Lincoln was the only Oscar-winning movie ever to dramatize the passage of a constitutional amendment — the 13th, which ended slavery. Director Steven Spielberg gave all the credit for the amendment’s success to his titular hero. From a marketing standpoint, this made sense. Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter had been a big hit earlier that year, so he knew Lincoln could sell tickets.

Not portrayed at all in the movie — or even mentioned — was the man who actually wrote the 13th Amendment: Illinois’s own Senator Lyman Trumbull. Unlike Lincoln, his longtime ally and rival, Trumbull is not a big historical figure. He’s not on a postage stamp. There was a Lyman Trumbull elementary school in Andersonville, but it closed in 2012. Trumbull’s statue stands in the rotunda of the state capitol, alongside other 19th Century Illinoisans whose names have turned to dust: Sidney Breese, Shadrach Bond.

Today is the 158th anniversary of the 13th Amendment’s passage. (Illinois was the first state to ratify it, the following day.) So it’s a good day to recognize the Father of the 13th Amendment, whose career paralleled Lincoln’s, and often surpassed it in attempting to do away with slavery.

Like Lincoln, Trumbull arrived in Illinois in his early 20s — from Connecticut, by way of Georgia — and built a career as a frontier lawyer. While Lincoln mostly represented wealthy clients, such as railroads, Trumbull sometimes took on cases of enslaved persons seeking freedom. In 1843, he represented Joseph Jarrot, who was suing his mistress for wages. Jarrot’s grandmother had been owned by a Frenchman, which was possible because of a loophole in the Illinois Constitution that allowed early French settlers to keep their property. Trumbull not only won the case, he closed the loophole, freeing all descendants of French-held slaves.

Trumbull served a term in the state House, as a Democrat, then was appointed Secretary of State. After losing a race for Congress in 1846, he quit politics. The Kansas-Nebraska Act, which would have allowed slavery in those two territories, changed his mind. Trumbull wanted a crack at the Act’s author, Illinois Senator Stephen Douglas, so he ran for, and won, a seat in Congress. Lincoln felt the same way about the Kansas-Nebraska Act — and Douglas. After serving a single term in Congress, he had returned to the life of a railroad lawyer. “I was losing interest in politics,” he once said, but the Kansas-Nebraska Act “aroused me again.”

Both Lincoln and Trumbull wanted the Senate seat that came up for re-election in 1855. When the General Assembly met to choose a new senator, Lincoln received 45 votes on the first ballot — six short of victory. But Lincoln was a Whig, and the Democrats who controlled the legislature would not vote for a Whig. On the 10th ballot, Trumbull won the seat — and the chance to go to Washington to debate Douglas, years before Lincoln did so in his second unsuccessful Senate campaign. Lincoln didn’t hold a grudge, but Mary, who had been a bridesmaid to Trumbull’s wife, never spoke to her again.

Lincoln and Trumbull soon became political compatriots, as co-founders of the Illinois Republican Party. Lincoln brought in the old Whigs, and Trumbull the anti-Nebraska Democrats. When Lincoln ran against Douglas for Senate, Trumbull campaigned on his behalf. Trumbull’s support, though, was motivated more by dislike of Douglas than affection for Lincoln, who he considered a conniving politician: “a trimmer as the world has ever seen. …He is secretive, communicates no more of his own thoughts and purposes than he think will serve the ends he has in view; he has the faculty of gain the confidence of others by apparently giving them his own, and in that way attaches to himself many friends; he is one of the shrewdest men I have ever known; he is by no means the unsophisticated, artless man that many take him to be.”

Once the Civil War began, Trumbull was ahead of Lincoln in introducing a measure to free the slaves: more than a year before Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation, Trumbull introduced the Confiscation Act, which provided for the freedom of any enslaved person forced to aid the Confederate military effort. The act passed, but Lincoln did not enforce it. This was so irksome to Trumbull that he passed a second, stronger Confiscation Act, freeing all slaves owned by Confederate rebels. Lincoln did not enforce that one, either.

Trumbull supported the goals of the Emancipation Proclamation — he was one of the first Republican senators to declare that the Civil War was about ending slavery, not just preserving the Union — but did not believe slavery could be abolished by executive order. A constitutional amendment was required. Trumbull was chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, which received a resolution “that the Constitution shall be so amended as to abolish slavery in the United States.” His task was to come up with language that would be acceptable to both two-thirds of the Senate, which was dominated by Republicans, and two-thirds of the House, where Democrats held enough seats to kill a constitutional amendment. Here is what he produced:

Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.

That was more moderate than a proposal by Massachusetts Senator Charles Sumner, a Republican radical, who wanted an amendment making all persons “equal before the law.” In Lincoln the movie, Lincoln is shown persuading reluctant Democrats to support the amendment — but he was selling them on Trumbull’s words, which were crafted to appeal to members of both parties.

Even in 1865, Trumbull thought Lincoln was taking too much credit for the 13th Amendment. After the amendment passed, Lincoln signed the text before it was sent to the states for ratification. With Trumbull’s support, the Senate passed a resolution pointing out that presidents played no role in constitutional amendments, and that Lincoln’s signature was unnecessary. 

He probably would have hated the movie.

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