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13th Amendment
Civil War Encyclopedia >> Politics


The Emancipation Proclaimation is generally viewed as having freed the slaves. There are two problems with this. First, since slavery was institutionalized in the Constitution and the power to amend the Constitution lies with Congress and the States, Lincoln did not have the power to free the slaves. Second, the Emacipation only applied to states or portions of states that had not yet been taken by Union forces. Slavery would have still been legal in a good portion of the South.

The 13th Amendment to the Constitution changes that, but specifically does not make slavery illegal. It can only be used as punishment for a crime. The author of the text of the Amendment is Thomas Jefferson. It was taken almost vebatim from his earlier draft of the laws that became the Ordinance of the Northwest Terrortories in 1787.

The amendment has seen a number of judicial tests, and the Supreme Court has stated specifically that the term slavery does not just apply to "negro servitude." (Supreme Court, 1888). Early attempts at civil rights tried to show that restricting blacks from certain environments was a form of servitude under the 13th Amendment, an argument the High Court rebuked repeatedly.

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Civil War Encyclopedia >> Politics

13th Amendment was added in 2005




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