“If slavery is not wrong, nothing is wrong,” declared President Abraham Lincoln in a letter in 1864.

Lincoln had played a delicate balancing act over the issue in the midst of the Civil War before pushing for a constitutional amendment that year. Slavery had already ceased to exist as a legal institution in Arkansas with the ratification of the 1864 state constitution. And with a constitutional amendment passing Congress, the former slave state would play a part in fi nishing off slavery once and for all.

In Washington, DC, the proposed constitutional amendment was crafted by Congressman James Mitchell Ashley, an Ohio newspaper editor and abolitionist. Even with the Civil War nearing an end and pro-slavery forces decimated politically, there was still resistance to a constitutional amendment. It passed the Senate by a vote of 38-6 in April 1864. After months of wrangling, arguments, and deal-making, the amendment passed the House of Representatives by a vote of 119-56 on January 31, 1865. Though Arkansas had a functioning Union government by that time, it was not allowed to seat a congressional delegation.

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