1865 February 25: “Henceforth no American need blush for the shame of slavery”
The following editorial on the 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution comes from the February 25, 1865, issue of The Prescott Journal.
The passage by Congress of the amendment to the Constitution, prohibiting slavery in the United States, except for the crime, is a triumph of all that is noble in our Government over all that is disloyal and base. It marks a new era in the life of the Nation, or more correctly speaking, a return to the principles upon which the Government was based. This act is not so much an amendment to the Constitution, as it is an authoritative exposition of its true meaning and intent.
Every man who has ever read the debates of the Convention which adopted the Constitution of the United States, knows that it was the universal belief and the almost universal desire that Slavery—a noxious plant grafted upon colonial soil by European greed—would soon die out under the benign influence of its freedom-breathing spirit. For this reason, some little concessions were made to it, but all mention of the word was carefully excluded, and the Constitution wisely and purposely so framed and worded that slavery might pass away and there would be nothing in our organic law to tell that it ever existed—it should leave no trace or stain to mar the beauty or impugn the juice of our National law.
But slavery proved peculiarly profitable in some of the states. Contrary to public expectation, it grew in strength and its advocates became arrogant as it grew strong.
It is not necessary to trace its progress—how it gradually assumed the control and dictated the policy of the Government, until it became a monster of collosal [sic] proportions—a blot upon our fame—a disgrace to our civilization—a reproach to our christianity [sic]—a libel upon our professions—a distorter of our peace—a traitor to our Government.
But it was strong. Twelve years ago you could count on your fingers the men in public life who dared openly and boldly resist its encroachments. Good men prayed for its overthrow, and the mass of the North saw its evil, but it was so hedged about with enactments, an entrenched behind statutes, that no way for its extinction seemed open. Honorable, law-abiding men could see no hope, except as the long train of years might bring noblet principles into practice, and slowly obliterate the evil.
To-day what a change from four years ago ! The National Capitol no longer holds a slave. Maryland and Missouri have joined the fair sisterhood of Free States. Kentucky longs to be delivered from the curse which has enslaved her. The great apostle of Free Soil sits Chief Justice in our highest court, and an American Congress has solemnly resolved that slavery shall die.
It is a proud thing to live in such a day, when the principles of our Government are potent realities instead of “glittering generalities.”
Henceforth no American need blush for the shame of slavery. It may linger for a while ; the amendatory act may not be ratified at once, and pass into organic law, but slavery is outlawed, dethroned, doomed. The Government has purged itself of its opprobium [sic] and shame, and reiterated anew the sublime truths enunciated by the founders of the Republic.—It is fitting that joy should fill the heart of every American citizen for this most righteous legislation, and he should give thanks as for a great victory won.