Talk:Corwin Amendment/Archive 1

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Archive 1

Minor revision

A minor revision may be required in the first paragraph. Where it says that the amendment "would have forbidden the Federal Government from banning the practice of slavery," it should be qualified with the addition of a clause saying "in the existing states." (See the actual text of the resolution, at the bottom of the article.) This precise limitation (leaving the federal government still free to legislate for territories) was the essential qualification that allowed Republicans such as Corwin and Lincoln to support it as a compromise gesture. Note, too, that it did not prohibit any existing states from themselves ending slavery. Tlbenson 07:05, 16 Jan 2005 (UTC)

No further amendments?

The text states that the Constitution could not be subsequently modified on this point. Had it passed then could a "the Corwin amendment is hereby repealed" amendment have been valid? Timrollpickering 15:10, 29 October 2005 (UTC)

I would say so. The text says "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 [slavery]". An amendment repealing the Corwin amendment would probably not do that. Once repealed, a further amendment could then be made forbidding slavery. That being so, there is no reason in principle why the repeal and the banning of slavery could not be put into the same amendment. The Corwin amendment actually looks pretty weak on this front to me. Art Markham (talk) 15:07, 9 November 2008 (UTC)

Dead Link

I have removed the following link: Charlotte Observer: Lincoln and the 'Ghost Amendment' (10/25/06). This no longer links to the cited article. It only links to a page apologizing for not finding the cited article. --SMP0328. (talk) 06:37, 6 January 2008 (UTC)

Still alive?

I believe Congress passed a law subsequent to 1976 in which they said that all amendments still circulating would have seven years to win approval, or die. The originally proposed first amendment won ratification prior to the expiration of the seven years, in 1992 (now the 27th Amendment) -- but all others are dead. Alas, of course, I can't find the law now.

Even apart from such a law, however, this article might benefit from addition of materials from the discussions on whether the amendment might be reinvigorated today. Here's the Findlaw discussion: Edarrell (talk) 09:30, 4 May 2008 (UTC)

The only Congressional acts, around that time, that dealt with Constitutional amendments are the extension of the time limit for ratifying the Equal Rights Amendment and the Congress's passage of the District of Columbia Voting Rights Amendment (Section 4 of which required ratification within seven years). I am not aware of any law that would end the ability to ratify the Corwin Amendment. Here's an article from 2004 still referring to the Corwin Amendment as still being capable of being adopted. --SMP0328. (talk) 19:12, 4 May 2008 (UTC)

Same-sex marriage?

Would this amendment also apply to same-sex marriage and other similar issues under the wide rubric of "domestic institutions," preventing adoption of the Federal Marriage Amendment? As it uses the phrase "including" it would seem to cover quite a lot. Poochner (talk) 16:44, 6 June 2008 (UTC)

It would depend on whether the Supreme Court ruled that this issue is to be left to each State to decide. --SMP0328. (talk) 16:57, 10 June 2008 (UTC)
Given that the Corwin Amendment did not give any definition of "domestic institutions", had it been adopted, theoretically anything that a state did could have been considered immune from federal interference. That's the kind of problem that using vague language in a constitution can cause (while on the other hand, using very specific language runs the risk of a constitution becoming obsolete...and ridiculously bloated like the California state constitution). (talk) 04:52, 12 August 2009 (UTC)


I removed the Effects section. It said:

Apart from its subject matter, the Corwin Amendment also raises an important issue of constitutional theory, namely whether a democratic constitution can prohibit certain future amendments to itself through what amounts to an entrenched clause. When viewed as an entrenched clause, the Corwin Amendment—had it been ratified—might well have been construed to prohibit the Thirteenth Amendment, ratified in 1865, which both abolished slavery throughout the nation and granted the Congress the power to enforce its terms. A competing theory suggests that if a later amendment conflicting with an already-ratified Corwin Amendment were to have been incorporated into the Constitution, then the later amendment:

(A) could explicitly repeal the Corwin Amendment (as the Twenty first Amendment explicitly repealed the Eighteenth Amendment); or

(B) would have been deemed, by mere inference to have, partially or completely, repealed an already-ratified Corwin Amendment.

