Civil Legislation were pieces of law passed by Congress which stated how Blacks could and couldn’t be treated, within this context. Civil Legislation by Congress outweighed any State Laws which had been put in place through the Supremacy Clause.
A number of major pieces of Federal Legislation in favour of Blacks came into force during the mid 1860s.
Declared the “Death of Slavery”, the13th Amendment of the United States Constitution was passed on January 31st 1865 and ratified in December of the same year. The legislation finally abolished slavery in the USA. The new legislation was of great joy to the Blacks, who had been previously ‘freed’ in 1863, because it furthered their progression to be seen as ‘people’ rather than objects for use by rich White Americans. The House of Representatives were particularly supportive of Civil Rights bills and, as such, voted 199 to 96 in favour of passing the legislation, after initially declining it a year before. The initial impact of the amendment freed 40,000 Blacks still held in servitude in Kentucky. Such success was seen for the most part that the bill was praised widely across the nation. Whilst the bill had a mostly positive outcome for those held in servitude in a lot of the country, in the South many struggled to leave their current domestic situations. Whilst the law set out to ‘abolish slavery,' any Southerners made it near impossible for the Blacks to live in society. In the words of Historian Douglas A. Blackmon, the South created a number of “Interlocking laws essentially intended to criminalise black life,” known as ‘Black Codes’. As it stood servitude could still be imposed as a way of punishment. To capitalise on this the South used vagrancy laws to keep Blacks as slaves a move which Blackmon describes in his book as “a new and flimsy concoction dredged up”. Therefore, while the intentions of the legislation were solidly based around helping Blacks to become seen more readily as ‘people,' a number of loopholes left it easy for states to keep servitude very much alive. Although it is clear that the legislation didn’t completely end slavery in the USA as politicians had hoped, a great number had been freed from states not in the federal union, including Kentucky as well as allowing many Blacks to migrate from the South to search for work. Therefore, without the legislation being passed the presence of slavery would have continued and preserved to continue much long that in reality.
However, it is important to note that, whilst the legislation in its own right improve lives, its implementation was arguably put down to President Abraham Lincoln. While his political astuteness gave him the intelligence to stay out of the way while the legislation was considered; he “let it be known that he favoured it” and he “vigorously backed it in the struggle in the House of Representatives” when it was first released. (NOT SURE ABOUT THIS PART…)
New York Daily - February 1st 1865
Douglas A. Blackmon - ‘Slavery by Another Name’
Douglas A. Blackmon - ‘Slavery of Another Kind’, Page 1
Charles A. Dana, Recollections of the Civil War, p. 174-177
Charles A. Dana, Recollections of the Civil War, p. 174-177.