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Corwin Amendment facts for kids

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The Corwin Amendment is a proposed amendment to the United States Constitution. It was passed by the Congress on March 2, 1861 and sent to the state legislatures for ratification. Senator William H. Seward of New York introduced the amendment in the Senate. Representative Thomas Corwin of Ohio introduced it in the House of Representatives. It was one of several bills considered by Congress in an unsuccessful attempt to attract the seceding states back into the Union and to convince border slave states to stay. Technically still pending before the states, it would, if ratified, shield "domestic institutions" of the states (which in 1861 included slavery) from the constitutional amendment process and from interference by Congress.


No amendment shall be made to the Constitution which will authorize or give to Congress the power to abolish or interfere, within any State, with the domestic institutions thereof, including that of persons held to labor or service by the laws of said State.

Ratification history

The Corwin Amendment was ratified by:

  • Ohio — May 13, 1861 (Rescinded ratification – March 31, 1864)
  • Maryland — January 10, 1862 (Rescinded ratification – April 7, 2014)
  • Illinois — February 14, 1862 (questionable validity)

In 1963, more than a century after the Corwin Amendment was sent to the state legislatures by the Congress, a joint resolution to ratify it was introduced in the Texas House of Representatives by Dallas Republican Henry Stollenwerck. The joint resolution was sent to the House's Committee on Constitutional Amendments on March 7, 1963, but received no further consideration.

Possible impact if adopted

The Corwin Amendment, when viewed through the lens of the plain meaning rule (literal rule), would have made institutionalized slavery unable to be affected by the amendment process. As a result, the later Reconstruction Amendments (Thirteenth, Fourteenth and Fifteenth) would not have been allowed, as they abolish or interfere with the domestic institution of the states.

A competing theory, however, suggests that a later amendment conflicting with an already-ratified Corwin Amendment could either explicitly repeal the Corwin Amendment (as the Twenty-first Amendment explicitly repealed the Eighteenth Amendment) or be inferred to have partially or completely repealed any conflicting provisions of an already-adopted Corwin Amendment.

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