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Hypothetically let's say 3/4 of the U.S. states ratified the Corwin Amendment, which was designed to protect the institution of slavery from being banned by the federal government:

No amendment shall be made to the Constitution which will authorize or give to Congress the power to abolish or interfere, within any State, with the domestic institutions thereof, including that of persons held to labor or service by the laws of said State.

What would happen, legally speaking?

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The text of the Corwin amendment:

No amendment shall be made to the Constitution which will authorize or give to Congress the power to abolish or interfere, within any State, with the domestic institutions thereof, including that of persons held to labor or service by the laws of said State.

The thirteenth and fourteenth amendments were passed prior to the proposed ratification, so this would have no effect except to block the Kanye West proposal of repealing that portion of the thirteenth amendment that allows involuntary servitude as a punishment for a "duly convicted" crime.

The "plain text" of the amendment does not legalize slavery. It simply says that the constitution can't be amended in the future to make slavery illegal. Since it is not necessary to amend the constitution in the future to make slavery illegal, the plain text of the Corwin amendment would have negligible effect. It certainly doesn't repeal any amendments.

It is possible that there are some other amendments that might be blocked by this one, but of course this amendment would itself be subject to repeal. It does not use the same kind of language as the equal representation in the Senate clause. And it's questionable if it did if it would be enforceable, as that would create a situation where an amendment was easier to pass than to repeal.

  • "the plain text of the Corwin amendment would have negligible effect" - I think that it would have more to do with state's rights on other issues (that aren't slavery.) It could stop the Feds from interfering with other things. – User that is not a user Aug 25 '19 at 23:27
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The "plain text" reading of the amendment would that it would permit states to allow slavery. If it were ratified, it would have the effect of repealing any previous section of the constitution that interfered with the "domestic institutions" of any state. So the effect of ratifying it would be to repeal amendment 13.

It would then be up to individual states what laws regarding slavery to pass. It would probably lead to widespread violence and possibly civil war, or even foreign war. Needless to say, ratification is not likely to happen.

The amendment is odd, it that it places restrictions not on the Federal government, nor on the States, but on the Constitution itself. It disallows a certain type of amendment. But this is not entirely without precedent: The constitution does not allow amendments that remove from states the right to be represented in the Senate. However it is not clear what effect this type of clause could actually have, as a future amendment could simply repeal.

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    No, it would not permit slavery if it was enacted today, because slavery was abolished prior to its enactment, therefore it is no longer a "domestic institution" of any state. – jamesqf Jul 1 '19 at 17:57
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Slavery is prohibited by the 13th amendment to the constitution so an amendment that just prevented it from being banned by the federal government would have no impact. In order for it to matter the 13th amendment would also have to be dealt with

https://www.constituteproject.org/constitution/United_States_of_America_1992

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.

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