The Committee of Thirteen

On December 18, 1860, a committee of the United States Senate was formed to investigate the possibility of a "plan of adjustment" that might solve the growing secession crisis. Called the Committee of Thirteen because of the number of its members, it failed to agree on any one proposal but did have a number of ideas presented to it. The most prominent one was John Crittenden's proposal, which is treated separately on this web site. Some of the others are given in this document, with text taken from the journal of the committee (Senate Report #288, 36th Congress, 2nd Session). I have also added a proposal by Rep. Thomas Hindman, made to a similar House committee.

On motion of Jefferson Davis, it was decided that no proposal would be reported as adopted unless supported by a majority of the Republicans and a majority of the Democrats serving on the committee. Under this restriction, the committee was unable to agree upon a satisfactory "plan of adjustment" and reported so to the Senate, on December 31, 1860.

I would like to think Chuck Ten Brink for providing me with a photocopy of the committee report.


Compromise Proposal by Robert Toombs of Georgia

Resolved, That declaratory clauses to the Constitution of the United States, amply securing the following propositions, be recommended for adoption:

1. That the people of the United States shall have an equal right to emigrate to and settle in the present or any future acquired territories, with whatever property they may possess, (including slaves,) and be securely protected in its peaceable enjoyment, until such Territory may be admitted as a State in the Union, with or without slavery, as she may determine, on an equality with all existing States.

2. That property in slaves shall be entitled to the same protection from the government of the United States in all of its departments, everywhere, which the Constitution confers the power upon it to extend to any other property; provided nothing herein contained shall be construed to limit or restrain the right now belonging to every State to prohibit, abolish, or establish and protect slavery within its limits

3. That persons committing crimes against slave property in one State and fleeing to another, shall be delivered up in the same manner as persons committing other crimes, and that the laws of the State from which such persons flee shall be the test of criminality.

4. That Congress shall pass efficient laws for the punishment of all persons in any of the States who shall in any manner aid and abet invasion or insurrection in any other State, or commit any other act against the laws of nations, tending to disturb the tranquility of the people or government of any other State.

5. That fugitive slaves shall be surrendered under the provisions of the fugitive slave act of 1850, without being entitled to either a writ of habeas corpus or trial by jury, or other similar obstructions of legislation by the States to which they may flee.

6. That no law shall ever be passed by Congress in relation to the institution of African slavery in the States or Territories, or elsewhere in the United States, without the consent of a majority of the senators and representatives of the slaveholding States.

7. That none of these provisions, nor any other provisions of the Constitution in relation to slavery, (except the African slave trade,) shall ever be altered except by the consent of each and all the of the States in which slavery exists.


Compromise Proposal by Jefferson Davis of Mississippi

Resolved, That it shall be declared, by amendment of the Constitution, that property in slaves, recognized as such by the local law of any of the States of the Union, shall stand on the same footing in all constitutional and federal relations as any other species of property so recognized; and, like other property, shall not be subject to be divested or impaired by the local law of any other State, either in escape thereto or of transit or sojourn of the owner therein; and in no case whatever shall such property be subject to be divested or impaired by any legislative act of the United States, or of any of the Territories thereof.


Compromise Proposal by Stephen A. Douglas

Resolved by the Senate and the House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, (two thirds of both houses concurring,) That the following articles be, and are hereby, proposed and submitted as amendments to the Constitution of the United States, which shall be valid, to all intents and purposes, as part of said Constitution, when ratified by conventions of three fourths of the several States:

Article 13.

Section 1. Congress shall make no law in respect to slavery or servitude in any Territory of the United States, and the status of each Territory in respect to servitude, as the same now exists by law, shall remain unchanged until the Territory, with such boundaries as Congress may prescribe, shall have a population of fifty thousand white inhabitants, when the white male citizens thereof over the age of twenty-one years may proceed to form a constitution and government for themselves and exercise all the rights of self-government consistent with the Constitution of the United States; and when such new States shall acquire the requisite population for a member of Congress, according to the then federal ratio of representation, it shall be admitted into the Union on an equal footing with the original States, with or without slavery, as the constitution of such new States shall provide at the time of admission; and in the meantime such new States shall be entitled to one delegate to the Senate, to be chosen by the legislature, and one delegate to the House of Representatives, to be chosed by the people having the qualifications requisite for electors of the most numerous branch of the legislature; and said delegates shall have all the rights and prvileges of senators and representatives respectively, except that of voting.

Section 2. No more territory shall be acquired by the United States, except by treaty, or by the concurrent vote of two thirds of each house of Congress; and, when so acquired, the status thereof in respect to servitude, as it existed at the time of acquisition, shall remain unchanged until it shall contain the population aforesaid for the formation of new States, when it shall be subject to the terms, conditions, and privileges herein provided for the existing Territories.

Section 3. The area of all new States shall be as nearly uniform in size as practicable, having due regard to convenient boundaries and natural capacities, and shall not be less than sixty nor more than eighty thousand square miles, except in case of islands, which may contain less than that amount.

