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H.J. Res. 80, proposing to amend the Constitution of the United States (Corwin Amendment), February 28, 1861

In 1861 Ohio Representative Thomas Corwin proposed an amendment to prevent Congress from interfering with slavery in any state. It would have been the thirteenth amendment to the Constitution. Congress approved it, but eleven southern states seceded from the Union before it could be ratified. The actual Thirteenth Amendment—which prohibited slavery—was ratified in 1865.

No amendment shall be made to the Constitution which will authorize or give to Congress the power to abolish or interfere, within any State, with the domestic institutions thereof, including that of persons held to labor or service by the laws of said State.

Records of the U.S. Senate, National Archives and Records Administration

H.J. Res. 80, proposing to amend the Constitution of the United States (Corwin Amendment), February 28, 1861 No amendment shall be made to the Constitution which will authorize or give to Congress the power to abolish or interfere, within any State, with the domestic institutions thereof, including that of persons held to labor or service by the laws of said State.

Last Chance for Compromise

As the volatile issue of slavery’s expansion grew increasingly divisive, Congress struggled with legislation to preserve the Union. In 1860 Kentucky Senator John Crittenden proposed a return to ideas of the Missouri Compromise, suggesting a fixed boundary between free and slaveholding territories to extend to the Pacific. In 1861 Ohio Representative Thomas Corwin proposed a constitutional amendment prohibiting federal interference with slavery in the states. Congress rejected Crittenden’s Compromise, and the states did not ratify the Corwin amendment. Congress was not able to prevent Southern secession and war.