Crittenden–Johnson Resolution

The Crittenden–Johnson Resolution (also called the Crittenden Resolution) was a measure passed by the 37th United States Congress on July 25, 1861[1] after the start of the American Civil War, which began on April 12, 1861. Also known as the War Aims Resolution, it was passed by both houses of Congress in July 1861 in an attempt to define limited conservative goals for the Union effort during the Civil War, especially the restoration of the Union as it was with no mention of slavery.[2] The dual goal was to retain the loyalty of Unionists in the slave-holding border states and also to reassure Northerners who would fight to save the Union but not to free the slaves.[3]

Although the resolution passed almost unanimously in July, sentiment shifted so much in the following months that the same resolution was defeated by a decisive majority in December.[4]

The resolution is sometimes confused with the "Crittenden Compromise," a series of unsuccessful proposals to amend the United States Constitution, debated after slave states began seceding, in an attempt to prevent the South from leaving the Union.

Both measures are sometimes confused with the Corwin Amendment, a proposal to amend the U. S. Constitution adopted by the 36th Congress,[5] which attempted to constitutionalize slavery. It was adopted by the necessary two-thirds in both Houses and submitted to the states for ratification. It was ratified by three states before the war pre-empted further debate.

Historical background

During the war, President Abraham Lincoln was concerned that the slave states of Missouri, Kentucky, and Maryland in the crucial upper south might leave the Union to join the Confederate States of America. If Maryland were lost, Washington, D.C. would be entirely surrounded by Confederate territory. Both Missouri and Kentucky were slave states of questionable loyalty to the Union that bordered on important Union territory; Lincoln was born in Kentucky and losing his birth state would be seen as a political failure. Also, the Ohio River marks the northern border of Kentucky and this strategically important waterway was the economic lifeline of Ohio, Illinois, and Indiana; each of these states had to ship goods down this river down to the Mississippi River. Delaware (the other slave state that remained in the Union) had so few slaves that its loyalty would not be questioned.

The resolution was introduced on July 19, 1861, two days before the Battle of Bull Run, and was passed with few dissenting votes the day after the battle, when Union forces were routed by the Confederate army, creating intense concern in Washington about southern soldiers “in arms around the capital.”[3]