Corwin Amendment supporters seem to have believed that it would not have changed 1860s law other than to have restricted the Congress's future powers. It further appears that supporters regarded the amendment as simply a reiteration of principles already contained in the Constitution. That view, however, contrasts with the position espoused by some abolitionists, such as Frederick Douglass and Lysander Spooner, who argued that the Constitution did not truly protect slavery.

Several other suggested constitutional amendments, such as those included in the proposed Crittenden Compromise, likewise aimed to forestall the secession of additional states beyond those that had already done so. Most such proposals involved a return to the terms of the Missouri Compromise, but Republicans defeated all attempts to allow any further advance of slavery into the territories.

It had no sourcing, so it was original research. If proper sourcing can be found for the above material, it can returned to the article. SMP0328. (talk) 01:31, 10 November 2008 (UTC)

The topic is certainly relevant to the article. Hardly anything in the article is sourced. Here are sources for some of it: AND --JimWae (talk) 09:44, 10 November 2008 (UTC)
I have restored that section in a condensed form and renamed Effect. I used the first of JimWae's two links as a source for that section. Thank you JimWae for your assistance. SMP0328. (talk) 03:22, 11 November 2008 (UTC)

Abraham Lincoln's First Inaugural Address

Abraham Lincoln mentions this amendment in his first inaugural address. He states that he has no legal objection to the the amendment being made irrevocable.

"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."[1] —Preceding unsigned comment added by Th0ughtCr1m3 (talkcontribs) 00:36, 14 February 2010 (UTC)

The article already refers to that speech, but I did add your source. SMP0328. (talk) 01:32, 14 February 2010 (UTC)

I removed the material saying that Lincoln sent a letter to each governor requesting their support for the proposed amendment. I can not not find any evidence that he directly asked for such support and the claim that he did is definitely not confirmed by the source cited by the footnote that was in place. (also see I did enter instead (perhaps I should have listed it as a minor revision) that Lincoln sent a letter transmitting the proposed amendment. — Preceding unsigned comment added by Historylecturer (talkcontribs) 21:19, 12 June 2011 (UTC)

That link had become a dead link; I have replaced it. Your wording properly represents what is in that source. SMP0328. (talk) 00:29, 13 June 2011 (UTC)

If adopted now


What would happen if this amendment gained the needed state ratifications? Would that authorize slavery, since it, being ratified later, would trump the 13th? —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 18:12, 2 July 2010 (UTC)

No way to know for sure of course, but I don't believe adoption of the Corwin Amendment would be treated as an implicit repeal of the Thirteenth Amendment. The much more likely result would be the Corwin Amendment would be treated as only affecting future uses of Article V. SMP0328. (talk) 18:22, 2 July 2010 (UTC)


This text was posted elsewhere, but I believe it belongs here. I'll leave it to others to address. I think the anon user deserves more of an answer than the edit field allows. Be kind. Bmclaughlin9 (talk) 01:34, 18 July 2011 (UTC)

I have added the full discussion between the anon and me. It took place on my user talk page. SMP0328. (talk) 03:03, 18 July 2011 (UTC)

If ratified today in the year 2011, the Corwin Amendment—because of its actual wording, rather than due to its historical context—could be interpreted as having nothing to do with slavery. Keeping in mind the very clear 146-year-old text of the Thirteenth Amendment, in contemporary America the term "domestic institutions" could be construed to mean such things as educational or penal facilities; while the words "persons held to labor or service by the laws of said State" could be viewed in modern society as merely a reference to convicted criminals performing court-ordered community service.Gregory Watson (talk) 19:50, 26 August 2011 (UTC)

Discussion between SMP0328. and
The following discussion has been closed. Please do not modify it.

