Lincoln Regrets 'Exception Clause' In 13th Amendment


It’s obviously hard to know what Abraham Lincoln would think today about parts of the 13th Amendment that was broadly designed to end slavery. He was assassinated just four months after Congress passed the amendment.   

But utilizing advances in artificial intelligence in a campaign for Worth Rises, ad agency EP+Co brought Lincoln back to life to express his regret for supporting the 13th Amendment as written. The 1865 amendment abolished slavery with the so-called “exception clause” that allows governments to impose forced labor on those convicted of crimes.   



Worth Rises is a non-profit that is dedicated to “dismantling the U.S. prison system,” through legislation that would eliminate the exception clause, arguing that it is a form of slavery that disproportionately impacts people of color. EP+Co has supported the group pro bono since 2020.   

In a four-plus minute film that anchors the campaign entitled “The Most Famous Speech Never Given,” a very realistic-looking and AI-created Lincoln delivers a speech expressing his regret for including the exception in the amendment. He calls the exception a “grave mistake,” and explains that its inclusion was meant to solidify bi-partisan support for a law that he believed would end slavery, not perpetuate it.   

He implores 2024 presidential candidates and constituents to finally end slavery for all by passing the “Abolition Amendment,” which would do away with the exception. That amendment has been introduced in Congress several times, most recently last June by Congresswoman Nikema Williams of Georgia. Companion legislation in the Senate is being co-sponsored by Senators Jeff Merkley (Oregon) and Cory Booker (New Jersey).   

Using Lincoln’s past speeches and writings, EP+Co used AI technology to write a speech that is, well, very Lincolnesque-sounding. See for yourself here.  

The agency also worked closely with Lincoln authority and Chairman of the Lincoln Forum Harold Holzer to ensure that the speech and Lincoln’s appearance and voice were as authentic as possible.   

The campaign aims to drive awareness and support for the Abolition Amendment during the 2024 election cycle. Several states have passed similar proposals.  

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