Guam, Puerto Rico, and the Thirteenth Amendment

That is the title of my latest project. I will post a complete draft on SSRN soon, but in the meantime, here is the abstract:

My paper explores the first of the Reconstruction Amendments — the Thirteenth Amendment of 1865 — from the lens of America’s unincorporated territories. Specifically, I identify one possible unintended consequence of abolition. In summary, three decades after the Thirteenth Amendment was officially ratified, the United States gained possession of the Philippines, Puerto Rico, and Guam from Spain in the aftermath of the Cuban-Spanish-American War of 1898. Although the Philippines was officially recognized by the United States as an independent nation on July 4, 1946, the remaining members of this overseas colonial trio — Guam and Puerto Rico — are still “unincorporated” territories of the United States. Given that all persons residing in these territories have severely limited constitutional rights — Chamorros and puertorriqueños are to this day still not allowed to cast ballots in U.S. presidential elections, to name just one glaring example of this strange constitutional situation — my paper will explain why the continued existence of non-self-governing insular possessions like Guam and Puerto Rico violates the original public meaning of Section 1 of the Thirteenth Amendment, which prohibits the existence of “involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, … within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.”

About F. E. Guerra-Pujol

When I’m not blogging, I am a business law professor at the University of Central Florida.
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7 Responses to Guam, Puerto Rico, and the Thirteenth Amendment

  1. Enrique, this sounds like a truly interesting paper! Let’s know once it has been published. I have always found the status of the non-state “territorial possessions” to be confusing. I am hoping your paper will bring some clarity to the matter.

  2. Pingback: Year in Review (2021) | prior probability

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