Md. Could Rescind 1861 Vote to Protect Slavery

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ANNAPOLIS, Md. — Several months before the U.S. Civil War, Maryland and three other states voted for a constitutional amendment protecting their rights to allow slavery. This year lawmakers could rescind that vote.

Sponsor Sen. Brian Frosh, D-Montgomery, urged the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee on Thursday to approve the bill.

“It is an unattractive page in our state’s history, a page that we ought to turn,” he told the committee.

U.S. Rep. Thomas Corwin of Ohio proposed the amendment in 1861 as a way of appeasing Southern states so they wouldn’t secede. It passed both houses of Congress, but it never got the approval it needed from three-fourths of the states.

Frosh said Kentucky, Illinois and Ohio were the only other states to ratify it.

Rescinding Maryland’s vote would be mainly a symbolic gesture, though the Corwin Amendment is sometimes called the “ghost amendment” because it had no deadline for ratification. In theory, it could still raise constitutional questions if 35 more states ratified it.

The joint resolution that Frosh is sponsoring notes that the end of the Civil War and the passage of the 13th Amendment, which banned slavery, have rendered the Corwin amendment moot.

Frosh told his colleagues he didn’t know about the amendment until someone at the National Archives called it to his attention.

The Corwin Amendment would have prevented Congress from abolishing or interfering with the “domestic institutions” of any state, “including that of persons held to labor or service by the laws of said State.”

(© Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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