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America never fully abolished slavery?

  • #1
    Registered Users Posts: 32 Davydave86


    It is one of the great tales of American culture. For over 250 years, from the foundation of Jamestown in 1607 until the Civil War of the 1860s - slavery was both legal and prevalent throughout the United States, until of course the Lincoln administration finally outlawed the practice during the war years. For all the rhetoric of all men being created equal, many of America's founding fathers owned and held slaves at their plantations. Slaves would not be considered citizens of the new nation, but would rather remain the legal property of their masters. The Civil War ended with the abolition of slavery in the South, the remaining stronghold of the institution. Theoretically though, it has been argued that the 13th amendment to the US constitution did not in fact abolish slavery in it's entirety, rather leaving a loophole as far as convicts and prisoners were concerned;


    “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.”


    Would it be fair to say that America's modern prisons are the plantations of the 21st century and their prisoners slaves in all but name?


Comments



  • Mod Note
    This is a rather vague premise, without referencial evidence and is bordering on politics/current affairs. Even so, this thread can remain open for the moment but will be montiored for off-topic grandstanding.




  • They instituted systems of oppression & degradation that in some areas were even worse than slavery, during reconstruction with collusion from the North to criminalize black life, vagrancy, looking a white women the wrong way, all horrible ghastly laws built on the back of the industrial revolution wih even worse conditions than slavery.





  • This isn't totally off-the-wall. There is a view that the US prison labour system was developed to fill the economic gap left by the abolition of slavery, and that this legacy still heavily marks it today.

    During the colonial period, frontier settler societies had a perennial labour problem. The settler society is small enough, and how can you persuade one of its members to stay and work for you for a miserable wage when he is free to leave your service, travel not very far, shoot a few indigenes, occupy their land and become a property-owner?

    Slavery is one answer to this problem. Convict labour is another. (This is why Australian settlers never got around to enslaving the Aborigines, people.)

    So, yeah. When slavery was abolished in the US south, prison chain gangs took up part of the slack. They didn't just do public works, like building roads; they got hired out to private businesses as cheap unskilled labour. (The same happened with Australian convicts.) And pretty soon you have a sector of the economy that is more or less dependent on this labour model.




  • Manach wrote: »
    Mod Note
    This is a rather vague premise, without referencial evidence and is bordering on politics/current affairs. Even so, this thread can remain open for the moment but will be montiored for off-topic grandstanding.

    I tried adding URL links, but got a notice saying I didn't have permission to do so?




  • Davydave86 wrote: »
    “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.”


    Would it be fair to say that America's modern prisons are the plantations of the 21st century and their prisoners slaves in all but name?

    No. Slavery and involuntary servitude are two different things. Evidence for this is in the Constitutional amendment you quote, it would be redundant to specify both things if they were the same.

    Prisoners are subject to involuntary servitude within the exception listed upon conviction, not slavery.

    That's the pedantic/legal response. The practical response depends on a slew of moral and ethical questions which may not be quite so clear-cut depending on the nature of the work, its benefit to the inmate, and the conditions in which they are being done. The mere fact that they are working for well below market rate is hardly surprising nor unique. Consider how much a person working in a typical restaurant or laundry is paid in Ireland, vs how much an Irish prisoner is paid in such positions. (If you're curious, Eur 3.50/week)


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  • The pedantic answer is also the wrong answer. Slavery and involuntary servitude are not "two different things"; slavery is one form of involuntary servitude. Serfdom, for example, is another. Prison labour is a third. Convict transportation is a fourth. Debt bondage (a system where, if you can't repay your creditor in money or money's worth, you have to clear the debt by working for him) is a fifth. No doubt there are others.

    I don't think the intention behind the wordind of the Thirteenth Amenment was simply to substitute prison labour for slavery. The "Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude" language was an attempt to prevent slavery being reintroduced by another name. The carve-out for prison labour was a recognition of the fact that there was already a prison labour system in operation, in the North as well as in the South, and it wasn't intended to eliminate, change, or disrupt that. At the time imprisonment rates in the US were very low, and the rather limited system of prison labour that they were experimenting with was seen as rehabilitative, and a Good Thing which European nations would be wise to learn from.

    But, while it may not have been the intention, the consequence of this carve-out was to create an opportunity to protect those whose interests were imperilled by the abolition of slavery by a massive expansion of the prison labour system, which duly happened. In economic terms, whether you intend to incentivise particular behaviour rarely matters; all that matters is whether you do incentivise it.

    Old sins cast long shadows, as the saying goes, and I don't think anyone would disagree that, nearly a hundred and fifty years after abolition, the US is still deeply marked by the experience of slavery. And I think this is one of the ways in which it is marked.




  • Davydave86 wrote: »
    I tried adding URL links, but got a notice saying I didn't have permission to do so?
    To post links, as a site wide policy, you would need to have an account older than 10 days and a post count of over (I think) 60.




