By Tom Dare
FASCINATING IMAGES from over 150 years ago showing the brutal reality of everyday life for slaves in America have resurfaced today, on the anniversary of the signing of the thirteenth amendment which ended the institution across the US by the then President Abraham Lincoln.
The series of images and clippings, which date from as far back as the late 1700s, show pre-abolition slaves picking cotton on a plantation in Georgia, with another showing the brutal scars inflicted on one slave who was freed from a plantation in Louisiana. Further images from the collection show several newspaper clippings from the slavery era, including advertisements for the auction of slaves across the United States. One even warns African Americans that law enforcement has the power to return them to their plantations should they escape.
The thirteenth amendment to the United States constitution was signed into law by President Abraham Lincoln on February 1 1865, and remains to this day the only ratified amendment to the United States constitution to have been signed by a sitting President. Under the rules of the constitution Lincoln’s signature was not necessary for the passing of the bill, having already been voted on by both Congress and the Senate prior to this.
The amendment was passed after a bitter civil war which devastated the country, pitting the pro-slavery Confederate States of America, which included Texas, Louisiana and Kentucky, against the mostly anti-slavery United States of America, which included states such as New York and Illinois.
President Lincoln had already signed the emancipation proclamation, freeing all slaves within the Union, in 1863, but the thirteenth amendment widened its scope to include the entirety of the United States. Speaking about slavery during his Presidency, Lincoln remarked:
“Slavery is founded in the selfishness of man’s nature — opposition to it is in his love of justice,” he said in a speech in 1864.
“These principles are an eternal antagonism; and when brought into collision so fiercely, as slavery extension brings them, shocks, and throes, and convulsions must ceaselessly follow.
“Repeal the Missouri Compromise — repeal all compromises — repeal the declaration of independence — repeal all past history, you still can not repeal human nature. It still will be the abundance of man’s heart, that slavery extension is wrong; and out of the abundance of his heart, his mouth will continue to speak.”
The United States was one of the last leading Western nations to abolish slavery, and the legacy of this is still felt in the country to this day.