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The Crittenden-Johnson Resolution (also called the Crittenden Resolution) was passed by the United States Congress on July 25, 1861 after the start of the American Civil War, which began on April 12, 1861.

It should not be confused with the "Crittenden Compromise," a series of unsuccessful proposals debated after slave states began seceding from the Union in an attempt to prevent the South from leaving the Union.

Why it was passed; historical context[]

During the war, President Abraham Lincoln was worried 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.

What the resolution was about[]

Specifically, the resolution stated that the war was being waged for the reunion of the states, and not to abolish the south's "peculiar institution" of slavery. The resolution required the Union Government to take no actions against institution of slavery. It was named for Representative John J. Crittenden of Kentucky and Senator Andrew Johnson of Tennessee (who was later to become President).

The war was fought not for "overthrowing or interfering with the rights or established institutions of those States," but to "defend and maintain the supremacy of the Constitution and to preserve the Union." The war would end when the seceding states returned to the Union with slavery being intact.

Two congressmen voted against the measure. Thaddeus Stevens secured its repeal in December 1861.

The Corwin Amendment (CONG. GLOBE, 36th Cong. 2d Sess. 1364 (1861)), however, which attempted to constitutionalize slavery, was adopted by the necessary two-thirds in both Houses and actually submitted to the states for ratification. It was ratified by three states before the war pre-empted the debate.