Many argue that the 13th amendment ended slavery. But this is not true. A cultural shift in the view of what constitutes a person did.
The 13th amendment states that “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.” However, what is a slave? A slave can be defined as “a person owned by someone and slavery is the state of being under the control of someone where a person is forced to work for another.” The “person” component is actually very important. We have beasts of burden, even now. Are those not slaves? No. Why not? It’s because they are not people.
Up until the time that the 13th amendment was written, people of African descent were not considered people, at least not fully. If that continued to be true, then not even the 13h amendment would have done anything to end the enslavement of these people. Now let us consider the fifth amendment. A key component of the fifth amendment is that no person shall be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of the law. In the fifth amendment, the constitution already had the necessary framework to ban slavery. All that was required was a shift in what was considered a person.
This realization has a few consequences. First, it shows that a war between the North and South was in no way necessary. What was necessary was a shift in perception. And perception is not changed through force. Second, it shows that another change in perception could have drastic effects. If a group of individuals, now thought of as people, eventually were thought to be less than such, our constitution would no longer protect them. Likewise, if in the future, we expand our view of “people” to include others, perhaps those outside of our own species, our constitution would immediately protect them.