Duly Convicted: The Thirteenth Amendment as Procedural Due Process

41 Pages Posted: 3 Aug 2016 Last revised: 28 Mar 2017

See all articles by Christopher R. Green

Christopher R. Green

University of Mississippi - School of Law

Date Written: August 1, 2016


This paper argues for four implications of the Thirteenth Amendment’s crime exception — “except as a punishment for crime, whereof the party shall have been duly convicted” — for assessing the influence of abolitionists’ radical understandings of the Fifth Amendment on the meaning originally expressed by the text of the Fourteenth Amendment’s Due Process Clause.

First, Charles Sumner presented radical-abolitionist substantive due process to the Senate in his condemnation of the crime exception in 1864, but his views were quite clearly rejected in favor of a Northwest-Ordinance-style prohibition.

Second, “duly convicted” was seen as equivalent to “by due process of law,” but was taken not to require even that sentences be proportional.

Third, mainstream-Republican fans of the Northwest Ordinance held that both slavery and fugitive re-enslavement could be simultaneously wrongful but “lawful.”

Fourth, because “duly convicted” banned retroactive impositions of slavery, “due process of law” likewise requires prospectivity more generally in deprivations of life, liberty, or property.

A procedurally- and rule-of-law-focused reading of the Due Process Clause thus receives support not just from the meaning of “process,” but from forms of “due” and “law” as well.

Keywords: Thirteenth Amendment, Fourteenth Amendment, Due Process, Abolitionism, Northwest Ordinance, Missouri Compromise, Wilmot Proviso, Abraham Lincoln, Jacob Howard, Charles Sumner, Lawfulness, Retroactivity

Suggested Citation

Green, Christopher R., Duly Convicted: The Thirteenth Amendment as Procedural Due Process (August 1, 2016). Georgetown Journal of Law & Public Policy, Vol. 15, p. 73, 2017, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2817117

Christopher R. Green (Contact Author)

University of Mississippi - School of Law ( email )

Lamar Law Center
P.O. Box 1848
University, MS 38677
United States

Do you have a job opening that you would like to promote on SSRN?

Paper statistics

Abstract Views
PlumX Metrics