Pending and Failed Amendments

U.S. Constitution of 1787

Pending and Failed Amendments 
There are six amendments to the US Constitution of 1787 that have been passed by the United States Congress but did not get ratified by the appropriate number of states' legislatures. Four of these amendments remain pending before state lawmakers, one has expired by its own terms, and one (the Equal Rights Amendment) has expired by the terms of the resolution proposing it, although the expiration is not in the Amendment itself.  Consequently, the expiration of the ERA Amendment is disputed.

Date Proposed
Congressional Apportionment Amendment
September 25, 1789
Article The First is the only Amendment of the Bill Of Rights proposed by the First Congress that is still pending before state lawmakers.  Signers: Speaker of the House Frederick Muhlenberg (PA) & Vice President John Adams (MA) 
Apportionment of U.S. Representatives
Titles of Nobility Amendment
May 1, 1810
Still pending before state lawmakers.
Prohibition of titles of nobility
Corwin Amendment
March 2, 1861
Still pending before state lawmakers.
Preservation of slavery
Child Labor Amendment
June 2, 1924
Still pending before state lawmakers.
Congressional power to regulate child labor
Equal Rights Amendment
March 22, 1972
Expired 1982, though possibly still able to be ratified as the deadline was extended and not placed in the Amendment's text.
Prohibition of inequality of men and women
District of Columbia Voting Rights Amendment
August 2, 1978
Expired 1985; cannot be revived as the deadline was in the amendment's text.
D.C. voting rights

National Collegiate Honor’s Council Partners in the Park Independence Hall Class of 2017 students at Federal Hall National Historic Park with Ranger holding the 1789 Acts of Congress opened to the 12 Amendment Joint Resolution of Congress issued September 25th, 1789. The only amendment in the "Bill of Rights" that was not ratified is Article the First, which is still pending before Congress. Cintly is holding an Arthur St. Clair signed Northwest Territory document, Imani is holding the First Bicameral Congressional Act establishing the U.S. Department of State and Rachael is holding a 1788 John Jay letter sent to the Governor of Connecticut, Samuel Huntington, transmitting a treaty with France. – Primary Sources courtesy of

Article the First or The Congressional Apportionment Amendment exhibited with the Bill of Rights and the 27th Amendment.  Article The First, due to a clerical error, is the only amendment submitted by the 1789 U.S. Congress in its "Bill of Rights" that was not ratified by the States. If the Bill of Rights’ first amendment had been ratified, the maximum constituent cap for each member of the House of Representatives would be 50,000 rather than the current one representative to 708,000 citizen ratio.  Image courtesy

Bill of Rights: A 1790’s printing of the September 25th, 1789, Act of the United States House of Representatives and Senate in Congress Assembled proposing 12 Constitutional Amendments: “Articles in addition to, amendment of, the constitution of the United States of America, proposed by congress, and ratified by the legislatures of the several states, pursuant to the fifth article of the original constitution.” Signed in type by Frederick Augustus Muhlenberg, Speaker of the House of Representatives, John Adams, Vice-President of the United States and president of the Senate. 
Titles of Nobility Amendment is exhibited here in the Acts Passed at the Second Session of the Eleventh Congress.[Washington, D.C.]. This is a first edition of the first official collected printings of congressional acts, printed for use by the House and
Senate, containing laws and treaties enacted under President Madison.

Laws of the United States, Public Acts of the Thirty-Sixth Congress of the United States passed at the Second Session, which began and held at the City of Washington, in the District of Columbia, on Monday, the 3rd day of December, 1860, and ended on Monday, the 4th day of March, 1861.

Corwin Amendment -  On March 2, 1861, the 36th Congress submitted to the state legislatures for ratification a proposed amendment to the United States Constitution to entice border slave states to stay in Union. U.S. Senator William H. Seward (R-NY) introduced the amendment in the Senate and Representative Thomas Corwin (R-OH) in the House of Representatives. Technically still pending before the states, the “Corwin Amendment,” if ratified, would have shielded "domestic institutions" of the states (which in 1861 included slavery) from the constitutional amendment process and from abolition or interference by Congress. The amendment reads:

"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."

March 2, 1861, Congressional printing of the failed 13th Amendment: "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."

