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Final Freedom


  • Page extent: 324 pages
  • Size: 228 x 152 mm
  • Weight: 0.44 kg


 (ISBN-13: 9780521543842 | ISBN-10: 0521543843)

This book examines emancipation after the Emancipation Proclamation of 1863. Focusing on the making and meaning of the Thirteenth Amendment, Final Freedom looks at the struggle among legal thinkers, politicians, and ordinary Americans in the North and the border states to find a way to abolish slavery that would overcome the inadequacies of the Emancipation Proclamation. The book tells the dramatic story of the creation of a constitutional amendment and reveals an unprecedented transformation in American race relations, politics, and constitutional thought. Using a wide array of archival and published sources, Professor Vorenberg argues that the crucial consideration of emancipation occurred after, not before, the Emancipation Proclamation; that the debate over final freedom was shaped by a level of volatility in party politics underestimated by prior historians; and that the abolition of slavery by constitutional amendment represented a novel method of reform that transformed attitudes toward the Constitution.

• A comprehensive history of the abolition of American slavery by constitutional amendment • Reveals how emancipation transformed American law, politics, and the meaning of freedom • Examines how Abraham Lincoln fulfilled the promise of the Emancipation Proclamation


List of illustrations; Acknowledgements; List of abbreviations; Introduction; 1. Slavery's constitution; 2. Freedom's constitution; 3. Facing freedom; 4. Debating freedom; 5. The key note of freedom; 6. The war within a war: emancipation and the election of 1864; 7. A King's cure; 8. The contested legacy of constitutional freedom; Appendix: votes on antislavery amendment; Bibliography; Index.


'Vorenberg's careful study illuminates the complex political and military process that ended lingering uncertainty over the legality of black freedom … Final Freedom is the definitive account of the making of an important, yet oddly neglected, constitutional amendment and deserves the widest possible readership.' The Times Literary Supplement

'A well-researched, gracefully written account of the final emancipation of slaves in the United States, Final Freedom is a must-read for scholars interested in the history of slavery and abolition, African American history, legal and constitutional history, and general US history.' Patience Essah, The Journal of Southern History

'In recounting the Thirteenth Amendment's adoption, Vorenberg skillfully weaves a fascinating tapestry of legal theory, raw politics, racial prejudice, and concerns for the balance of federal-state power … This is a fine study of the troubled steps to end slavery.' James W. Ely, Jr, The American Historical Review

'The strength of Vorenberg's study lies in its detailed analysis of the limitations of wartime emancipation and the debate that ensued over an emancipation amendment.' Louis S. Gerteis, Journal of American History

'Final Freedom demonstrates that the Thirteenth Amendment was not an automatic sequel to the Emancipation Proclamation or an inevitable means of abolishing slavery. Instead, the Amendment's language, function, and meaning were contested. The story of its enactment and ratification, so well told here, is important and fascinating.' James M. McPherson, Princeton University, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era

'Vorenberg relates the complex development of the Thirteenth Amendment clearly and concisely. His research is wide, his focus tight, his presentation precise, and his analysis deft … a welcome addition to Civil War, emancipation, and constitutional history.' Providence Sunday Journal

'[Vorenberg] explains with much skill and subtlety the events, political considerations, and other factors that initiated and limited particular arguments. In doing so, he has written an unusually complete legislative history of the amendment, one that goes far beyond the conventional legislative history.' Ted Pulliam, Legal Times

'This study is a remarkable piece of historical research and writing … A short review can barely do justice to the virtues of this outstanding work. Subtly argued and elegantly written, almost every page brims with fresh insights.' The Historian

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