Wednesday, December 6, 2006

Wednesday's Today in History

13th Amendment

This amendment completed the abolition of slavery, which had begun with President Abraham Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation of 1863. The Emancipation Proclamation had only applied to slaves being held in areas that were in rebellion against the United States at the time of the Proclamation. Slaves in areas then controlled by the Union were not freed until this amendment took effect (However, some states where slavery was formerly legal had changed their constitutions in the meantime). The Supreme Court has ruled that the Thirteenth Amendment does not prohibit mandatory military service in the United States. Interestingly enough, the 13th Amendment makes the use of the "chain gang" or other methods of involuntary servitude by convicted criminals constitutional in the United States, as long as the methods of enforcing the servitude are not "cruel and unusual" (floggings, beatings, etc.). The Thirteenth Amendment also prohibits specific performance as a judicial remedy for violations of contracts for personal services such as employment contracts. Offenses against the Thirteenth Amendment were being prosecuted as late as 1947.*

*United States v. Rowe, 73 Federal Supplement 76, as cited by Traver (1967) The Jealous Mistress. Boston: Little, Brown.

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