The Thirteenth Amendment: The Abolition of Slavery

Map of the division of the states during the C...

Map of the division of the states during the Civil War. Blue represents Union states, including those admitted during the war; light blue represents border states; red represents Confederate states. Unshaded areas were not states before or during the Civil War. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

What if I were to say to you that Lincoln didn’t outlaw slavery? Would you think me crazy?

Okay, Lincoln didn’t outlaw slavery because he was dead. But Congress drafted the 13th Amendment to outlaw slavery, and would not allow the defeated Confederate States back into the Union until that state ratified the amendment.

Slavery had long been a problem that had divided the nation, eventually dividing the country into two sections and bringing war with it. The Founding Fathers, while not protecting slavery in the Constitution, had allowed it to continue to exist to appease their southern brethren into staying in the Union. They did not address the issue head on, as perhaps they should have.

However, slavery was outlawed after the Civil War and the Thirteenth Amendment.

Or was it?


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.


Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.

Read Section 1 carefully.

One of the complaints that I hear from the left frequently is that if we allow the privatization of prisons, then the prisoners will be used as slave labor.

You also hear this a lot from the left (courtesy of the Huffington Post):

Consider this: despite the fact that violent crime in America has been on the decline, the nation’s incarceration rate has tripled since 1980.

It never occurs to these people that maybe violent crime has been on the decline because incarceration has tripled since 1980. That logic never crosses their minds.

However, I digress.

The 13th Amendment allows for slavery if you have been convicted of a crime, any crime.

Thus in theory, being sentenced to 90 days in bondage could be a conceivable punishment for a crime.

In other words, private citizens cannot hold people as slaves, but the government can.

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