The Spirit of America: The 13th Amendment

confidence_man-thumb-310x400-68076I must admit to an utter ignorance of the depths of duplicity written into the United States legal codes. I might have once thought myself an astute cynic of the “law” as I have long understood it to be protective of, primarily, as the “founders” surely intended, White Men with Property.

But it is worse than that.

Here is the 13th Amendment…you know, the one that disallows slavery in the country and “outlaws” involuntary servitude (of course we are a nation of “volunteer” servants of commercial interests).



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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.


Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.

See that exception? That in fact is the rule.

Congress may criminalize anything (Section 2) and once duly convicted a person is “justly” enslaved.

Tada! Land of the free and home of the brave.

United States of America

— n
( functioning as singular or plural ) United States , US , Often shortened to: USA a federal republic mainly in North America consisting of 50 states and the District of Columbia: colonized principally by the English and French in the 17th century, the native Indians being gradually defeated and displaced; 13 colonies under British rule made the Declaration of Independence in 1776 and became the United States after the War of American Independence. The northern states defeated the South in the Civil War (1861–65). It is the world’s most productive industrial nation and also exports agricultural products. It consists generally of the Rocky Mountains in the west, the Great Plains in the centre, the Appalachians in the east, deserts in the southwest, and coastal lowlands and swamps in the southeast. Language: predominantly English; Spanish is also widely spoken. Religion: Christian majority. Currency: dollar. Capital: Washington, DC. Pop: 297 043 000 (2004 est). Area: 9 518 323 sq km (3 675 031 sq miles)


The US of A:

— n
A nation of raging assholes called The House and the idiots (you and me!) who trust in the legislative or ruling intention of advancing the welfare of the greatest number; i.e. the road to hell.

I had never realized that this exception in the 13th Amendment “ruled” the law. I’m 45, educated, and continue a habitual self-education. Only this week, when doing some research on Angela Y. Davis, did I come upon this idea which surely has always been known to that class of citizens (can we even use this word anymore?) whose skin color is the basis of their “outlaw” status.

What we don’t know, what we don’t talk about, what we ignore, is what enslaves us all.

Believing in the idea of America, particularly you in the middle class, you who are white, you who are “beneficiaries” of higher education, in the iconography of “Founding” documents and “Founding” systems, in the “possibility” of fairness (equality) “inherent” in Democracy, creates a class of interested people who do the dirty work for the oligarchs.

We are the “invaluable understrappers” that Melville writes of:

“You are an abolitionist, ain’t you?”

“As to that, I cannot so readily answer. If by abolitionist you mean a zealot, I am none; but if you mean a man, who, being a man, feels for all men, slaves included, and by any lawful act, opposed to nobody’s interest, and therefore, rousing nobody’s enmity, would willingly abolish suffering (supposing it, in its degree, to exist) from among mankind, irrespective of color, then am I what you say.”

“Picked and prudent sentiments. You are the moderate man, the invaluable understrapper of the wicked man. You, the moderate man, may be used for wrong, but are useless for right.”

“From all this,” said the herb-doctor, still forgivingly, “I infer, that you, a Missourian, though living in a slave-state, are without slave sentiments.”

“Aye, but are you? Is not that air of yours, so spiritlessly enduring and yielding, the very air of a slave? Who is your master, pray; or are you owned by a company?”

“My master?”

“Aye, for come from Maine or Georgia, you come from a slave-state, and a slave-pen, where the best breeds are to be bought up at any price from a livelihood to the Presidency. Abolitionism, ye gods, but expresses the fellow-feeling of slave for slave.”

Herman Melville, The Confidence Man, ch 21 (published April 1, 1857)


As to the idea that there are ways to work “within” the system to make changes–to move the “center” to favor “the people”–this is a knee-slapper that leads to rolling (heads) in the aisle.

I now believe that the First Amendment is a kind misdirection; one of those “shining lights” of democratic governance that only serves to confuse the populace into believing in the wonderful nature of this “democracy.” Legerdemain means literally “light of the hand” by the by.

In fact, I have long believed that the truest representative of America is the Confidence Man. But only recently have I come to believe that the very foundation of our legal system is a kind of codified confidence game.

We joke about the truth that the House always wins. It’s not because you cannot fairly beat the house in the game, but that the House makes the rules and fairness isn’t on the list.

This country IS a Casino.

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