71 Md. L. Rev. 283 (2011-2012)
Conclusion: The Political Thirteenth Amendment

handle is hein.journals/mllr71 and id is 285 raw text is: CONCLUSION: THE POLITICAL THIRTEENTH AMENDMENT
REBECCA E. ZIETLOW*
I. INTRODUCTION
The United States Supreme Court has done little to develop the
meaning of the Thirteenth Amendment. One could conclude from
the Court's lack of development that the Amendment is irrelevant,
unimportant, or even limited to remedying the historical circums-
tances surrounding its adoption by ending chattel slavery. It would,
however, be a grave mistake to interpret the lack of judicial doctrine
as a lack of constitutional meaning. Congress has played the principal
role in determining the meaning of the Thirteenth Amendment's
promise of freedom.      Moreover, the framers of the Thirteenth
Amendment never anticipated that the Court would define its mean-
ing. Instead, they expected the political branches to enforce the
Amendment responding to the influence of constitutional politics. As
Michael Les Benedict explains, From the era of the American Revo-
lution at least through the era of Reconstruction, all politics were
constitutional politics.' The political Thirteenth Amendment man-
dates that both its interpretation and its enforcement occur primarily
through constitutional politics, not constitutional law.2
One of the underlying themes of this symposium is the relation-
ship between politics and the Thirteenth Amendment. This Essay ex-
plores that theme and this symposium's contributions to our under-
standing of the political Thirteenth Amendment. It raises the issue of
the relationship between constitutional politics and constitutional law.
Participants in political movements engage in constitutional politics
in an attempt to influence constitutional law. With respect to the
Copyright @ 2011 by Rebecca E. Zietlow.
* Charles W. Fornoff Professor of Law and Values, University of Toledo College of
Law. Thanks so much to all of the participants in this fascinating symposium for enligh-
tening me and sharing their views. Thanks to Mark Graber for organizing the 2011 Mary-
land Constitutional Law Schmooze, and to the students at the Maryland Law Review for
publishing these papers and thus preserving the symposium for posterity.
1. Michael Les Benedict, Constitutional Politics, Constitutional Law, and the Thirteenth
Amendment, 71 MD. L. REv. 163,169 (2011).
2. For the purpose of this paper, constitutional politics refers to constitutional ad-
vocacy within the political realm, and constitutional law refers to the jurisprudence of
the courts that interpret the Constitution.

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