Constitution of the United States/Thirteenth Amend./Section 1 Prohibition on Slavery and Involuntary Servitude

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Constitutional Law Treatise
Table of Contents
US Constitution.jpg
Constitutional Law Outline
Introduction
The Preamble
Article I Legislative Branch
Art. I, Section 1 Legislative Vesting Clause
Art. I, Section 2 House of Representatives
Art. I, Section 3 Senate
Art. I, Section 4 Congress
Art. I, Section 5 Proceedings
Art. I, Section 6 Rights and Disabilities
Art. I, Section 7 Legislation
Art. I, Section 8 Enumerated Powers
Art. I, Section 9 Powers Denied Congress
Art. I, Section 10 Powers Denied States
Article II Executive Branch
Art. II, Section 1 Function and Selection
Art. II, Section 2 Powers
Art. II, Section 3 Duties
Art. II, Section 4 Impeachment
Article III Judicial Branch
Art. III, Section 1 Vesting Clause
Art. III, Section 2 Justiciability
Art. III, Section 3 Treason
Article IV Relationships Between the States
Art. IV, Section 1 Full Faith and Credit Clause
Art. IV, Section 2 Interstate Comity
Art. IV, Section 3 New States and Federal Property
Art. IV, Section 4 Republican Form of Government
Article V Amending the Constitution
Article VI Supreme Law
Article VII Ratification
First Amendment: Fundamental Freedoms
Religion
Establishment Clause
Free Exercise Clause
Free Speech Clause
Freedom of Association
Second Amendment: Right to Bear Arms
Third Amendment: Quartering Soldiers
Fourth Amendment: Searches and Seizures
Fifth Amendment: Rights of Persons
Sixth Amendment: Rights in Criminal Prosecutions
Seventh Amendment: Civil Trial Rights
Eighth Amendment: Cruel and Unusual Punishment
Ninth Amendment: Unenumerated Rights
Tenth Amendment: Rights Reserved to the States and the People
Eleventh Amendment: Suits Against States
Twelfth Amendment: Election of President
Thirteenth Amendment: Abolition of Slavery
Thirteenth Amend., Section 1 Prohibition on Slavery and Involuntary Servitude
Thirteenth Amend., Section 2 Enforcement
Fourteenth Amendment: Equal Protection and Other Rights
Fourteenth Amend., Section 1 Rights
Fourteenth Amend., Section 2 Apportionment of Representation
Fourteenth Amend., Section 3 Disqualification from Holding Office
Fourteenth Amend., Section 4 Public Debt
Fourteenth Amend., Section 5 Enforcement
Fifteenth Amendment: Right of Citizens to Vote
Fifteenth Amend., Section 1 Right to Vote
Fifteenth Amend., Section 2 Enforcement
Sixteenth Amendment: Income Tax
Seventeenth Amendment: Popular Election of Senators
Eighteenth Amendment: Prohibition of Liquor
Eighteenth Amend., Section 1 Prohibition
Eighteenth Amend., Section 2 Enforcement of Prohibition
Eighteenth Amend., Section 3 Ratification Deadline
Nineteenth Amendment: Women's Suffrage
Twentieth Amendment: Presidential Term and Succession
Twentieth Amend., Section 1 Terms
Twentieth Amend., Section 2 Meetings of Congress
Twentieth Amend., Section 3 Succession
Twentieth Amend., Section 4 Congress and Presidential Succession
Twentieth Amend., Section 5 Effective Date
Twentieth Amend., Section 6 Ratification
Twenty-First Amendment: Repeal of Prohibition
Twenty-First Amend., Section 1 Repeal of Eighteenth Amendment
Twenty-First Amend., Section 2 Importation, Transportation, and Sale of Liquor
Twenty-First Amend., Section 3 Ratification Deadline
Twenty-Second Amendment: Presidential Term Limits
Twenty-Second Amend., Section 1 Limit
Twenty-Second Amend., Section 2 Ratification Deadline
Twenty-Third Amendment: District of Columbia Electors
Twenty-Third Amend., Section 1 Electors
Twenty-Third Amend., Section 2 Enforcement
Twenty-Fourth Amendment: Abolition of Poll Tax
Twenty-Fourth Amend., Section 1 Poll Tax
Twenty-Fourth Amend., Section 2 Enforcement
Twenty-Fifth Amendment: Presidential Vacancy
Twenty-Fifth Amend., Section 1 Presidential Vacancy
Twenty-Fifth Amend., Section 2 Vice President Vacancy
Twenty-Fifth Amend., Section 3 Declaration by President
Twenty-Fifth Amend., Section 4 Declaration by Vice President and Others
Twenty-Sixth Amendment: Reduction of Voting Age
Twenty-Sixth Amend., Section 1 Eighteen Years of Age
Twenty-Sixth Amend., Section 2 Enforcement
Twenty-Seventh Amendment: Congressional Compensation

Thirteenth Amendment Abolition of Slavery

Section 1 Prohibition on Slavery and Involuntary Servitude

Clause Text
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.

