A. Thirteenth Amendment History and Judicial Development

      Enacted in 1865, the Thirteenth Amendment prohibited the institution of chattel slavery in the United States. The framers of the Amendment did not utilize specific language to narrow its scope to African-American ex-slaves. Consequently, the Amendment protects “anyone regardless of race or their relationship to nineteenth-century slavery; the remnants of slavery as encountered by anyone regardless of race or their relationship to nineteenth-century slavery; or any discrimination, humiliation, or subjugation as to anyone.” As the Supreme Court held, “While the immediate concern [of the Thirteenth Amendment] was with African slavery, the Amendment was not limited to that . . . [i]t was a charter of universal civil freedom for all persons, of whatever race, color, or estate, under the flag.”

      In addition to the text, the intent of Congress was to expand the Amendment to non-Blacks. In 1865, Congress was committed to ridding the country of slavery and to promoting free labor in which all people were entitled to enjoy the fruits of their own labor. This commitment encompassed both Blacks and Whites, as Congress recognized that Southern slavery had decreased workers' wages and had stigmatized agricultural and hard labor. Senator H. Wilson, addressing Congress during the Thirteenth Amendment debates, stated:

       [t]his gigantic crime against the peace, the unity, and the life of the nation is to make eternal the hateful dominion of man over the souls and bodies of his fellow men. Those sacrifices of property, of health, and of life, these appalling sorrows and agonies now upon us, are all the merciless inflictions of slavery . . . . Yes, slavery is the conspirator that conceived and organized this mighty conspiracy against the unity and existence of the Republic . . . .

      Senator Wilson pronounced that slavery was the only “foe our country has on the globe . . .” and that “every word spoken, every line written, every act performed, that keeps the breath of life in slavery for a moment, is against the existence of democratic institutions, against the dignity of the toiling millions, against liberty, the peace, the honor, the renown, and the life of the nation.”

      Accordingly, the Thirteenth Amendment--passed to end immoral, racial slavery-- was also passed with a broader view: that one should own his own labor and be free. Thus, its passage prohibited “all repressive conduct rationally related to the impediments of freedom, not simply racist labor practices.” When Senator Wilson and Representative Ingersoll addressed to the 38th Congress that the “poor [W]hite man” was also a victim of slavery, they recognized that poor people, regardless of their race, suffered the effects of slavery--not just African Americans. The debates give us insight into the broader scope of the Thirteenth Amendment's vision. While the 38th Congress had yet to recognize that others in the country were suffering from badges and incidents of slavery--namely Native Americans --the vision of the Thirteenth Amendment was to prevent the involuntary servitude of all in the country, to whomever was suffering from its conditions.