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January 31, 2015

Upholding Lincoln’s Legacy

By Emily Q. Balan

150 years ago today, the United States House of Representatives passed the 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, beginning the year long march toward state ratification. The amendment represents a huge step in the advancement of universal rights through the abolition of slavery. Instrumental to its inception and passage was President Abraham Lincoln.

One of the most renowned American presidents in history, Abraham Lincoln believed in justice.

Although at first accepting slavery as a societal norm, he came to recognize it as an evil. He later realized the need for its eradication, an appropriate first step in the goal toward universal rights for all people, regardless of race.

President Lincoln knew the implications of victory for both sides. Thus, he advocated for the North in part because he knew this would lead to the end of involuntary servitude.  

Unfortunately, President Lincoln was not able to see the nation unite under this cause; he was assassinated for his advocacy to free slaves. At the time of his death on April 14, 1865, only 20 of 36 states had ratified the 13th Amendment. Today, the amendment is fully recognized by all states—yet the practice of involuntary servitude continues.

Before his death, President Lincoln was able to assign a mission to America in his second inaugural address: stop the injustice of slavery. Even amid a Civil War, he acknowledged the importance of this task.

“With malice toward none; with charity for all; with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in…to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace, among ourselves, and with all nations.” – President Abraham Lincoln, March 4, 1965

We now encourage America to finish the dutiful mission that Abraham Lincoln began. American leaders should uphold that legacy and continue the noble cause of eradicating slavery domestically, as well as use their influence abroad to advance the same goals.

In it’s new campaign, Bankrupt Slavery, Human Rights First is calling on the U.S. government and businesses to take action to dismantle the criminal enterprise of modern slavery, and rid the nation of this evil once and for all. Learn more here.