Prohibition Clause[edit | edit source]

Section 1 of the Thirteenth Amendment prohibits slavery and involuntary servitude in all places subject to U.S. jurisdiction.[1] Since the states ratified the Amendment in 1865, the Supreme Court has decided cases interpreting the Prohibition Clause and applying it to various forms of government or private action. In particular, the Court has examined: (1) whether particular burdens imposed on individuals constitute prohibited "badges" or "incidents" of slavery;[2] and (2) the meaning of "involuntary servitude."[3]

Defining Badges and Incidents of Slavery[edit | edit source]

The Supreme Court has often addressed the scope of the Thirteenth Amendment's prohibitions when considering the extent of Congress's power to enforce the Thirteenth Amendment by enacting legislation.[4] For example, in 1883, the Supreme Court considered the scope of the Amendment's Prohibition Clause in cases that implicated Congress's power to criminalize the racially discriminatory denial of a person's access to public accommodations.[5] In the consolidated Civil Rights Cases, the Court held that the Thirteenth Amendment prohibited "slavery and its incidents."[6] However, the Court determined that the Thirteenth Amendment's concept of prohibited "badges" and "incidents" of slavery did not encompass private racial discrimination that denied a person access to accommodations.[7] Instead, the Court explained, the "badges and incidents" of slavery included: (1) compulsory service for another's benefit; (2) restrictions on freedom of movement; (3) the inability to hold property or enter into contracts; and (4) the incapacity to have standing in court or testify against a White person.[8]

Although the Supreme Court's decision in the Civil Rights Cases rested on its interpretation of the prohibitions in Section 1 of the Thirteenth Amendment, the Court implied that Congress's enforcement power under Section 2 did not authorize Congress to prohibit the private racial discrimination at issue.[9] Subsequently, in Plessy v. Ferguson, the Court held that state-sanctioned segregation in railway cars did not violate Section 1 of the Thirteenth Amendment, writing that a "statute which implies merely a legal distinction between the white and [African American] races . . . has no tendency to destroy the legal equality of the two races, or reestablish a state of involuntary servitude."[10]

During the Civil Rights Era of the 1960s, the Supreme Court's views shifted significantly. The Court held that Congress may play an important role in determining the scope of its enforcement power through the enactment of legislation.[11] The Court also held that Congress's power may enable it to forbid some forms of private racial discrimination that might not fall within the prohibitions of Section 1 of the Thirteenth Amendment, but, in Congress's view, amount to "badges" or "incidents" of slavery.[12]

Defining Involuntary Servitude[edit | edit source]

Scope of the Prohibition[edit | edit source]

In addition to interpreting the scope of the term "slavery" in the Thirteenth Amendment, the Supreme Court has also examined the meaning of the Amendment's prohibition on "involuntary servitude." This form of servitude generally involves compulsion of a person's labor through the use of physical force, legal action, or threats thereof.[13] Even after the Thirteenth Amendment's ratification, some states subjected African Americans and other racial groups to involuntary servitude by enacting peonage laws.[14] These laws often used the threat of force or legal action to compel individuals to perform services to satisfy a real or concocted debt or obligation.[15] The Court had acknowledged that the Thirteenth Amendment prohibited peonage[16] and, in the 1905 case Clyatt v. United States, it later held that the Thirteenth Amendment authorized Congress to prohibit this practice.[17] In doing so, the Court distinguished peonage from the legally permissible situation in which a person voluntarily performs services to pay off a debt, which does not involve the use of law or force to compel "performance or a continuance of the service."[18]

In the 1911 case Bailey v. Alabama, the Supreme Court clarified that the Thirteenth Amendment prohibits states from compelling a person to perform a contract for personal services through the use of criminal sanctions.[19] In Bailey, an Alabama law created a statutory presumption that a worker intended to commit criminal fraud if he did not perform a labor contract and did not return property he had already received as compensation to his employer.[20] Under the statute, fraud was punishable by a fine or, alternatively, "hard labor."[21] The Court held that the law indirectly compelled workers to perform labor in violation of the Thirteenth Amendment's prohibition on involuntary servitude and federal laws prohibiting peonage.[22]