Dear Wikipedia: How is this disruptive? Think about it... if the Corwin Amendment is passed, it would repeal the 13th amendment, just like the 21st repeals the 18th, the 12th and 17th repeal/alter the original constitution. Its a logical conclusion that is unlikely to be verified simply because it is logical and unobjectionable. After all, no ones writes an article explaining that water is wet and if you touch it you get wet as well. Its simply logical and no one with any reason objects to it. Please repost my changes as they are not disruptive. Thank you. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 03:13, 17 July 2011 (UTC)

Dear Wikipedia: A follow up I found elsewhere that more articulately advances my point, especially at the end: "It is straining to pretend that for every aspect of everysubject there is a non-encyclopedic source for every useful bit of information. In articles on topics of importance (where here I'll suggest that "importance" implies that there are refereed journals that are devoted to the topic, although I'd not push this to the limit - it's more of a notion) it ought to be completely obvious that such journals are written at a high level, to be read and understood by those already competent in the field (there are guidelines for authors that say exactly this.) these are persons for which exposition and clarification is unnecessary - because, as experts, they already know. The mandated (by extremists) reference for the results of a synthesis that is sometimes adamantly insisted on simply may not exist - and the nonexistence is most likely for a synthesis that is obvious and non-controversial. The synthesis may, however, be something that provides useful clarification or insight to the non-expert reader (as you'd anticipate most Wikipedia readers would be.)" — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 03:18, 17 July 2011 (UTC)

Dear Wikipedia: How strange you can undo edits so fast without any discussion beyond some vague link to an evener vaguer policy that doesn't seem to fit my edits, yet be so long in offering even a form letter reply to my request for an explanation of my edits. I don't speak Wikipedia-ish. (talk) 03:33, 17 July 2011 (UTC)

Dear Wikipedia. My edit is not a fringe theory. I am not for the return of slavery. I'm not neo-nazi or anything. Read what I wrote. The Corwin Amendment , IF passed (0% chance of it happening) would logically be an indirect repeal of the 13th amendment.

Consider:: Say a town has an ordinance that the 700 block of main street is a one-way street from east to west already on the books. However, before it was adopted some had proposed making ALL of main street one way in the opposite direction. Eventually, IF the council passes this proposed-but-previously-unadopted ordinance, it is reasonable to conclude that the ordinance about the 700 block is repealed. No one would object to it, and no article would be published to verify it. And it would not be a fringe theory.

The same is true for my post. So please undo you change and let mine stand. Thank you. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 04:04, 17 July 2011 (UTC)

