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Did the Slaves Author the Thirteenth Amendment? An Essay in Redemptive History

36 Pages Posted: 6 Oct 2011  

Guyora Binder

University at Buffalo Law School

Date Written: October 1, 1993

Abstract

American constitutional interpretation is deeply traditionalist, and privileges original intent. The difficulty with thus authorizing the past in interpreting the Thirteenth Amendment is that it purports to abolish custom and tradition as unjust. This essay argues that, given the Amendment’s denunciation of the polity that enacted it as illegitimate, its questionable formal pedigree, and the agency of the slaves in precipitating, defining, and resolving the crisis that enabled it, the slaves have a moral claim to status as its authors. It follows that the original intent guiding interpretation should be that of the slaves themselves.

Keywords: constitutional law, constitutional history, law and literature, slavery, civil rights

Suggested Citation

Binder, Guyora, Did the Slaves Author the Thirteenth Amendment? An Essay in Redemptive History (October 1, 1993). Yale Journal of Law & Humanities, Vol. 5, pp. 471-505, 1993; Buffalo Legal Studies Research Paper No. 1993-001. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1939425

Guyora Binder (Contact Author)

University at Buffalo Law School ( email )

528 O'Brian Hall
Buffalo, NY 14260-1100
United States
716-645-2673 (Phone)
716-645-2640 (Fax)

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