Much later in the twentieth century, the Supreme Court had occasion to consider whether the use of psychological coercion to compel work could constitute prohibited "involuntary servitude."[23] In United States v. Kozminksi, the operators of a dairy farm were indicted for allegedly using physical and psychological coercion to compel two persons with mental disabilities to perform work on the farm.[24] The alleged means of psychological coercion included subjecting the individuals to "substandard living conditions" and "isolation from others."[25] The district court instructed the jury that a person could be kept in a condition of involuntary servitude through the use of physical, legal, or "other coercion."[26]

On appeal, the Supreme Court examined whether the concept of "involuntary servitude" in relevant provisions of federal criminal law encompassed the use of psychological coercion to compel labor.[27] Because one of these statutes--18 U.S.C. § 241--prohibited "conspiracy to interfere with an individual's Thirteenth Amendment right to be free from involuntary servitude," the Court examined the scope of the Thirteenth Amendment's prohibition on involuntary servitude under the Court's precedents.[28] The Court had never adopted the view that a person could be subject to involuntary servitude through the use of psychological coercion.[29] However, the Court suggested that Congress could legislatively expand the definition of "involuntary servitude" to include psychological coercion.[30] Because Congress had not done so at the time of its decision in 1988, the Court reversed the convictions and remanded the case for a new trial.[31]

After the Supreme Court decided Kozminski, Congress enacted legislation to broaden the definition of "involuntary servitude" for purposes of federal criminal law.[32] In the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act of 2000, Congress referenced Kozminski and clarified that "involuntary servitude" included servitude maintained through nonviolent coercion.[33] Congress's legislative response to the Kozminksi decision is an example of the exercise of its Thirteenth Amendment enforcement powers.[34]

Historical Exceptions[edit | edit source]

The Supreme Court has recognized several limited historical exceptions to the Thirteenth Amendment's prohibition on involuntary servitude. The Court has held that some forms of involuntary service do not violate the Thirteenth Amendment because they implicate public duties that a citizen owes to his government.[35] These duties include compelled military service in a war that Congress has declared;[36] mandatory road work required under state law;[37] and, likely, jury service.[38] The Court has indicated that the common law may also furnish exceptions to the Thirteenth Amendment's prohibition on involuntary servitude.[39] For example, the Court upheld federal laws requiring a sailor to serve on a ship in accordance with his contract because the common law had long recognized this duty.[40]

Exceptions Clause[edit | edit source]

Although the Supreme Court has long recognized limited historical exceptions to the Thirteenth Amendment's ban on involuntary servitude,[41] the Amendment also contains a specific, textual exception that permits the government to compel a person convicted of a crime to perform labor.[42] The Thirteenth Amendment's drafters borrowed this exception from Article 6 of the 1787 ordinance governing the Northwest Territory.[43] That ordinance provided that "[t]here shall be neither slavery nor involuntary servitude in the said territory, otherwise than in punishment of crimes whereof the party shall have been duly convicted."[44]

In the 1911 case Bailey v. Alabama, the Supreme Court clarified that the Thirteenth Amendment's exception for criminal punishment does not permit a state to compel a person to perform a contract for personal services by imposing criminal sanctions for nonperformance.[45] In Bailey, an Alabama law established a presumption that a worker intended to commit criminal fraud if he did not perform a labor contract and failed to return property he had received as compensation to his employer.[46] Under the statute, fraud was punishable by a fine or, alternatively, "hard labor."[47] The Court held that the law indirectly compelled workers to perform labor in violation of the Thirteenth Amendment's prohibition on involuntary servitude and federal laws prohibiting peonage.[48]

