Why does the text of the Abolition Amendment adhere so closely to that of the 13th Amendment?

13th Amendment - logo by Chris Censullo

Modern abolitionists often ask about the origin of the text of Section 1 of the Abolition Amendment, particularly the phrase “neither slavery nor involuntary servitude”.  This phrase is a word-for-word quote from the 13th Amendment.  Re-using this phrase verbatim has several benefits, such as:

  • INTENDED RESULT:  the actual, historical effect of the 13th Amendment is undeniable: it ended human slavery; re-using the operative text of the 13th Amendment sends a clear signal that the Abolition Amendment will do the same thing for other animals
  • CONNECTING TO OTHER SECTIONS OF THE CONSTITUTION:  the 14th Amendment (ratified 1868) already provides that former slave-holders will not be compensated for the alleged “loss” of their “property, and by adhering to the 13th Amemdment language, the Abolition Amendment makes clear the continued applicability of this portion of the 14th Amendment
  • TAPPING INTO EXISTING PRECEDENTS: legal precedents based on the 13th Amendment will be more easily applied to cases involving the Abolition Amendment if the language used is identical; in other words, by re-using this language, the modern abolition movement taps into the power of 100+ years of existing case law interpreting this language
  • RATIFICATION PROCESS:  the political process of getting a Constitutional amendment ratified is very difficult; by re-using language that is already in the Constitution, the modern abolition movement minimizes the number of arguments available to pro-violence, pro-exploitation advocates; in other words, there’s simply a lot less to argue about than there would be if new language were used

These reasons represent some of the many benefits of keeping the text of the Abolition Amendment close to the relevant portions of the text of the 13th Amendment.

13th Amendment - logo by Chris Censullo
13th Amendment – logo by Chris Censullo