The text refers to slavery with terms such as "domestic institutions" and "persons held to labor or service" and avoids using the word "slavery", following the example set by the framers at the Philadelphia Convention of 1787, which referred to slavery in its draft of the Constitution with comparable descriptions of legal status: "Person held to Service", "the whole Number of free Persons..., three fifths of all other Persons", "The Migration and Importation of such Persons..."
In a further attempt to seek the amendment's ratification and the preservation of the border States as members of the Union, Abraham Lincoln, in his first inaugural address, said of the Corwin Amendment:

"I understand a proposed amendment to the Constitution—which amendment, however, I have not seen—has passed Congress, to the effect that the Federal Government shall never interfere with the domestic institutions of the States, including that of persons held to service....holding such a provision to now be implied constitutional law, I have no objection to its being made express and irrevocable."

To His Excellency, The Governor of the State of North Carolina, Raleigh\
Washington, March 16, 1861
I transmit an authenticate copy of a Joint Resolution to amend the Constitution of the United States, adopted by Congress and approved on the 2d of March, 1861, by James Buchanan, President. 
I have the honor to be, 
Your Excellency's obedient servant,
By the President:  Abraham Lincoln
William H Seward, Secretary of State
Just weeks prior to the outbreak of the Civil War, Lincoln transmitted the above letter to each state's governor transmitting the proposed amendment, noting that Buchanan had approved it. This final attempt to salvage the union without bloodshed failed because the "States Rights" surrounding secession were complex and not just about slavery.

The Southern States that had already seceded ignored the opportunity to ratify the proposed 13th Amendment despite the fact that the Confederate States of America Republic was yet to be formed:

South Carolina on December 20, 1860
Mississippi on January 9th, 1861
Florida on January 10th, 1861
Alabama on January 11th, 1861
Georgia on January 19th, 1861
Louisiana on January 26th, 1861
Texas on February 1st, 1861

Although the proposed 13th amendment  would have preserved slavery as a State decision in perpetuity, the following States chose to secede despite the measure being passed by their delegations in Congress:

Virginia on April 17th, 1861
Arkansas on May 6th, 1861
North Carolina on May 20th, 1861
Tennessee on June 8th, 1861

The fact that no "Slave State," except Maryland, ratified the amendment makes a strong case that preserving slavery was not the primary motive behind the dissolution of the Union. The Corwin Amendment, due to the CSA’s rejection, went on to be ratified by the following States: Ohio — May 13, 1861, Maryland — January 10, 1862 and Illinois — February 14, 1862.

The seceding States would go on to formulate a constitution on March 11, 1861 and it would be fully ratified less than a year later on February 22, 1862. The CSA Constitution’s Preamble states:

We, the people of the Confederate States, each State acting in its sovereign and independent character, in order to form a permanent federal government, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity--invoking the favor and guidance of Almighty God--do ordain and establish this Constitution for the Confederate States of America.

Exhibited with the failed 13th Amendment, March 2, 1861, Congressional Globe printing  is The Union.  Speech of William H. Seward, in the Senate of the United States, January 12, 1861, which, after proposing the language that would become the Corwin Amendment, states:

"Discontented citizens have obtained political power in certain States, and they are using this authority to overthrow the Federal Government." Disunion would be an unspeakable calamity. It "would not only arrest, but extinguish the greatness of our country." 

Seward makes clear his -- and the Republican Party's -- belief that slavery is a matter exclusively within the concern of each State; that the Fugitive Slave Act must be enforced; and that, if necessary in order to save the Union, he would agree to a constitutional amendment to that effect.  


Child Labor Amendment - Exhibited is An examination of the proposed Twentieth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States: Being the so-called Child Labor Amendment, James A Emery National Association of Manufacturers, 1924.
Equal Rights Amendment - Exhibited is a letter and signed photo of United States Representative Leonor K. Sullivan, the first woman in Congress from Missouri.  Sullivan was one of very few members of Congress, and the only woman Representative, to vote against the Equal Rights Amendment for women.  

Also exhibited is a typed letter signed by US Senator Barry Goldwater on his official letterhead, dated July 27, 1978, regarding the Equal Rights Amendment and why he will not agree to extend the ratification deadline.  

Finally, exhibited is the Statement on the Equal Rights Amendment, United States Commission on Civil Rights, US Government printing office, 1978.


District of Columbia Voting Rights Amendment - Exhibited is The Constitution of the United States of America as amended, United States Government Printing Office, Washington, DC, 1978. 

95th Congress; House Document No. 95-256; Analytical Index; Unratified Amendments. Foreword by Honorable Peter W. Rodino, Jr. Lower front is stamped "Compliments of Senator Adlai Stevenson." Exhibits

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1 comment:

  1. The Discovery of Connecticut's 1790 Vote for all twelve amendments from the Bill of Rights (found in 2011 in their archives) caused the Congressional Apportionment Amendment to be ratified. Kentucky's vote in 1792 as the 15th state pushed it to 80%. More then enough to become a ratified amendment.


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