  1. Thirteenth Amend., Section 1 Prohibition on Slavery and Involuntary Servitude. The Thirteenth Amendment prohibits the enslavement of all races of people. See The Slaughter-House Cases, 83 U.S. (16 Wall.) 36, 72 (1872).
  2. See, e.g., The Civil Rights Cases, 109 U.S. 3, 20-22 (1883). In a pair of cases decided shortly after ratification of the Thirteenth Amendment, the Supreme Court concluded that, although the Amendment freed slaves from bondage, it did not annul contracts that private parties had entered into for the sale of slaves before ratification. Boyce v. Tabb, 85 U.S. (18 Wall.) 546, 548 (1873); Osborn v. Nicholson, 80 U.S. (18 Wall.) 654, 662-63 (1872).
  3. See, e.g., Clyatt v. United States, 197 U.S. 207, 215 (1905).
  4. For more on Congress's enforcement power under Section 2 of the Thirteenth Amendment, see Thirteenth Amend., Sec. 2: Overview of Enforcement Clause of Thirteenth Amendment.
  5. The Civil Rights Cases, 109 U.S. 3, 8-9 (1883).
  6. Id. at 23.
  7. Id. at 25. See also Corrigan v. Buckley, 271 U.S. 323, 327, 330-32 (1926) (holding that the Thirteenth Amendment did not prohibit the Supreme Court of the District of Columbia from enforcing a covenant among private individuals that forbade the lease, sale, or occupancy of real estate by African Americans for twenty-one years).
  8. The Civil Rights Cases, 109 U.S. at 22.
  9. Id. at 24-25.
  10. Plessy v. Ferguson, 163 U.S. 537, 542-43 (1896) (upholding the constitutionality of a Louisiana law mandating racial segregation in railway cars), overruled by Brown v. Bd. of Educ., 347 U.S. 483 (1954). For an example of another case involving state action in which the Supreme Court interpreted the Thirteenth Amendment's prohibition on slavery without addressing the scope of Congress's Section 2 enforcement power, see Palmer v. Thompson, 403 U.S. 217, 226-27 (1971) (holding that a city's closing of swimming pools to all persons, even if done with the intent to prevent African Americans and Whites from swimming together, did not amount to a "badge or incident" of slavery prohibited under the Thirteenth Amendment).
  11. For a discussion of the relevant cases, see Thirteenth Amend., Sec. 2: Scope of Enforcement Clause of Thirteenth Amendment.
  12. See id.
  13. See United States v. Kozminski, 487 U.S. 931, 942-44 (1988), superseded by statute, 18 U.S.C. § 1589; Clyatt v. United States, 197 U.S. 207, 215 (1905).
  14. See, e.g., Peonage Cases, 123 F. 671, 673-74, 682 (M.D. Ala. 1903).
  15. See id.
  16. The Slaughter-House Cases, 83 U.S. (16 Wall.) 36, 72 (1873). In these cases, the Supreme Court also indicated that the Thirteenth Amendment prohibited slavery and involuntary servitude when imposed on people of any racial group. Id. Congress also enacted several laws prohibiting peonage and activities in support thereof pursuant to its Thirteenth Amendment enforcement power. See, e.g., 18 U.S.C. § 1581; id. § 1584; 42 U.S.C. § 1994. See also United States v. Gaskin, 320 U.S. 527, 527-28 (1944).
  17. Clyatt, 197 U.S. at 218.
  18. Id. at 215-16.
  19. 219 U.S. 219, 244 (1911) ("The State may impose involuntary servitude as a punishment for crime, but it may not compel one man to labor for another in payment of a debt, by punishing him as a criminal if he does not perform the service or pay the debt.").
  20. Id. at 227. The Court also noted that, under the Alabama Rules of Evidence, the accused worker was unable to rebut this presumption by testifying about his "uncommunicated motives, purpose or intention." Id. at 228.
  21. Id. at 231.
  22. Id. at 243-45. The Court defined a "peon" as "one who is compelled to work for his creditor until his debt is paid" and stated that the "fact that [the worker] contracted to perform the labor which is sought to be compelled does not withdraw the attempted enforcement from the condemnation of the [peonage laws]." Id. at 242. See also Pollock v. Williams, 322 U.S. 4, 7, 25 (1944) (holding unconstitutional and in violation of federal peonage laws a Florida law that considered a worker's failure to perform labor after obtaining an advance prima facie evidence of intent to defraud); Taylor v. Georgia, 315 U.S. 25, 26, 29 (1942) (holding violative of the Thirteenth Amendment a Georgia law that punished a person who had received an advance on a contract for services, did not repay the advance, and was "bound by the threat of penal sanction to remain at his employment until the debt [had] been discharged"); United States v. Reynolds, 235 U.S. 133, 149-50 (1914) (holding that a person convicted of a crime is held in a condition of peonage when he faces arrest for violating a contract to perform services for a surety that payed fines resulting from his conviction to the state).
  23. United States v. Kozminski, 487 U.S. 931, 935-36 (1988), superseded by statute, 18 U.S.C. § 1589.
  24. Id. at 934.
  25. Id. at 936.
  26. Id. at 937 (explaining that the district court had instructed the jury that "[involuntary servitude] may also include situations involving either physical and other coercion, or a combination thereof, used to detain persons in employment").
  27. Id. at 939.
  28. Id. at 934, 941 (internal quotation marks omitted). The other provision, 18 U.S.C. § 1584, criminalized knowingly and willfully holding another person "to involuntary servitude" but did not specifically mention the Thirteenth Amendment. See id. at 934.
