How did the 13th Amendment affect pioneers?
Kids who have studied the Civil War in school may be familiar with the 13th Amendment. An amendment is an addition that is made to the Constitution that changes an existing law or creates a new one. In January 1864, a senator from Mississippi named John B. Henderson proposed that the government pass a constitutional amendment that made slavery illegal throughout the entire U.S. It was nearing the end of the Civil War, and President Abraham Lincoln was very concerned that his Emancipation Proclamation - an 1863 order that freed the slaves in the South - would not continue to be followed once the conflict was over. As the president is only allowed to pass laws such as this during wartime, the Senate decided that it needed to pass a similar measure that would be part of the law permanently.
After Senator Henderson proposed his amendment in 1864, the bill had to go through a long process before it became a law. Finally, after passing through the Senate in April and the House in January, the 13th Amendment was officially added to the Constitution after Secretary of State William H. Stewart approved the measure on December 18, 1965. The 13th Amendment was part of a series of Reconstruction Laws that were adopted between 1865 and 1870. Like the official ban on slavery, these amendments sought to provide equal rights to all citizens in the U.S., regardless of their race or skin color.
Although there is no doubt that the 13th Amendment had long-lasting repercussions for the people who lived in the South, the law had less of an immediate impact on Northerners, since their economy and culture was not based around slave labor the way that it was below the Mason Dixon line. However, the 13th Amendment did have an effect on some of the pioneers who traveled to the West Coast on the Oregon Trail, as many of them brought slaves with them on their journeys.
The number of slaves who crossed the country on the Oregon Trail was not as high as those who worked on plantations in the South. In fact, most trailblazers only brought one household servant or a single family of slaves with them. However, whether the pioneers owned one servant or many, when the 13th Amendment passed in 1865, their slaves were just as free as those in any other part of the country.