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Scripto | Transcribe Page
Proceedings of the Civil Rights Mass-Meeting held at Lincoln Hall, October 22, 1883. Speeches of Hon. Frederick Douglass and Robert G. Ingersoll.
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This was intended to destroy every mark and badge of legal inferiority.
Justice Field, upon this very question says:
"It is, however, clear that the words 'involuntary servitude' include something more than slavery, in the strict sense if the term. They include also serfage, vassalage, villainage, peonage, and all other forms of compulsory service for the mere benefit or pleasure of others. Nor is this the full import of the term. The abolition of slavery and involuntary servitude was intended to make everyone born in this country a free man, and as such to give him the right to pursue the ordinary a vocations of life without other restraint than such as affects all others, and to enjoy equally with them the fruits of his labor. A person allowed to pursue only one trade or calling, and only in one locality of the country, would not be, in the strict sense of the term, in a condition of slavery, but probably no one would deny that he would be in condition of servitude. He certainly would not possess the liberties, nor enjoy the privileges of a freeman."
Justice Field also quotes with approval the language of the counsel for the plaintiffs in the case:
"Wherever law of the State, or a law of the United States, makes a discrimination between classes of persons which deprives the one class of their freedom or their property, or which makes a caste of them, to subserve the power pride, avarice, vanity or vengeance of others—there involuntary servitude exists within the meaning of the 13th Amendment."
To show the framers of the 13th Amendment intended to blot out every form of slavery and servitude, I call attention to the Civil Rights Act, approved April 9, 1866, which provided, among other things that:
"All persons born in the United States, and not subject to any foreign power—excluding Indians not taxed—are citizens of the United States; and such citizens of every race and color, without regard to any previous condition of slavery or involuntary servitude, are entitled to the full and equal benefit of all laws and proceedings for the security of person and property enjoyed by white citizens, and penalties—and to none other—any law, statute, ordinance, regulation or custom to the contrary notwithstanding; and they shall have the same rights in every State and Territory of the United States as white persons."
The Supreme Court, in The Slaughter-House Cases, (16 Wal-
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