On this day in 1861, unable to agree on anything else, the U.S. House of Representatives’ Committee of Thirty-Three submits a proposed constitutional amendment protecting slavery in all areas where it already existed. The proposed measure was not enough to stem the tide of seceding states.
After the election of Republican Abraham Lincoln as president in November 1860, the states of the South began to talk of secession. The Republican Party was committed to restricting slavery in the Western territories, and Southerners feared an eventual campaign to eradicate the institution entirely across the U.S. As the new administration prepared to take over, attempts were made by many politicians in Washington, D.C.,to alleviate Southern fears. The House of Representatives appointed the Committee of Thirty-Three, consisting of one member from each state, to investigate avenues of compromise that would keep the South from seceding.
Most of the compromises involved the Republicans forfeiting their plan to keep slavery out of the Western territories. This was, however, the main reason for the existence of the party. As a result, many Northern congressmen would not agree to any such move. Finally, on January 14, committee chair Thomas Corwin of Ohio submitted a plan calling for an amendment to protect slavery, enforce the fugitive slave laws, and repeal state personal liberty laws. In the 1850s, the South was increasingly concerned with slaves escaping to the North; the personal liberty laws made it difficult to get slaves back, and this was a motivating factor behind secession.