Russell Madden
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It Mattered
Russell Madden
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Russell Madden


"Section 1: Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.

"Section 2: Congress shall have the power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation."


Slavery lay like a time bomb in the new nation of America formed in 1776. Political wrangling and personal soul-searching characterized the struggle to construct a constitution acceptable -- even if only grudgingly -- by the states forming that union. Careers rose and fell based upon the positions espoused. Abolitionists contended with slave holders. John Brown died -- a martyr to some, a traitor to others -- seeking to foment a slave rebellion. The Constitution upheld the right of slavers to claim their "property" if said property -- counted as three-fifths of a person for census purposes -- escaped to a non-slave state.

Each proposal to add a state to the country elicited fiercely partisan battles regarding the status of such would-be jurisdictions. Whether the new state would permit slavery or be free helped to determine which side gained in power and which lost. Supposed defenders of freedom twisted themselves into philosophical knots attempting to square the circle of legal slavery in a land where "all men are created equal."

While slavery in some South American nations faded away, in the United States of America, that sizzling bomb detonated and killed or maimed hundreds of thousands of citizens. The devastation wreaked by that conflict upon the Confederation still echoes today in the attitudes and legacies of the Southern psyche. (Witness the brouhaha surrounding the Stars and Bars and attempts to ban or promote that flag.)

The Thirteenth Amendment ended formal slavery in this nation. Carpetbaggers, Jim Crow laws, and affirmative action notwithstanding, you would be hard-pressed to find an American willing to admit he favored slavery.

Because of the "success" of our Civil War/War Between the States/War of Northern Aggression/The War For Southern Independence, most Americans today would be shocked to discover that slavery still exists in many benighted regions of the world. In the Sudan, for example, the practice continues unabated. Well-meaning but misguided students promote plans to "redeem" or "buy" the freedom of some of the estimated 100,000 Sudanese slaves. Unfortunately, their efforts also increase the incentive of "owners" to enslave more of the hapless villagers caught up in that nation's sorry internal war.

The Sudanese variety of slavery is particularly brutal. Beatings and rapes are commonplace. People die. Those well-fed "slave reparation" advocates around the world who seek to rob the Western world for wrongs done to their distant ancestors would do well to admit the reality of current black-on-black abuses.

Citizens ignorant of ongoing slavery in Africa might also be shocked to learn that the "involuntary servitude" banished by the Thirteenth Amendment persists -- not in some Third World backwater -- but in this nation, here, today.

What exactly does "involuntary servitude" mean?

According to my Webster's unabridged, "involuntary" refers to a situation that is "independent of one's will or done or made otherwise than by one's own choice." Clear enough. Involuntary equals unchosen.

"Servitude" is, perhaps, a bit more slippery. The first definition is "slavery or bondage of any kind." The American slavers of today are much too subtle to promote such a blatant example of evil.

The second definition is "compulsory service or labor as a punishment for criminals." I have no problem with that practice (assuming the punishment is for a proper law and not for legislation arising from such nonsense as the Drug War). Indeed, the Thirteenth Amendment specifically makes provision -- rightly so -- for such deprivations of freedom.

The last definition refers to a legal "right possessed by one person with respect to another's property, consisting either of a right to use the other's property or of a power to prevent certain uses of it."

Gee. That sounds familiar.

If the Thirteenth Amendment were enforced as it should be, virtually all the laws and regulations burdening the citizens of this country would be voided as violations of this provision. If Congress fulfilled its duty as detailed in this amendment and the Supreme Court had true respect for the Constitution it is supposed to defend and protect, we would be freed from those people claiming a right to "use" our property without our consent (via, for example, exorbitant tax rates approaching fifty-percent) or seeking to "prevent certain uses" of what we own (e.g., zoning laws, building codes, OSHA and EPA regulations, and so on ad nauseum).

Most people, of course, forget Ayn Rand's dictum that, "Without property rights, no other rights are possible." ("Man's Rights," in The Virtue of Selfishness, p. 94.) As she said, "...only a slave can work with no right to the product of his effort." (Atlas Shrugged, p. 986.) "If some men are entitled by right to the products of the work of others, it means that those others are deprived of rights and condemned to slave labor.... No man can have a right to impose an unchosen obligation, an unrewarded duty or an involuntary servitude on another man. There can be no such thing as 'the right to enslave'." ("Man's Rights," p. 96, emphases in original.)

(See my Laissez Faire City Times article, "American Fascism Revisited," for a look at the fascist brand of servitude rampant in America today.)

When most citizens think of "slavery," though, they envision not violations of property rights but direct, "bodily" enslavement: chains, whips, and such.

Unfortunately, even the physical-abduction-and-detainment style of "involuntary servitude," aka, slavery, has its adherents in American society.

Despite lapsing into the background of our social awareness, conscription -- or the draft -- like some vicious vampire of the night, has yet to die in this country. Lincoln pushed his own version of conscription during the Civil War. Woodrow Wilson and FDR did not hesitate to rip tens of thousands of unwilling participants from their daily lives to stoke the engines of two world wars. Eisenhower, JFK, LBJ, and Nixon perpetuated the draft. RMN made it so much "fairer," of course, by instituting a lottery, leaving your physical freedom or slavery up to chance, like some obscene game of bingo.

Though the State is not now actively drafting young men into the military, eighteen-year-olds are still required by law to register with the Selective "Service." If they fail to do so, they can be denied federal loans and jobs. (Oh, the horror...)

Given the current war fever sweeping the nation, though, it is an open question when this dormant volcano will awaken to bury a fresh generation of young people beneath its molten lava.

