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The Civil War is about a regime of forced labor defined in racial terms.


I don’t know where I found the quote that titles this post; it may have come from a comment on a post on the New York Times in the past couple of days. It relates to the Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution, which abolishes slavery, “except as punishment for crime…”

Googling the phrase, I find the first entry to point to the Wex legal dictionary maintained by Cornell Law School’s Legal Information Institute and the term “slavery.”

This tome (a Wiktionary-like legal dictionary) states, and I quote (bolding is mine):

“Slavery is the practice of forced labor and restricted liberty. It is also a regime where one class of people – the slave owners – could force another – the slaves – to work and limit their liberty. Throughout history, some forms of slavery existed as punishment for committing crimes or to pay off debts. In the United States, individuals were forced into slavery, born into slavery, and were slaves for life based on their race. Slaves were recognized as [objects or property] of the slave owners. Slavery was widely accepted worldwide, and many countries gained their capital from the practice of slavery [capitalism, you see, is a major feature of slavery], especially from the triangular trade among Europe, Africa, and America. The United States abolished slavery through the 13th Amendment after the Civil War [actually at the very end of the Civil War; Lincoln delayed peace negotiations with the South by a day to ensure that the Amendment would pass the House after triumphing in the Senate– see the recent movie “Lincoln”]. While the practice of slavery is no longer legal, it still does exist. According to the 18 U.S. Code § 1583, individuals may be fined or be imprisoned for life if they kidnap, carry away, or use any other method to hold someone against their will.”

Note that the concept of forced labor is paired with restricted liberty (as well as lack of personal or bodily autonomy.) Also note that the practice is “no longer legal”, which I assume means in the USA and most other countries– surely there are a few countries that do not explicitly outlaw slavery. Also note that you may be imprisoned for life under federal law if you try to perpetrate this crime– perhaps fitting for this transgression.

Restricted liberty means no freedom to travel beyond a certain boundary. Here we mean the household or institution within which the victim is confined.

The definition of slavery, therefore, includes the lack of “freedom to travel.” This point will, I’m sure, be litigated by our revanchist Supreme Court in the near future unless somebody does something about it.

This is because the same forces which want to prevent abortion within certain states are fully aware that a woman can, if she has the means, travel out of state to obtain the procedure if abortion clinics within the state are forced to close. The practice of abortion within the home will also become a target of opportunity for these antilibertarian authorities.

We of the imaginary Democratic Republican Party must band together to make sure that abortion is safe, legal, and rare. We can only do this by ensuring that the State encourages and supports contraception for all who wish to avoid conception– thus the proposal, recently voted in the House with zero Republican support, to legalize contraception by statute rather than depending on the Supreme Court’s fickle good graces.

I would suggest that President Biden use reconciliation to pass contraception in the Senate, since there is little else he can do with the power of the majority and it would make a popular symbolic shot at the Republicans, sure to win votes this fall. Let them try to overturn that law if they get a majority (which so far seems likely.)

By the same token, we must also fully support the growth, development, and especially education of children, and ensure that those who do not have parents able and willing to care for them are fully supported and educated to the greatest extent that they are able to learn (not just in school but throughout life.) We must also encourage the freedom to travel, to the extent possible, for all citizens and residents, legal and illegal, of our great United States.

photo by Dkadume courtesy of

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