This Amendment to the Constitution was passed by 2/3 of both houses of Congress in 1861. It is still technically an active, proposed Amendment. If it were to be passed by 3/4 of the state legislatures, it would become the latest Amendment to the Constitution, however unlikely that would be.
This Amendment, largely ignored by educators today, is the prime evidence that the northern states didn’t care about the slaves as much as they did the economic conditions created by it.
The Amendment was originally proposed by one of the Senators from New York, William H. Seward, and a Representative from Ohio, Thomas Corwin, both Republicans. The Amendment itself was reflective of what most citizens at the time thought about the issue of slavery:
No amendment of this Constitution, having for its object any interference within the States with the relations between their citizens and those described in second section of the first article of the Constitution as “all other persons”, shall originate with any State that does not recognize that relation within its own limits, or shall be valid without the assent of every one of the States composing the Union.The Corwin Amendment
You see, most people in both the North and the South felt that slavery was an issue that was an internal matter for each state to control within its own borders.
The Amendment was passed in the house on February 28, 1861 by a vote of 133 to 65, just barely above the two-thirds threshold. The Senate voted on the Amendment on March 6, 1861, passing it with a vote of 24 to 12. Soon afterward, it was sent to the states for ratification.
On March 16, 1861, Lincoln a letter to all of the governors of the states, including states that had already seceded from the Union and formed their own confederate government. In that letter, he stated that while he personally opposed to slavery, Lincoln believed the Constitution supported it. Lincoln noted Congressional approval of the Corwin amendment and stated that he “had no objection to its being made express and irrevocable.” Lincoln followed the Republican platform from the Chicago convention. He believed that the major problem between the North and South was the inability to reach agreement with respect to the expansion of slavery. Lincoln did not believe that he had the power to eliminate slavery where it already existed.
Thus far, seven states have ratified the Amendment (two have since withdrawn that ratification). Those states are: Kentucky, Ohio, Rhode Island, Maryland, Illinois, and Virginia. It should be noted that Ohio withdrew its ratification in 1864, as did Maryland in 2014.
The point here is that five of the seven states that ratified this Amendment did not feel strongly enough about the abolition movement to deny a Constitutional Amendment that would have permanently secured slavery as an institution. If they were willing to do that, it is unlikely in my opinion that they were willing to go to war over it.
What the northern states WERE willing to go to war over was the profits that were being secured by having the southern states nearly completely fund the federal government, and keeping those same states as captive consumers of union manufactured goods. Protectionism at its most brutal.
The 3/5s compromise was quite useful in this regard. The south was importing African slaves as labor, but for electoral college purposes, they were only counted as 3/5 of a person. Meanwhile, the northern factories were importing the Irish as virtual slaves, counting them as full citizens for both EC and congressional representation purposes.
So the north wanted and NEEDED to keep the union together at all costs, or the economic and political fallout would have been devastating to the northern states. This is why the civil war resulted in even more power going to the Federal government, because the north was in complete control of that central government. It allowed the northern states to continue the economic control over the states for decades during the reconstruction period.
Lincoln finally decided to grab the power that presented itself. He seized power, and with the military at his back, he made himself into the dictator that so many who succumb to the power they inherit wind up becoming.
In many ways, the situation that was in place and that led to the civil war in 1861 is the same situation we see now. The major difference is that it is the cities who are taking advantage of the smaller towns and rural areas, but using the same tactics as were used in the antebellum union.
The following websites were used as references for this post, and can make for some interesting follow up reading: