What is the 13th Amendment?
The 13th amendment to the United States Constitution has had a huge impact on the United States. It was ratified on December 6, 1865. So the 13th Amendment was passed during the Reconstruction Era. And the Reconstruction Era existed after the Civil War ended. So this was a time when the Confederate States that had broken off from the whole United States were joining back together with the northern states to form one complete U.S. again. And so this was a difficult time for the country.
A lot of laws had to be passed to help figure out how this is going to happen, how all these states were going to join back together. And in addition, many of the confederate soldiers had to be granted pardons because they were considered in opposition to the US and so they were committing illegal acts, and so in order for them not to go to prison, and they had to be granted Presidential pardons. Now the 13th Amendment freed all states, and it also legally forbade slavery in the U.S. So it freed all current slaves and said that slavery could not exist again. Now, slaves were freed without giving monetary compensation to the slave-holders. And this is because this was considered an illegal act now, and so it didn’t make sense to give money to the people because they were doing something illegal. And it’s interesting, though, because these slaveholders saw their slaves as their property, and since they were losing their property, they would want to be compensated for it, and so this was a huge financial loss to the slaveholders.
Now, what kind of impact did the 13th Amendment have? Well, for one, it changed the societal composition of the South and some of the border states. Because before African Americans were generally slaves, but now they were just normal citizens. It also changed the economy. Because like I said earlier, the slaves were considered property, so these slaveholders had to pay for them initially, but after that they didn’t have to pay wages. Now if they were going to hire African Americans, they had to pay them wages for their work, and so this changed the economy. In some cases maybe it was too expensive to own these slaves – or to employee these slaves. And so it created economic change in the south. And then civil rights was also born after the 13 Amendment happened. Because now these African – at first the idea was these African Americans needed to be freed from slavery. But now that they have been freed, they’re not on equal ground with the white people of the U.S. And so that’s what happened with the civil rights movement, pretty much starting at this point, all the way up until not that long ago as African Americans and others on their behalf were fighting for equal rights to that of the other Americans.
Now, to give you the full context of the 13th Amendment, it has two sections, and so section one says neither slavery nor involuntary servitude except as a punishment for crime, wherein the party shall have been duly convicted shall exist within the United States or any place subject to their jurisdiction. So this was saying, like I said earlier, slavery could never exist again. People could only be made to work basically if it was punishment for a crime they had been convicted for. So basically what was happening was these slaves were being treated like criminals, even though they were not. And then section two says Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation. And so that’s some of the legislation I was talking about that was born out of the Reconstruction Era.
So this 13th Amendment was passed, but now other laws had to be put in place to help this process of the slaves being freed go smoothly.