Your theory as to the effect of adopting the Corwin Amendment is speculation. The Corwin Amendment's adoption might not mean the Thirteenth Amendment's repeal. The Twenty-first Amendment expressly repealed the Eighteenth, while you are suggesting an implicit repeal. The Corwin Amendment could be interpreted to mean only that no future amendments could interfere with the "domestic institutions" of the States. What effect the Corwin Amendment would have on the Constitution if the amendment was adopted is unknowable without first adopting the Corwin Amendment. If you want to add this material to the Corwin Amendment article, state it as an opinion, provide a reliable source (a blog is not one) and be clear that there can be other reasonable interpretations. SMP0328. (talk) 04:14, 17 July 2011 (UTC)
Dear Wikipedia. Thank you for an answer finally. But I do not understand why this is a fringe theory as you said. Consider: Say a town has an ordinance that the 700 block of main street is a one-way street from east to west already on the books. However, before it was adopted some had proposed making ALL of main street one way in the opposite direction. Eventually, IF the council passes this proposed-but-previously-unadopted ordinance, it is reasonable to conclude that the ordinance about the 700 block is repealed. No one would object to it, and no article would be published to verify it. And it would not be a fringe theory. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 04:20, 17 July 2011 (UTC)
Dear Wikipedia. Why is this website shown to me? If does not address the issue of a fringe theory. Please answer my question. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 04:22, 17 July 2011 (UTC)
This is meant to show you that your belief as to what would happen if the Corwin Amendment was adopted is not necessarily correct and so should not be shown as fact. BTW, I do not speak for all of Wikipedia. I am only one editor, but I am happy to help you. SMP0328. (talk) 04:25, 17 July 2011 (UTC)
Dear Wikipedia. Obviously you want things written in an exact Way. I am trying to say that if passed now, slavery could now be possible. So in a sense, the 13th amendment could be repealed indirectly, not expressly. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 04:29, 17 July 2011 (UTC)
That is not a fringe theory, just a fact. Kinda like saying oranges are never rainbow colored is a fact. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 04:31, 17 July 2011 (UTC)
Also, why do you accuse me of vandalism Mr./Mrs. Wikipedia Editor? I am trying to make a contribution but I don't understand wikipedia-ish. I am not a criminal. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 04:36, 17 July 2011 (UTC)
Your interpretation of the Corwin Amendment is not a fact, it is an opinion. Wikipedia articles are for stating facts, not the opinions of editors. SMP0328. (talk) 04:40, 17 July 2011 (UTC)
Dear Mr./Mrs. Editor. If the Corwin Amendment is now passed, it does allow for Slavery to be reestablished within the states. "which will authorize or give to Congress the power to abolish or interfere, within any State, with the domestic institutions thereof" Therefore, a state could on its own chose to allow for slavery again. It'd sort of be a reverse entrenchment clause. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 04:43, 17 July 2011 (UTC)
Why wouldn't the Corwin Amendment only repeal Section 2 of the Thirteenth Amendment (which gives the Congress the authority to enforce slavery's abolition)? Section 1 of that amendment does not give the Congress any authority. So maybe the Corwin Amendment would only repeal the part of the Thirteenth Amendment referring to the Congress. SMP0328. (talk) 04:48, 17 July 2011 (UTC)
I think you begin to understand my point. If section 2 is repealed, there is no means to enforce section one. It is similar to Andrew Jackson telling SCOTUS "you made your decision, now enforce it" with regards to the trail of tears. Not a perfection explanation, but you see what I mean. I will have to figure out how to reword my post so it is not vandalism or fringe theory or or or something else. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 04:53, 17 July 2011 (UTC)
I hope you understand my point. We now have three interpretations of the Corwin Amendment: no effect on 13A (only future amendments), repeal only Section 2 of 13A (slavery abolished, but only judicial enforcement), complete repeal of 13A. Your interpretation (complete repeal) is not the only interpretation and so should not be put in the article as a fact. It is only a belief you, and maybe others, follow. Since, as you said earlier, there is no chance the Corwin Amendment will be adopted, we will never know what would be the effect if it was adopted. SMP0328. (talk) 05:05, 17 July 2011 (UTC)
You are a bit slow, I think, so I'll debate no more. I've only had once view the whole time, if poorly articulated - you created others in your own mind that I do not see how you came upon. You must do well in law school though, as lawyers are good at making things from almost nothing. Maybe that is why you are a big editor - you like to argue over things that are not there or are unimportant and don;t make sense to normal people like me. No wonder news stories everywhere say Wikipedia is a poor place for info. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 05:12, 17 July 2011 (UTC)


I'd like to suggest that a map showing ratifications/partial ratifications/rejections/abstentions be included as it has with the Equal Rights Amendment article. Graham1973 (talk) 09:19, 5 August 2012 (UTC)

What are "partial ratifications?" SMP0328. (talk) 17:38, 5 August 2012 (UTC)
I assume "partial ratifications" means spilt votes between the 2 houses of a state legislature, which are in fact rejections. (talk) 20:51, 4 March 2013 (UTC)

Effects if ratified today?