  29. Id. at 944 ("The guarantee of freedom from involuntary servitude has never been interpreted specifically to prohibit compulsion of labor by other means, such as psychological coercion. We draw no conclusions from this historical survey about the potential scope of the Thirteenth Amendment.").
  30. Id. at 952.
  31. Id. at 952-53 ("The District Court's instruction on involuntary servitude, which encompassed other means of coercion, may have caused the Kozminskis to be convicted for conduct that does not violate either statute. Accordingly, we agree with the Court of Appeals that the convictions must be reversed and the case remanded for a new trial.").
  32. 22 U.S.C. § 7102(8).
  33. Id. §§ 7101(b)(13), 7102(8).
  34. For additional examples, see Thirteenth Amend., Sec. 2: Overview of Enforcement Clause of Thirteenth Amendment.
  35. Butler v. Perry, 240 U.S. 328, 332-33 (1916) ("[The Thirteenth Amendment] certainly was not intended to interdict enforcement of those duties which individuals owe to the State, such as services in the army, militia, on the jury, etc. The great purpose in view was liberty under the protection of effective government, not the destruction of the latter by depriving it of essential powers." (citations omitted)).
  36. Selective Draft Law Cases, 245 U.S. 366, 390 (1918) ("[W]e are unable to conceive upon what theory the exaction by government from the citizen of the performance of his supreme and noble duty of contributing to the defense of the rights and honor of the nation, as the result of a war declared by the great representative body of the people, can be said to be the imposition of involuntary servitude in violation of the prohibitions of the Thirteenth Amendment, [and thus] we are constrained to the conclusion that the contention to that effect is refuted by its mere statement.").
  37. Butler, 240 U.S. at 332-33.
  38. United States v. Kozminski, 487 U.S. 931, 943-44 (1988) (stating, in dicta, that the Thirteenth Amendment does not prevent the state or federal governments from compelling jury service by threatening criminal sanctions), superseded by statute, 18 U.S.C. § 1589; Hurtado v. United States, 410 U.S. 578, 589 n.11 (1973) (stating that the federal government's $1-per-day payment to an incarcerated material witness before trial was not "so low as to impose involuntary servitude prohibited by the Thirteenth Amendment"); Butler, 240 U.S. at 332-33 (suggesting, in dicta, that the Thirteenth Amendment was not meant to prohibit mandatory jury service). See also Int'l Union v. Wis. Emp. Relations Bd., 336 U.S. 245, 251-52 (1949) (holding that, as applied, a Wisconsin statute authorizing the State Employment Relations Board to order employees of a labor union to cease unannounced work stoppages did not violate the Thirteenth Amendment), overruled by Int'l Ass'n of Machinists & Aerospace Workers v. Wis. Employment Rels. Comm'n, 427 U.S. 132 (1976); United States v. Petrillo, 332 U.S. 1, 12-13 (1947) (rejecting a facial Thirteenth Amendment challenge to a federal statute that criminalized coercing a communications licensee to employ more persons than necessary to conduct his business); Marcus Brown Holding Co. v. Feldman, 256 U.S. 170, 199 (1921) (determining that a state law did not violate the Thirteenth Amendment by making it a misdemeanor for a lessor or his agent to fail intentionally to furnish water, heat, light, and other essential services to tenants because the law did not compel the provision of personal services but rather services "attached to land").
  39. Robertson v. Baldwin, 165 U.S. 275, 282-83 (1897) (determining that federal laws requiring a sailor to serve on a ship in accordance with his contract did not violate the Thirteenth Amendment because historically the "contract of the sailor has been treated as an exceptional one [involving] to a certain extent, the surrender of his personal liberty during the life of the contract").
  40. Id. See also Patterson v. Bark Eudora, 190 U.S. 169, 174-75 (1903).
  41. See Thirteenth Amend., Sec. 1: Historical Exceptions.
  42. Thirteenth Amend., Section 1 Prohibition on Slavery and Involuntary Servitude.
  43. An ordinance for the government of the territory of the United States, North-west of the river Ohio, Libr. of Cong., [1].
  44. Id.
  45. 219 U.S. 219, 244 (1911) ("The State may impose involuntary servitude as a punishment for crime, but it may not compel one man to labor for another in payment of a debt, by punishing him as a criminal if he does not perform the service or pay the debt.").
  46. Id. at 227. The Court also noted that, under the Alabama Rules of Evidence, the accused worker was unable to rebut this presumption by testifying about his "uncommunicated motives, purpose or intention" for ceasing to perform work and keeping the compensation already paid to him. Id. at 228.
  47. Id. at 231.
  48. Id. at 243-44. See also United States v. Reynolds, 235 U.S. 133, 149-50 (1914) (holding that a person convicted of a crime is held in a condition of peonage when he faces arrest for violating a contract to perform services for a surety that payed fines resulting from his conviction to the state).