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Committee of Thirteen
Civil War Encyclopedia >> Politics

The Committee of Thirteen was an ill-fated attempt by the U. S. Senate to resolve the differences between the Southerners and the United States. Proposed on December 6, 1860 by Senator Lazarus Whitehead Powell Democrat of Kentucky, the resolve included the following words:

Resolved, that so much of the President's message as relates to the agitated and distracted condition of the country, and the grievances between the slaveholding and non-slaveholding States, be referred to a special committee of thirteen members; and that said committee be instructed to inquire whether any additional legislation within the sphere of federal authority and duty, be necessary for the protection and security of property in the States and Territories of the United States; and if so, that they report by bill. And that said committee be also instructed to consider and report upon the expediency of proposing such an amendment or amendments to the Constitution of the United States as may be necessary to give certain, prompt and full protection to the rights of property of the citizens of every State and Territory of the United States, and insure the equality of the States and the equal rights of all the citizens of aforesaid under the Federal Constitution.

On December 10, 1860 the resolution was reworded, reducing its length and on December 13, 1860 Andrew Johnson (D-TN) presented the following resolution:
Resolved, That the select committee of thirteen be instructed to inquire into the expediency of establishing, by constitutional provision,

1. A line running through the territory of the United States, not included within the States, making an equitable and just division of said territory, south of which line slavery shall be recognized and protected as property, by ample and full constitutional guarantees, and north of which line it shall be prohibited.
2. The repeal of all acts of Congress in regard to the restoration of fugitives from labor, and an explicit declaration in the Constitution that it is the duty of each State for itself to return fugitive slaves when demanded by the proper authority, or pay double their cash value out of the treasury of the State.
3. An amendment to the Constitution declaring that slavery shall exist in navy-yards, arsenals, &c., or not, as it may be admitted or prohibited by the States in which such navy-yards, arsenals, &c., may be situated.
4. Congress shall never interfere with slavery in the District of Columbia so long as it shall exist in the State of Maryland, nor even then without the consent of the inhabitants and compensation to the owners.
5. Congress shall not touch the representation of three fifths of the slaves, nor the inter-State trade, coastwise or inland.
6. These provisions to be unamendable like that which relates to the equality of the States in the Senate.

On December 18, 1860, the Committee of Thirteen held its first meeting. By December 31 the Committee retired, admitting defeat.

In addition to Powell, the Select Committee included John Crittenden, (D-KY), Robert Mercer Taliaferro (R. M. H.) Hunter (D-VA), Robert Toombs, (D-GA), Jefferson Davis (D-MS), William Bigler, (D-PA), Henry Mower Rice, (D-MN), and Stephen Douglas (D-IL).

Links appearing on this page:

December 10
December 13
Jefferson Davis
John Crittenden
Robert Toombs
Stephen Douglas

Civil War Encyclopedia >> Politics

Committee of Thirteen was last changed on - January 29, 2008
Committee of Thirteen was added on - January 19, 2008

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