A blog about libertarian politics and radical political theory, focusing on political philosophy and theory, constitutional law, civil liberties, civil rights, labor law, taxation and budgets, U.S.-Israeli foreign policy, U.S. electoral politics and election statistics, anarchism, and other topics.
Sunday, January 5, 2014
Slavery, the Civil War, and the Fifth Amendment
Originally written in October 2010,
the beginning of the Civil War, the taking of slaves had been
outlawed in the United States for about half a century. Ongoing
possession of slaves, however, had not yet been outlawed.
the Civil War, Abraham Lincoln and Ulysses S. Grant's Union military
forces fought a seceding Confederate army formed by the several
Southern states. States may secede either when a majority of the
states consent, or unilaterally through revolution.
Emancipation Proclamation executive orders of 1862-1863 freed slaves
in the Southern states. This amounts to ineffectual action, since the
law ostensibly affected territories which were not under the control
of Lincoln's Union government. Many neglect to mention that slavery
still existed in the North even after the proclamation.
Civil War lasted four years and resulted in over 640,000 deaths, the
majority of which were on the Union side.
begs the question: Could the Civil War and the resulting deaths have
been prevented, and if so, could they have been prevented through
action which was completely legal?
Considering that slaves were still legally the private property of
their owners as of the beginning of the war, the North could have
reimbursed slave owners on both sides of the Mason-Dixon line for the
market value of their slaves. In fact, if, before the war had broken
out, the United States had resolved to end slavery only through legal
means, they would have acknowledged that this meant they were
constitutionally obligated to do just that, and would have preceded
with this legal route to abolition.
The North didn't seek this legal route because it was envious of how
much wealth the South stood to generate thanks to the capital it
possessed in the form of slaves and plantations. The North also would
have had to pay an additional 50% tariff on all goods coming from the
South as a foreign country. The Union knew it had the military might
necessary to accomplish Southern slavery abolition through force, and
the apportioned taxes it levied stood to disproportionately
under-favor the South due to the three-fifths clause.
During the Civil War, a slave was defined as three-fifths of a
person, and thus not entitled as a full person to due process or just
compensation for the taking of his liberty or property, i.e.; his
status as an unpaid, coerced laborer was constitutionally justified.
Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution states that
“no person shall… be deprived of… property, without due process
of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without
The Fifth Amendment certainly applies to this case because these
slaves were "private property... taken for public use".
First, the slaves were, indisputably, privately-owned property
possessed by their white plantation-owner masters. Second, slaves
were taken for public use, as evidenced by the many cases in which
black children have been taken from their families by social services
and made into practically orphaned wards of the state, as well as the
obvious example of all the coerced prison labor performed by black
inmates (whom are disproportionately jailed) throughout the history
of this country.
Whatever your view of secessionism and states' rights, it seems that
both the Union and the Confederacy had in mind the same goal: to own
blacks as property, be it publicly or privately, in order to generate
wealth for those who possess them.