Just wonder what if any effects this amendment would have if ratified today as it is still pending, not I think any state is going to rush out and adopt today. (talk) 20:51, 4 March 2013 (UTC)

Already covered in the article. SMP0328. (talk) 21:15, 4 March 2013 (UTC)
The section you refer to, and it doesn't seem to have changed much since your comment [1] doesn't seem to discuss the OP's question at all. It discusses what would have happened if the amendment had been adopted at the time, before the thirteenth and other amendments. There's no guarantee the effect would be the same if it were adopted today, in fact in this case there's good reason to think it would be different. The Corwin amendment doesn't consider the prior amendments like the thirteenth amendment at all unsurprising because it was written before them. But it does potentially affect issues they dealt with, yet if adopted today would be ahead of them so could be taken to take precedence. For example would it be taken as repealing the thirteenth amendment and perhaps others (or at least portions of them)? Would it be taken as entrenching the thirteenth amendment (although it says abolish, it also says interfere so a amendment which repeals the thirteenth amendment could be taken as interfering)? There are a number of possibilities. I doubt it would be easy to find source discussing them since the idea of it being adopted today is just so strange and probably not of great importance. Edit: Just noticed someone in Texas proposed ratifying it in 1963, so perhaps there was some discussion then. Nil Einne (talk) 19:42, 27 April 2013 (UTC)
There's no way to know what effect the Corwin Amendment would have if it were adopted today (e.g., would it be a repeal of the Thirteenth Amendment). We would end up speculating in the article, which would likely be POV. The most we can do is, based on reliable sources, refer to possible interpretations of the effect the amendment would have had at the time it was proposed. SMP0328. (talk) 20:40, 27 April 2013 (UTC)

What was the point of Corwin?

On a slightly related note, do sources discuss the view at the time? Was it primarily one that the amendment would have an entrenchment effect?

If not, the whole thing could do with more explanation. Since from a naïve POV, why would an amendment, which only really dealt with preventing future constitutional amendments, help if it could just be repealed anyway by said future constitutional amendments? Was it more of a 'we promise we won't do this' (even if we can easily break this promise). Perhaps an attempt to set a line in the sand which number 1 if it were removed could be challenged so potentially wouldn't take effect immediately, number 2 people would perhaps be less likely to cross because it's there and number 3, crossing it even if the courts say it's possible would be so controversial it may result in an extreme crisis (of course a crisis happened anyway even without the amendment taking effect and before the line was explicitly crossed as it were) and perhaps number 4, it would only be crossed by going further then what is required (perhaps somewhat akin to the older HoR proposal).

My thoughts here are if it wasn't viewed as entrenching, perhaps it's somewhat akin to what we have in number of commonwealth realm countries nowadays. For example, in NZ, there are some laws which are entrenched requiring a supermajority to repeal them. Yet the general belief (not accepted by everyone of course) is the entrenchment provisions themselves are not entrenched so someone could simply repeal them and then proceed without meeting the supermajority requirements. However not everyone considers these useless for reasons such as those I mentioned. And of course there are the various constitutional conventions which if violated would potentially result in a constitutional crisis. Yet these things don't seem very common in the US. I do appreciate these things, as with many matters of law can get fussy, and e.g. in the UK there is some question nowadays over whether parliamentary supremacy holds with the various EU conventions.

Anyway I rambled a bit, not as much as last time, but I do think some additional explanation here would help (if it can be sourced) as to how the law was viewed at the time and the perceived purpose. The wider purpose was to try and avoid states breaking away, but how exactly was the amendment supposed to help? Of course there's even the possibility the uncertainties were one reason (perhaps a minor one) it wasn't adopted as those wanting to break away thought it didn't actually provide sufficient guarantees.