Section 4. The second and third clauses of the second section of the fourth article of the Constitution, which provides for the delivering up fugitives from justice and fugitives from service or labor, shall have the same power in the Territories and new States as in the States of the Union; and the said clause, in respect, to fugitives from justice, shall be construed to include all crimes committed within and against the laws of the State from which the fugitive fled, whether the acts charged be criminal or not in the State where the fugitive was found.

Section 5. The second section of the third article of the Constitution, in respect to the judicial power of the United States, shall be deemed applicable to the Territories and new States, as well as to the States of the Union.

Article 14.

Section 1. The elective franchise and the right to hold office, whether federal, State, territorial, or municipal, shall not be exercised by persons of the African race, in whole or in part.

Section 2. The United States shall have power to acquire, from time to time, districts of country in Africa and South America, for the colonization, at expense of the federal Treasury, of such free negroes and mulattoes as the several States may wish to have removed from their limits, and from the District of Columbia, and such other places as may be under the jurisdication of Congress.

Section 3. Congress shall have no power to abolish slavery in the places under its jurisdiction and situate within the limits of States that permit the holding of slaves.

Section 4. Congress shall have no power to abolish slavery within the District of Columbia, so long as it exists in the adjoining States of Virginia and Maryland, or either, nor without the consent of the inhabitants, nor without just compensation first made to such owners of slaves as do not consent to such abolishment. Nor shall Congress at any time prohibit officers of the federal government, or members of Congress, whose duties require them to be in said District, from bringing with them their slaves and holding them as such during the time their duties may require them to remain there, and afterwards taking them from the District.

Section 5. Congress shall have no power to prohibit or hinder the transportation of slaves from one State to another, or to a Territory in which slaves are permitted by law to be held, whether such transportation be by land, navigable rivers, or by sea; but the African slave trade shall be forever suppressed, and it shall be the duty of Congress to make such laws as shall be necessary and effectual to prevent the migration or importation of slaves or persons owing serivces or labor, into the United States from any foreign country, place, or jurisdiction whatever.

Section 6. In addition to the provision of the third paragraph of the second section of the fourth article of the Constitution, Congress shall have power to provide by law, and it shall be its duty so to provide, that the United States shall pay to the owner who shall apply for it, the full value of his fugitive slave, in all cases when the marshall, or other officer whose duty it was to arrest said fugitive, was prevented from so doing by violence or intimidation; or when, after arrest, said fugitive was rescued by force, and the owner thereby prevented and obstructed in the pursuit of his remedy for the recovery of his fugitive slave, under the said clause of the Constitution, and the laws made in pursuance thereof; and in all such cases, when the United States shall pay for such fugitives, they shall have the right, in their own name, to sue the county in which said violence, intimidation, or rescue was committed, and to recover from it, with interest and damages, the amount paid by them for said fugitive slave.

Section 7. No future amendment of the Constitution shall effect this and the preceding article; nor the third paragraph of the second section of the first article of the Constitution; nor the third paragraph of the second section of the fourth article of said Constitution; and no amendment shall be made to the Constitution which will authorize or give to Congress any power to abolish or interfere with slavery in any of the States by whose laws it is or may be allowed or sanctioned.


Compromise Proposal by William H. Seward

Resolved, That the following article be, and the same is hereby proposed and submitted as an amendment to the Constitution of the United States, to be valid, to all intents and purposes, as a part of said Constitution, when ratified by the legislatures of three fourths of the several States:

1st. 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.

2nd. The fugitive slave act of 1850 shall be so amended as to give to the alleged fugitive a jury trial.

3rd. The legislatures of the several States shall be respectfully requested to review all of their legislation affecting the right of persons recently resident in other States, and to repeal or modify all such acts as may contravene the provisions of the Constitution of the United States, or any laws made in pursuance thereof.


Compromise Proposal by Thomas C. Hindman

The House of Representatives also appointed a committee to investigate compromise plans. This committee was designated as the Committee of Thirty-Three, and the following proposal by Representative Thomas C. Hindman of Arkansas, later a Confederate general, was among the many submitted for consideration. The text is taken from Chapter 1 of Edward McPherson's Political History of the United States During the Great Rebellion. Hindman proposed that the Constitution be amended to provide as follows:

1st. An express recognition of slavery in the States where it exists, and prohibition of right of Congress to interfere therewith or with the inter-State slave trade.

2nd. Expressly requiring Congress to protect slavery in the territories, and in all places under its jurisdiction.

3rd. For admission of new States, with or without slavery, as their Constitutions should provide.

4th. Right of transit for persons with slaves through the free States.

5th. To prohibit a right of representation in Congress to any States passing laws to impair the obligations of the fugitive slave law until such acts shall have been repealed.

6th. Giving the slave States a negative upon all acts of Congress relating to slavery.

7th. Making the above amendments, and all provisions of the Constitution relative to slavery un amendable.

8th. Granting to the several States authority to appoint all Federal officers within their respective limits.