James Ashley, the Great Strategist of the Thirteenth Amendment

48 Pages Posted: 28 May 2017

Date Written: Spring 2017


Although little known outside a small group of historians, James Ashley, a Republican Congressman from Ohio, played a crucial role in the passage of the Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution. This article details the history of Ashley's political life and his strategies for ending slavery in the United States. At the side of President Abraham Lincoln, Ashley led the lobbying effort to convince wavering members of the House of Representatives to vote in favor of the Amendment. If it had not been for Ashley's calculated strategy to push the Amendment through the House, the Amendment might very well have failed. Ashley's political activity and speeches also lend support to arguments that the original meaning of the Thirteenth Amendment was more than simply the end of slavery and involuntary servitude in our country and illustrate that the Amendment provided a broader source of liberty and equality rights that animated Ashley and his Reconstruction colleagues at the time of passage. Ashley is featured in the author's forthcoming book, "The Forgotten Emancipator: James Mitchell Ashley and the Ideological Origins of Reconstruction," to be published by Cambridge University Press.

Keywords: Reconstruction, Legal History, Thirteenth Amendment, civil rights, labor rights, Civil War, Abraham Lincoln

JEL Classification: K19, K31, K39

Suggested Citation

Zietlow, Rebecca E., James Ashley, the Great Strategist of the Thirteenth Amendment (Spring 2017). Georgetown Journal of Law & Public Policy, Vol. 15, No. 265, 2017, University of Toledo Legal Studies Research Paper No. 2017-11, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2975568

Rebecca E. Zietlow (Contact Author)

University of Toledo College of Law ( email )

2801 W. Bancroft Street
Toledo, OH 43606
United States
(419) 530-2872 (Phone)
(419) 530-7911 (Fax)

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