The SS, of course, denies any such intent. In a 11-02-01 story by Jon Dougherty in WorldNetDaily, the SS said that, "No heightened measures have been undertaken [yet (R.M.)] to bring the nation closer to the re-establishment of conscription.." White House flack, Ari Fleischer, reassured us all by stating that, "There is no consideration of...(reinstating the draft) this time." Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld says the draft "is not something that is immediately before us. At the moment, I do not foresee the need to do that."

"At this time..." "...not...immediately before us." "At the moment..."


Such resounding renunciations sound ominously similar to promises that our Social Security numbers would "never" be used for identification; that gun registration lists would "never" be used to confiscate our weapons; that each new restriction on our freedom would "never" be used to restrict our freedom.

None of these modern-day slavers categorically reject on principle the idea of conscription. These "pragmatists" merely believe the time is "not yet right" to tear young men (and women?) from their civilian existences to "serve" the country.

In an 8-29-00 story by Dougherty in WND, SS spokesman, Richard Flahavan readily admits the draft is composed of "non-volunteer forces." I guess Flahavan has conveniently forgotten the Thirteenth Amendment's prohibition against involuntary, i.e., "non-volunteer," servitude. His egregious obtuseness is evident when he says that the Constitution's statement regarding the provision of a common defense justifies "non-volunteer" soldiers, i.e., enslaved troops. He views the draft as nothing more onerous than an "insurance policy." The SS sees conscription as akin to a "fire department."

Flahavan stands in good company. The Pentagon, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Clinton's Secretary of Defense, William Cohen, and many others believe the SS is vital for the defense of this nation and to demonstrate our nation's "resolve."

In a 11-04-01 story in the Washington Post, Charles Moskos and Paul Glastris take this stance even further. These sterling writers -- who are, by virtue of their ages, no doubt safe from what they advocate -- contend that, not only should we renew the military draft, we should expand conscription to include women between eighteen and twenty-five.

These generous men would have an "equitable" draft, one that "would have what all Americans now demand: choice." Imagine that! A "choice" when you are seized by the agents of the State and forced to "serve" your nation.

War is Peace! Slavery is Freedom!

These (oxy)morons want young people to "choose" among two years of involuntary servitude "in the military, in homeland security, or in a civilian national service program." These "concept stealers" see no dichotomy between their warped understanding of choice and true freedom. After all, they say, "draftees could get college scholarships."

Yes, and the robber who says, "Your money or your life," is offering you a "choice," too.

None of that silly "having fun and getting a leg up in their careers" for young people. As long as everyone is "required to serve, no one would feel like a sucker. They might even enjoy [!!!] the experience..." and "look back on their" involuntary servitude "with fondness and pride."

Yassah, massa. I'se lovin' to fetch and tote and die for ya. I'se proud to be ya slave.

Sadly, these sorry excuses for human beings -- Moskos is a former draftee and now a sociology professor at Northwestern, and Glastris is a senior fellow at the Western Policy Center and editor-in-chief of the Washington Monthly -- have been thoroughly brainwashed by the statism and collectivism emanating from our centers of power. "Need" trumps rights and the Constitution; slavery is "good" for you, promoting "a sense of unity and moral [!!!] seriousness." These yahoos earnestly maintain that our young people should relish the "opportunity" to be conscripted to guard our airports; patrol our borders and coastal waters; guard our dams, power plants, and sports stadiums; track immigrants; become air marshals; engage in foreign "peacekeeping"; act as "anthrax inoculators"; and any other scut work our overseers deem appropriate.

But the draft/conscription cannot be contorted into any semblance of propriety no matter how hard such condescending advocates try:

"Of all the statist violations of individual rights in a mixed economy, the military draft is the worst. It is an abrogation of rights. It negates man's fundamental right -- the right to life -- and establishes the fundamental principle of statism: that a man's life belongs to the state. Once that principle is accepted, the rest is only a matter of time.
"If the state may force a man to risk death or hideous maiming and crippling, in a war declared at the state's discretion, for a cause he may neither approve of nor even understand, if his consent is not required to send him into unspeakable martyrdom -- then, in principle, all rights are negated in that state, and its government is not man's protector any longer. What else is there left to protect?...
"One of the notions used by all sides to justify the draft, is that 'rights impose obligations.' Obligations, to whom? -- and imposed, by whom? Ideologically, that notion is worse than the evil it attempts to justify: it implies that rights are a gift from the state, and that a man has to buy them by offering something (his life) in return...." (Ayn Rand, "The Wreckage of the Consensus," in Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal, p. 226 - 227, emphasis in original.)

People are not and can never be "property." Property, per se, results from production, i.e., the application of human knowledge and effort to the resources available to us in order to create something of value. This process simply does not apply to human beings. "Slavery" (or "involuntary servitude") defined as "a human being is property" is thus an invalid concept. You might, perhaps, treat someone as though he were property, but that would not make him property and, thus, properly subject to buying/selling/trading like some cow or sheep or pig.

(Compare this with the riddle, "If you considered a tail to be a leg, how many legs would a donkey have?" Answer: "Four. Pretending a tail is a leg does not make it so.")

No mental or verbal gymnastics on the part of statists and collectivists can alter this reality. The Thirteenth Amendment enshrines this fact in our Constitution.

As Webster's says, the antonym of "servitude" is "liberty." That, no one has the right to steal.


"This Time, A Draft for the Home Front, Too," Charles Moskos and Paul Glastris, 11-04-01, The Washington Post.


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