Why does the 13th Amendment (prohibiting slavery) have a section sayin congress can prohibit slavery

The 13th amendment of the US constitution says:

Why is there a section 2?

Is there a way slavery could continue in the US if they had not included Section 2?

Seems to me Section 1 covers it.

Without section 2, what happens when some slaveowner is found to have been ignoring the passage of the 13th amendment? What do you do to them? Section 2 allows laws to be passed punishing the offenders.

The Constitution provides a high-level view. There are always details. Congress works out those details, but it has to have the authority to do so: Under our system, Congress can only do things that it’s been given the power to do, somewhere in the Constitution. Now, historically, the power of Congress has expanded, by finding Constitutional justifications for whatever it is they want to do: In the current environment, the Interstate Commerce Clause would probably be found to be sufficient justification for the necessary laws. But that wasn’t the environment in which the Thirteenth Amendment was passed, and even if it was, for something as important as that, you want to make it explicit.

Here’s a bit more reading on the subject: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Congressional_power_of_enforcement

Right. And aside from just punishment, Section 2 authorizes the Federal government, and not just the states, to ensure compliance, for example the power to check financial records of employers, interview workers to make sure they are being paid and are not working under duress, etc.

Similarly, the Eighteenth Amendment (Prohibition) included an enforcement provision. The Federal law was the Volstead Act. At the time Prohibition was passed, what exactly constituted “intoxicating liquors” wasn’t clearly defined, and some people expected that beer and wine might be permitted. (They weren’t, but even before the Amendment was repealed one of the first things the Roosevelt administration did was pass new legislation allowing the sale of low-alcohol beer.) The Act also defined exceptions for medical and religious use.

I haven’t checked them all, but the 14th, 15th, 19th, and other more recent amendments also contain enforcement provisions. This is pretty standard, to avoid any quibbles about the Federal government’s power to enforce the amendments.

There’s also the limitation in the first clause “except as a punishment for crime”. The second clause allows Congress to set limits on when that may be applied. No more “You Jaywalked, back to slavery!” nonsense. Because you know someone would have tried that if it were possible.

It was indeed possible, and the wake of the 13th amendment, former slaveowner states immediately passed legislation that brought back negro slavery in all but name: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Black_Codes_(United_States) It took the passage of the 14th and 15th amendments to begin rooting that stuff out. It took years. Some say the process isn’t yet complete.

So without the 2nd clause congress could not punish someone who violated the first clause? They could not pass a law stipulating punishments without the 2nd clause?

I would think the first clause is enough and implies that congress can stipulate punishments for violating the supreme law of the land.

Among many other details, probably. They could try, but it’d be challenged in court. And really, if you’re going to the trouble to pass an amendment anyway, why not just get it right?

Not every constitutional stricture has such a clause.

How can it be that any constitutional violation would have no consequences unless they said, explicitly in the constitution, that congress is allowed to punish a violation? Seems crazy to write down laws and that have no enforcement unless they also write down that you can enforce those laws.

And yet Amendment XIV has this clause, and so do XV, XVIII, XIX, XXIV, and XXVI. Perhaps the easiest answer to your answer is that Congress knows more about how laws are administered than you do.

The second easiest would be to read the other answers in this thread which have already explained explicitly why this is needed. Once again. The Constitution is the framework for law. Laws are needed to enforce the Constitution’s framework. Two separate actions.

Congress’s powers are enumerated. Without that clause, it would be up to the state governments to enforce the ban on slavery. If the states failed to do so, then the federal government wouldn’t be able to step in to ensure compliance.

And yet that clause is not in Amendments I - XII.

Why would you think a stipulation in the constitution is not enforceable unless the constitution says it is enforceable? That is just…weird.

“Here is a list of our highest laws! We think they are a good idea but really you don’t have to follow any of them because we forgot to tell you that you could enforce these laws.” :rolleyes:

So the feds cannot enforce any part of the constitution without that clause? Isn’t slander and libel a federal law? How do they do that without a clause saying they can do that? How about gun regulations?

It’s already been explained that enforcement doesn’t only involve punishment. It can involve policing to detect violations.

The people who wrote the Amendment clearly thought differently.

Basically, such provisions are legal CYA to ensure that the federal government has the right to pass additional measures related to enforcement without getting into quibbles with the states about separation of powers.

Keep in mind that Congress is of limited and enumerated powers. That is a laughable thought today because they get into just about everything, but certainly in 1865, Congress realized that the Constitution only granted it X, Y, and Z powers.

Without the 2nd section, an argument could be made that enforcement was a state matter, a judicial matter, an executive matter, etc. but without a positive grant of authority in the Constitution, Congress had no power to legislate on the subject.

Maybe it would not be a winning argument, but many laws have what seem to be extraneous provisions in anticipation of a lawyer arguing to the contrary.

No one said that.

My understanding is that slander and libel are civil actions. The Federal government would be involved primarily when such cases are booted up from the state level, and primarily in relation to the First Amendment.

Gun regulations are primarily at the state level, except with regard to international and interstate commerce, and regulations at federal facilities.

I was going to ask what country you live in, but to my surprise I see you are in Illinois.

Never thought we’d ever agree but thanks…this one makes sense.

No, it’s not.