In 1860, seizing the initiative in the growing secessionist crisis, Congressional Committees boldly stepped into the dangerous power vacuum that had emerged between lame-duck President James Buchanan and the sinisterely quiet President-elect Abraham Lincoln. A "take it or leave it" offer was made to the would-be breakaway states: an amendment to the US Constitution that included a cast-iron guarantee of no further territorial expansion and a protection of the states rights to continue the institution of slavery.
Thirteenth AmendmentIn so doing, Congress beat a long retreat from the growth of republicanism that had surged through the Federal Government with apace since the election of Thomas Jefferson (pictured). Not that Jefferson was the guilty architect of course, because the states debts after the War of Independence had demanded a stronger central authority in order to protect the states from bankcruptcy. Those prophets (including many of the Founding Fathers themselves) who had advocated a Confederation with a weak General Government would now in hindsight be seen as presciently correct, it simply was not safe to place American freedoms in the hands of bankers and lawyers such as Lincoln.
The landmark decision would defuse the secession crisis, extending the state of the Union for a century. Secretary of State Seward would be legally required to decline Russian's unexpectedly generous offer for the "Alaska Purchase". Given the unlikelihood of slavery in the northern latitutes this seemingly unimportant decision would suddenly become a problem of apocalyptic dimensions for President Kennedy during the Alaskan Missiles Crisis one hundred years later.