The Final Struggles: September 1864 to April 1865

To Make Men Free

What role did Lincoln play in the fight for the Thirteenth Amendment?

A substantial one. He had, by now, learned that it was better to let his men in Congress do most of the work, but he could effect change from behind the scenes. And Lincoln, ever an astute politician, was willing to use all sorts of patronage—the dispensing of federal appointments—to gain votes in the House of Representatives. His political men told him it would be a close, narrow fight, and they would need every single vote.

By January 20, 1865, the cause looked stalled. Many Democrats had been swept out of office in the 1864 elections, but enough remained to block passage of the bill. Former New York City Mayor Fernando Wood was one of the leaders of the opposition. Thaddeus Stevens, of Pennsylvania, was the leader of the Radical Republicans, who pressed the most strongly for passage.


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