The Thirteenth Amendment's Revolutionary Aims
PROMISES OF LIBERTY, Alexander Tsesis, ed., Columbia University Press, Forthcoming
34 Pages Posted: 23 Oct 2007 Last revised: 2 Nov 2009
Date Written: October 31, 2009
The origins of the Thirteenth Amendment are found as much in the period of American reconstruction, when states ratified it into the Constitution, as they are in the American Revolution. During both eras Americans emphasized the human value of liberty. This chapter explores the notions of liberty that informed congressional debates on the proposed Amendment. It first reflects on revolutionary notions of liberty and then demonstrates how abolitionists relied on them. The chapter next turns to how abolitionist principles animated House and Senate debates about the proposed Thirteenth Amendment. It concludes with an explanation of why the Amendment proved to be inadequate to achieve radical Reconstruction.
Keywords: Thirteenth Amendment, civil rights, legal history, history, constitutional history, constitutional theory, revolutionary ideology, abolitionism
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