the whole.

            so i guess the house and senate does not represent the nation as a whole? LOL idiot

          5. Yes, you are indeed an idiot, troll.

            I have neither the time nor the inclination to explain to a moron why majority voters in a district or state get to have someone who represents their views is different from a minority of individuals not representing what the majority believes. I can’t fix stupid, so I can’t fix you.

      2. Ok if it was “all about slavery” then why did the south still [edit] secede anyway? You Yankees are still just as ignorant as ever, and I don’t see it changing ever.

        1. I let this through to illustrate once again how incredibly stupid neoconfederates are.

          As the last sentence of the second paragraph of my post says, “The amendment said nothing about the expansion of slavery, which was the crux of the argument at the time of secession, so this amendment really didn’t solve anything.”

          Of course, we can’t expect this to make any difference to neoconfederates, because neoconfederates aren’t smart enough to understand it. When it comes to neoconfederates:

          1. Sydney Alexis Sulley · ·

            “The amendment said nothing about the expansion of slavery, which was the crux of the argument at the time of secession, so this amendment really didn’t solve anything.”

            Exactly, the amendment neither approved nor disapproved of expansion…the text does however specify “Congress the power to abolish or interfere, within any State, with the domestic institutions thereof”….so any new state in the west may chose which way it wanted…and the feds couldnt interfere. It didnt stop expansion of slavestates in anyway shape or form

          2. Of course, troll, you’re blissfully unaware of the issue at stake. Lincoln’s goal was to cut off the expansion of slavery. The Corwin Amendment would not get in the way. It would allow the Feds to interfere.

            That’s why Lincoln supported it. It did nothing more than codify the prevailing constitutional interpretation of the time and didn’t forbid the Feds from interfering to prevent slavery’s expansion.

  2. Bob Nelson · · Reply

    As Shakespeare once put it, “Much Ado About Nothing.” Maryland didn’t ratify it until January 1862 so I see it as rather a moot point. Not a single state ratified it before the guns opened in Charleston Harbor. Technically, and I find this interesting, it’s still on the books waiting to be ratified. On the other hand, Mississippi didn’t ratify the 13th Amendment until 1995.

    1. All amendments that were proposed but not ratified are still awaiting ratification. Mississippi finally officially ratified the 13th Amendment last year. They had voted to ratify it in 1995, but didn’t notify the US Archivist at that time.

  3. You could own all the slaves you wanted and continue happily in the Union. You could beat them, rape them, and sell them all day every day. But what you could not do was leave the union. War would follow if you tried that. The war was over secession, and nothing else.

    1. Another one who lacks the ability to comprehend what the amendment was about. And you people wonder why nobody takes you seriously.

      1. No, no, it’s absolutely true. Slavery was legal in many of the states, including several that did not secede. Kentucky and Missouri, for example, had slavery, but were never attacked by union forces because they did not secede. Only the states that seceded were attacked by the union army. In fact, even after the EP was announced, slavery was still legal in Missouri and Kentucky. Lincoln was only trying to keep the South from being politically free. It surely had nothing to do with slavery.

        1. Look, I’ve gone over this several times in the blog already. There were two sides in the war. One side, the Federals, wanted to preserve the Union. The other side, the confederates, wanted their independence for the express purpose of protecting slavery from the perceived threat posed to it by Lincoln and the Republicans. To say “it surely had nothing to do with slavery” is disingenuous because it completely ignores the confederates and why they told us they wanted their independence. It had nothing to do with freedom for the confederates. For them, it had everything to do with denying freedom. White southerners had freedom already. Slavery was legal in exactly 15 states in the United States in 1860. Of those, 11 were in the confederacy and 3 others had politically divided to the point that a large number of men fought for both sides. If it had nothing to do with slavery, why is it that the confederacy consisted only of slave states? The confederates told the world in no uncertain terms they were fighting for slavery. They were honest about it at the time. Why can’t you be honest about it?

          1. But if the war was fought to eradicate slavery, why didn’t the Union army also attack Maryland, Missouri, Delaware, Kentucky, and West Virginia?

          2. Apparently you didn’t read what I wrote.

  4. [edit]

    1. Well, I gave you a chance, “Clint.” It didn’t take long for you to reveal yourself as nothing more than an ignorant troll. Come back when you grow up.

  5. Bob Nelson · · Reply

    What was the point, if any, of Maryland rescinding its ratification of the Corwin Amendment on April 7, 2014 other than simply making a political statement? Interesting, too, that the Texas legislature introduced a joint resolution to ratify it in 1963 but it died in committee.

    1. It makes the point of delineating what the state stands for today.

  6. Bob Nelson · · Reply

    And it didn’t stand for it twenty, forty or fifty years ago? Other than making a political statement, why now in 2014?

  7. Scott Ledridge · · Reply

    I wonder if this would have kept the states from starting their own amendment process to repeal the amendment once there were enough free states to do so.

    1. I doubt that an amendment can be un-ratified by legislatures repealing their ratifications.

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