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Rep. John Lewis Helps Read Constitution

Press Release

Location: Washington, DC

Today, as the nation heads moves ever closer to reaching its debt limit and funding for critical aspects of government are set to expire in a matter of weeks, the leadership of the U.S. House of Representatives determined to read the U.S. Constitution. The reading begins at 10 AM. Rep. John Lewis has been asked to read the 13th Amendment, as he was last year:

"I am very pleased," said Rep. John Lewis, "to read this important amendment. It represents an important turning point in our history. Aspects of the legislative and political work necessary to pass this amendment have been depicted so well this year by the movie Lincoln. So many Americans have a better sense today about the meaning of this important amendment.

"It was a moral imperative, something this nation had to do to begin to free itself from the blight of selling human beings for profit. President Lincoln and others used their power to right a moral wrong and changed the destiny of this country forever. It is one example of the best kind of contribution legislators can make to society."

The 13th Amendment was made law in December, 1865, and was intended to fortify the action of the Emancipation Proclamation, made by President Abraham Lincoln. The proclamation freed the slaves of states in rebellion during the Civil War and was based on special authority the president is extended during war. However, Lincoln recognized he had no real jurisdiction to end slavery permanently, so he helped to push the 13th Amendment through the Congress to abolish the institution in the United States altogether.

Interestingly enough, the first draft of the 13th Amendment was authored before the secession of states that led to the Civil War and actually was intended to permanently protect the legality of slavery in this country. However, Congress was not able to act upon it before the Civil War began. Lincoln transformed the original intention of this amendment to end the institution in this country forever. It had been 60 years since the Congress had passed an amendment to the Constitution when it passed the 13th Amendment.

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