It seems fitting that Illinois would be the first state to ratify the 13th Amendment to the Constitution since Illinois’ adopted son, Abraham Lincoln, would become known as the Great Emancipator on January 1, 1863, by the executive order known as the Emancipation Proclamation.
The 13th Amendment states:
“Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.”
Upon ratification in the Illinois Legislature, Governor Oglesby sent a dispatch to President Lincoln which read:
Springfield, Feb. 1st, 1865
To Abraham Lincoln, President of the United States:
“The Legislature of Illinois has, by a large majority, ratified the amendment to the Constitution. We suppose you have signed the joint resolutions of Congress. Great enthusiasm prevails.”
Richard J. Oglesby, Governor.
“Probably Illinois will prove to be the first State to ratify this second Magna Carta of human liberty. Glory be to God.”
Not only was Illinois the first state to ratify the 13th amendment followed closely by Maryland but one of its U.S. Senators, Lyman Trumbull, who was a close friend of Lincoln’s, was the co-author of the 13th Amendment itself.
While Abraham Lincoln effectively freed the slaves during the Civil War by Executive Order he was assassinated on April 14, 1865, before he could see it officially ratified by the needed number of states on December 6, 1865.
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