Tag Archives | Thirteenth Amendment

Advice to Rand Paul re: Civil Rights Act of 1964

Read David Bernstein’s excellent blog post. Unfortunately, because the title of David’s post referred to Bruce Bartlett and not Rand Paul, some seeking a “libertarian” take on this issue may overlook his analysis. To David’s libertarian analysis I would add the following considerations pertaining to the original meaning of the Constitution:

(1) The problem of Jim Crow in the South was a direct product of slavery–indeed it was a deliberate and concerted effort by Southerners to reimpose slavery in everything but name. Slavery was a private as well as a public institution, which is why the Thirteenth Amendment was not limited to state action. As such, even private conduct that amounted to “badges and incidents” of slavery should have been reachable by Section 2 of the Thirteenth Amendment, which empowered Congress to make laws to put that provision into effect. It was under Section 2 that Republicans in Congress passed the first Civil Rights Act of 1866, and the Freedman’s Bureau Act. Whether or not these acts were truly within the original meaning of the Thirteenth Amendment is, of course, a matter of dispute. I think the better analysis of the Thirteenth Amendment was explained by Justice Harlan in his dissenting opinions in the Civil Rights Cases and Plessy v. Ferguson. The opposing view that limited the reach of the Thirteenth Amendment was articulated by President Andrew Johnson — a “War Democrat” — when he vetoed the Civil Rights Act in his highly racist veto message. Because Johnson’s reading of the Thirteenth Amendment has largely prevailed among legal scholars of all stripes, Section 2 of the Thirteenth Amendment is generally overlooked in debates concerning the scope of Congressional power over “private” conduct.

(2) As David mentioned, the South systematically denied free blacks, and whites who wished to deal with [...]

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