Guyora Binder


No mere appendix to the Constitution, the Thirteenth Amendment reframed the nation. But if the nation emerged from its crucible founded anew, who were its new founders? I will argue that it makes a moral difference to whom we credit our "new birth of freedom" and that credit is due the slaves.

Recognizing the slaves as framers might change the implications we find in the Thirteenth Amendment, making it a more potent weapon in the arsenal of civil rights advocates. But my present purpose is neither to explicate the values of the slaves, nor to apply those values to Thirteenth Amendment issues, nor to calculate the benefits to anyone of so applying them. The instrumental value to us of any interpretation of the Thirteenth Amendment depends on the prior question of how we define ourselves and our interests. My present argument goes to this prior question by urging contemporary Americans to define themselves as political descendants of the slaves.