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The Corwin Amendment is a proposed amendment to the United States Constitution. It was passed by the Congress on March 2, 1861 and sent to the state legislatures for ratification. Senator William H. Seward of New York introduced the amendment in the Senate. Representative Thomas Corwin of Ohio introduced it in the House of Representatives. It was one of several bills considered by Congress in an unsuccessful attempt to attract the seceding states back into the Union and to convince border slave states to stay. Technically still pending before the states, it would, if ratified, shield "domestic institutions" of the states (which in 1861 included slavery) from the constitutional amendment process and from interference by Congress.
Text[change | change source]
No amendment shall be made to the Constitution which will authorize or give to Congress the power to abolish or interfere, within any State, with the domestic institutions thereof, including that of persons held to labor or service by the laws of said State.[a]
Ratification history[change | change source]
The Corwin Amendment was ratified by:
- Ohio — May 13, 1861 (Rescinded ratification – March 31, 1864)
- Maryland — January 10, 1862 (Rescinded ratification – April 7, 2014)
- Illinois — February 14, 1862 (questionable validity)[b]
In 1963, more than a century after the Corwin Amendment was sent to the state legislatures by the Congress, a joint resolution to ratify it was introduced in the Texas House of Representatives by Dallas Republican Henry Stollenwerck.[c] The joint resolution was sent to the House's Committee on Constitutional Amendments on March 7, 1963, but received no further consideration.
Possible impact if adopted[change | change source]
The Corwin Amendment, when viewed through the lens of the plain meaning rule (literal rule), would have made institutionalized slavery unable to be affected by the amendment process. As a result, the later Reconstruction Amendments (Thirteenth, Fourteenth and Fifteenth) would not have been allowed, as they abolish or interfere with the domestic institution of the states.
A competing theory, however, suggests that a later amendment conflicting with an already-ratified Corwin Amendment could either explicitly repeal the Corwin Amendment (as the Twenty-first Amendment explicitly repealed the Eighteenth Amendment) or be inferred to have partially or completely repealed any conflicting provisions of an already-adopted Corwin Amendment.[d]
Notes[change | change source]
- The Corwin Amendment appears officially in Volume 12 of the Statutes at Large at page 251.
- The Illinois legislators decided that the national crisis justified their action, which they recognized as irregular.
- House Joint Resolution No. 67, 58th Texas Legislature, Regular Session, 1963
- See also: Michael Stokes Paulsen, "A General Theory of Article V: The Constitutional Lessons of the Twenty-Seventh Amendment", Yale Law Journal, vol. 103, no. 3, December 1993, 699n79, 702-4, 754n258: "[I]f the meaning of the amendment is judged by its text, rather than by historical evidence of those proposing it, the Corwin Amendment merely prohibits prospectively the enactment of new constitutional amendments giving Congress power to abolish slavery....The Corwin Amendment by its terms, is not a slavery-entrenching amendment, but a status-quo-entrenching amendment; and the legal status quo today is that slavery is prohibited." (emphasis in original)
References[change | change source]
- Michael Walter (2003). "Ghost Amendment: The Thirteenth Amendment That Never Was". Retrieved 1 December 2013.
- Samuel Eliot Morison (1965). The Oxford History of the American People. Oxford University Press. p. 609.
- "Constitutional Amendments Not Ratified". United States House of Representatives. Archived from the original on 2012-07-02. Retrieved 2013-11-21.
- Foner, 2010, p. 158
- 58 Ohio Laws 190
- 61 Ohio Laws 182
- Harold Holzer, Lincoln President-Elect: Abraham Lincoln and the Great Secession Winter 1860-1861 (NY: Simon & Schuster, 2008), 429
- Laws of the State of Maryland, Made and Passed At a Session of the General Assembly begun and held at the City of Annapolis on the third day of December, 1861, and ended on the tenth day of March, 1862. (Chapter 21, pages 21 and 22)
- "Rescission of Maryland's Ratification of the Corwin Amendment to the United States Constitution". General Assembly of Maryland. Retrieved April 10, 2014.
- Philip L. Martin, "Convention Ratification of Federal Constitutional Amendments", Political Science Quarterly, vol. 82, no. 1, March 1967, 65
- "Slavery: Just a "Detail"?". The Progress Report. Archived from the original on June 26, 2015. Retrieved June 21, 2015.
- Douglas Linder. "What in the Constitution Cannot be Amended?". Arizona Law Review: 717. Archived from the original on 2010-06-27. Retrieved 2016-03-20.
- Albert, Richard (2013-02-27). "The Unamendable Corwin Amendment". Int'l J. Const. L. Blog. Retrieved 2 March 2013.