I have taken some heat lately for proposing that white servitude in colonial America was comparable to black slavery. The demonstrable fact that black “slavery” prior to 1700 was indistinguishable from white “slavery” of the period doesn’t dissuade my critics. Perhaps, though, some contemplation of the Thirteenth Amendment will.
Everyone knows that the Thirteenth Amendment abolished slavery in the United States. Few, however, are aware that it also abolished involuntary servitude. Here is the text (from Wikipedia):
Section 1. 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.
Section 2. Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.
The thing to notice is that the amendment makes slavery and involuntary servitude legally equivalent. Anyone who contends they were not equivalent must contend with the reality that this amendment says otherwise.
The question is, Why?
My view is that servitude contracts had been so much abused by the owners of servant labor over the years (centuries, in fact) that the necessary expedient was to eliminate the practice in its entirety.
To conceptualize the matter in a practical way, imagine a laborer who on Date A contracts to provide services beginning on Date B, but decides in the interim to quit the contract. Should the employer have the right to enforce the original contract?
The Thirteenth Amendment assures that the laborer cannot be compelled to involuntary servitude.