  • Peregrinus wrote: »
    This isn't totally off-the-wall. There is a view that the US prison labour system was developed to fill the economic gap left by the abolition of slavery, and that this legacy still heavily marks it today.


    I believe it's the case that many of the states of the former Confederacy didn't bother building prisons in the latter half of the 19th century, preferring to sentence petty criminals to convict leasing schemes rather than locking them up.

    It's a system that generated its own economic momentum that made it difficult to stop. There was a constant demand for cheap labour; it could be fulfilled only by a constant supply of petty convicts. The conflict of interest between a state that wanted to reduce the instance of crime while carrying out its public works as cheaply as possible is obvious.




  • If you are posting about slavery just consider the working conditions for Amazon in Alabama, New York etc. Grown men wearing nappies because they are not allowed toilet breaks, van drivers going to the toilet in the van etc.
    Having said that the employees voted against having a union




  • Edgware wrote: »
    If you are posting about slavery just consider the working conditions for Amazon in Alabama, New York etc. Grown men wearing nappies because they are not allowed toilet breaks, van drivers going to the toilet in the van etc.
    Having said that the employees voted against having a union
    if they voted against having a union they only have themselves to blame for poor working conditions.


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  • The book Chomsky was on about.





  • Peregrinus wrote: »
    This isn't totally off-the-wall. There is a view that the US prison labour system was developed to fill the economic gap left by the abolition of slavery, and that this legacy still heavily marks it today.

    During the colonial period, frontier settler societies had a perennial labour problem. The settler society is small enough, and how can you persuade one of its members to stay and work for you for a miserable wage when he is free to leave your service, travel not very far, shoot a few indigenes, occupy their land and become a property-owner?

    Slavery is one answer to this problem. Convict labour is another. (This is why Australian settlers never got around to enslaving the Aborigines, people.)

    So, yeah. When slavery was abolished in the US south, prison chain gangs took up part of the slack. They didn't just do public works, like building roads; they got hired out to private businesses as cheap unskilled labour. (The same happened with Australian convicts.) And pretty soon you have a sector of the economy that is more or less dependent on this labour model.

    There's a touch a PC-hyperbole about this topic. Its not like convict labour replaced slavery. Instead it was Sharecropping - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sharecropping.
    Lots of sharecroppers went North for a better life in the "great migrations".

    But as you maybe saying, penal labour was more to fill "gaps". Not pleasant - but not same same as slavery not being abolished.
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Penal_labor_in_the_United_States#:~:text=History-,Origins,shall%20have%20been%20duly%20convicted.

    The nub of the problem is the revived racist southern Democrat party retaking political power in the South after the Reconstruction.

    On the OPs point (which people use to say the USA began as a slave state) Maybe nitpicking, but as far as I know, there were no "slaves" or slave laws in Jamestown. There were indentured servants (white & black). Not a nice life, but they got their freedom when their terms was up.
    https://www.pbs.org/opb/historydetectives/feature/indentured-servants-in-the-us/

    In a horribly bizarre precedent, one black servant in Virginia earned his freedom, became wealthy, and won a court case to enslave one of his black servants.
    https://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/horrible-fate-john-casor-180962352/

    Also, vagrancy laws could affect whites too. Like Martin Tabert who couldnt produce a train ticket in 1921 in Florida, so was sentenced to forced labour and died soon after, from heat whipping etc. But perhaps his white status generated more outrage than for blacks.
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Martin_Tabert

    Prisons existed before the civil war also. America’s huge modern prison population only started expanding massively in the 1970s/80s




  • oceanman wrote: »
    if they voted against having a union they only have themselves to blame for poor working conditions.

    Indeed. I read somewhere that Amazon are building a big distribution centre
    In Rathcoole/Saggart area. Interesting to see if they will get employees 50 work under the U.S. conditions




  • Davydave86 wrote: »
    It is one of the great tales of American culture. For over 250 years, from the foundation of Jamestown in 1607 until the Civil War of the 1860s - slavery was both legal and prevalent throughout the United States, until of course the Lincoln administration finally outlawed the practice during the war years. For all the rhetoric of all men being created equal, many of America's founding fathers owned and held slaves at their plantations. Slaves would not be considered citizens of the new nation, but would rather remain the legal property of their masters. The Civil War ended with the abolition of slavery in the South, the remaining stronghold of the institution. Theoretically though, it has been argued that the 13th amendment to the US constitution did not in fact abolish slavery in it's entirety, rather leaving a loophole as far as convicts and prisoners were concerned;


    “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.”


    Would it be fair to say that America's modern prisons are the plantations of the 21st century and their prisoners slaves in all but name?

    Interesting documentary on Netflix about this very thing a few months ago




  • Consider how much a person working in a typical restaurant or laundry is paid in Ireland, vs how much an Irish prisoner is paid in such positions. (If you're curious, Eur 3.50/week)
    I hear what you are saying, and the former governor in the article says it is too little, but I think there is a difference between prisoners doing housekeeping duties in prison and the type of conditions that exist in many American prisons.


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