P.S. When I first replied here, I was basing my reply on the older HoR proposal, whoops. When first reading the article, I noted they were different then somehow when replying above and going back, I forgot about this so wrote my reply based on the other text. Apologies for any confusion. Nil Einne (talk) 20:17, 27 April 2013 (UTC)

The Corwin Amendment was a last ditch effort to avert the secession of the southern United States. It wasn't clear at the time whether the Corwin Amendment would have been unrepealable. The uncertainty over repealability, and otherwise what the full effect of the amendment would have been if adopted, led to its overwhelming rejection by the States. SMP0328. (talk) 20:40, 27 April 2013 (UTC)

Transmittal letter

I have moved this image formatting to here from the article, because the formatting did not result in the image being visible. To the right is how the image appeared in the article.

External image Signed letter from Abraham Lincoln transmitting the Corwin Amendment to North Carolina Governor John W. Ellis, March 16, 1861. Source: North Carolina Digital Collections.

I do not know how to fix this. Anyone who knows how to fix this formatting, please do so. Then this can be returned to the article, unless there are other grounds for not so returning. SMP0328. (talk) 23:08, 9 December 2013 (UTC)

This works all right in my browser, so I'm returning it to the article. Will test it before leaving it. No objection to your changing my new section heading to a subsection heading. That's the way I tried it first, but I didn't think it looked right. Cheers! -- LegalBeagle (talk) 23:43, 9 December 2013 (UTC)
What browser are you using? I tried Firefox 25 and Internet Explorer 11. Neither showed the image. I believe the image should be removed until it works on these browsers. SMP0328. (talk) 01:20, 10 December 2013 (UTC)
I'm using IE 11. Just tried it again. No problem. -- LegalBeagle (talk) 15:12, 10 December 2013 (UTC)
Just tried it using Firefox 23 on a different machine. Still works. Don't know about Firefox 25. -- LegalBeagle (talk) 15:23, 10 December 2013 (UTC)
Are you referring to the link working? I know the link works. My issue is that the image does not appear in the article. SMP0328. (talk) 23:07, 10 December 2013 (UTC)
Oh, I obviously misunderstood. I wanted to upload the image to the Commons, but North Carolina Digital Collections seems to be claiming copyright. The page says: " May be protected by copyright law (Title 17 US Code). Obtain proper release forms prior to reproducing this material." Well, the document itself is pre-1923 AND is an official U.S. Government product; BUT maybe NCDC can claim that the format in which they're presenting the letter permits it to claim copyright. So I settled for the external image option while I look for a source that won't be disputed. There's also a transmittal letter to the governor of Florida at There surely are more. -- LegalBeagle (talk) 00:13, 12 December 2013 (UTC)
Because the link does not produce an image in the article, but does otherwise work, I have moved the link to the External links section. If the link ever does produce an image in the article, then it should returned to its previous location. SMP0328. (talk) 06:49, 13 December 2013 (UTC)
Okay, do it that way if you prefer; but all I can tell from this discussion is that you just don't like using the external image box, which to my way of thinking is a perfectly good way to provide access to a non-free-use image. My searches have found that at least four of the transmittal letters survive: those sent to North Carolina, Florida, Texas and California. If I can locate a suitable free-use image of one of them, I will upload it to the Commons. --LegalBeagle (talk) 15:52, 16 December 2013 (UTC)

Ratification Map

I would like to propose that as with the other constitutional articles a Map be created showing who actually ratified the amendment (Even if later revoked.), including the disputed status of the Illinois ratification.Graham1973 (talk) 04:20, 14 July 2014 (UTC)

So do it. SMP0328. (talk) 04:57, 14 July 2014 (UTC)
IMO, a ratification map for this amendment would add nothing to the article that isn't already there. Additionally, the first thing that would come to my mind upon a map of Corwin ratifying states for the first time would be along the lines of "what's the point?" After all, only 3 states have taken action on it and of those three, two have rescinded said action and the action of the third was/is of questionable validity. Drdpw (talk) 02:48, 15 July 2014 (UTC)
    • ^ Full Text of Abraham Lincoln's first inaugural address [2]