9 Law. Guild Rev. 92 (1949)
The Thirteenth, Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments

handle is hein.journals/guild9 and id is 100 raw text is: THE THIRTEENTH, FOURTEENTH AND FIFTEENTH
W. E. B. Du Bois

There is no more interesting effort than the attempt
in the United States of America to apply the demo-
cratic method in a great social reform like the aboli-
tion of Negro slavery. On July 4, 1776, the Founders
of the Republic announced to the world: We hold
these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created
equal: that they are endowed by their Creator with
certain inalienable rights: that among these are life,
liberty and the pursuit of happiness.  The men who
made this declaration were looking straight into the
faces of 700,000 slaves, forming one-fifth of the nation
which they declared to be free.
What did this extraordinary statement mean? It
meant that the majority of the persons who were
founding the new   democracy believed that Negro
slavery was incompatible with democracy and doomed
to disappear. The practical basis of that belief was the
emancipation of the slave in most of the colonies since
the Revolutionary War. In the colonies which still
retained slavery, there was a considerable body of be-
lief, that the institution was temporary and that the
continuance of the slave system depended upon the
slave trade; that the real problem was what was to be
done with the slave trade. The Liberal believed, there-
f6re, that inaction was the wisest present course. Lib-
erals always believe this.
The result was that under the new constitution, a
period of laissez faire from 1787 to 1808 ensued, dur-
ing which the slave trade could not be touched. It
was assumed that before the end of that period, the
trade would be abolished. One fact modified this as-
sumption: A good many slaves had disappeared dur-
ing the war, making a shortage of slave labor. But
another fact supported it, for before this period ended
in 1808, there had occurred the worst slave insurrec-
tion in the history of the Americas, under Toussaint
in Haiti, which spread hysteria in the South.
The result was that the United States prohibited
the slave trade in 1808, and this, in the opinion of
most Americans, spelled the doom of slavery within a
generation. There was in their experience no possi-
bility of a slave system, without a foreign slave trade.
But the slave trade law was loosely drawn and indif-
ferently enforced, and really placed a premium upon
slave smuggling by allowing the smuggled slave to be
sold. Moreover, in the Border States, there developed
a domestic slave trade and breeding ground to supply

the cotton states with labor; and also by an extraor-
dinary series of inventions, cotton became one of the
most valuable of crop developments of the day. Slav-
ery, therefore, rather than being abolished or reduced
in significance by the slavery-trade laws of 1808-20,
became by 1830 the corner stone of an industrial revo-
Between 1830 and 1860 there developed in America
that inevitable fight between free and slave labor; an
increasing bitter struggle for the free land which had
been largely supplied as a result of the Haitian Revolu-
tion, and native free labor and persons from Ehrope,
immigrating at a rate which reached 100,000 a year by
1860, and demanding both free soil and high wages.
Agitation for the abolition of slavery ensued and was in-
creased and inspired by -a stream of fugitive slaves
which threatened slave investment, and led to attacks
on civil liberty.
War ensued; but not a war for the abolition of
slavery. Rather it was for the preservation of that
agricultural and industrial organization built on a free-
slave labor foundation and bound to split. There soon
appeared the fatal dichotomy; the Southern people and
their armies were supported by slave labor and the
Northern armies found themselves depending increas-
ingly on black laborers, servants and spies and finally
on black soldiers, without whom Lincoln said victory
would have been impossible. It was this, that spelled
the doom of Secession. Wealth, force and numbers
alone were not decisive. Whenever laborers refuse to
work for their employers, neither a society nor an
army can be maintained. This began to happen in the
Civil War and the fear of this brought victory to the
Northern army.
In September, 1862, in the midst of the war, when
it was evident that the help of the slaves was going
to be of unquestionable advantage to the North, Abra-
ham Lincoln threatened to free the slaves unless the
South surrendered. Lincoln had before sought in vain
compensated emancipation in the Border states but ac-
complished this only in the District of Columbia.
The South faced dilemma: if they surrendered, aboli-
tion of slavery was sure to follow eventually; if they
kept on fighting, increasing numbers of their four mil-
lion slaves would join the enemy and be freed. For a
time the South tried to fight on and the Emancipation
Proclamation was issued January 1, 1863. The South-

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