14th Amendment

Section 1. All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the state wherein they reside. No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

Section 2. Representatives shall be apportioned among the several states according to their respective numbers, counting the whole number of persons in each state, excluding Indians not taxed. But when the right to vote at any election for the choice of electors for President and Vice President of the United States, Representatives in Congress, the executive and judicial officers of a state, or the members of the legislature thereof, is denied to any of the male inhabitants of such state, being twenty-one years of age, and citizens of the United States, or in any way abridged, except for participation in rebellion, or other crime, the basis of representation therein shall be reduced in the proportion which the number of such male citizens shall bear to the whole number of male citizens twenty-one years of age in such state.

Section 3. No person shall be a Senator or Representative in Congress, or elector of President and Vice President, or hold any office, civil or military, under the United States, or under any state, who, having previously taken an oath, as a member of Congress, or as an officer of the United States, or as a member of any state legislature, or as an executive or judicial officer of any state, to support the Constitution of the United States, shall have engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the same, or given aid or comfort to the enemies thereof. But Congress may by a vote of two-thirds of each House, remove such disability.

Section 4. The validity of the public debt of the United States, authorized by law, including debts incurred for payment of pensions and bounties for services in suppressing insurrection or rebellion, shall not be questioned. But neither the United States nor any state shall assume or pay any debt or obligation incurred in aid of insurrection or rebellion against the United States, or any claim for the loss or emancipation of any slave; but all such debts, obligations and claims shall be held illegal and void.

Section 5. The Congress shall have power to enforce, by appropriate legislation, the provisions of this article.

Proposed by Congress June 13, 1866, ratified by July 1968. All Confederate states under reconstruction would subsequently be required to ratify before readmittance to the Union. According to the governments website “On July 28, 1868, the 14th amendment was declared, in a certificate of the Secretary of State, ratified by the necessary 28 of the 37 States, and became part of the supreme law of the land.” The Reconstruction Act 1867 laid out the framework, the rules and process’ for reunification in to the Union. The Reconstruction Amendments were a ‘must ratify’ for readmittance. The 14th amendment is one of the Reconstruction Amendments. The other amendments included in this category are the 13th and 15th amendments.

There does exist many who believe the 14th Amendment to the constitution is unconstitutional. The times of its adoption can only be described as “dark times” in this nations history. The consistent argument centers around the coercive nature inherent to the Reconstruction Amendments and as well the political shenanigans in Congress for its proposal. Some states who never seceded from the Union after ratifying withdrew ratification. There were states considered part of the Union by the deadline never ratified. However, since objections raised during its proposal and ratification process during Reconstruction it has endured. Perhaps the best report that argues against the 14th being constitutional is, There is No “Fourteenth Amendment”!, by David Lawrence, U.S. News & World Report, dated, September 27, 1957.

The debate in Congress on the 14th was lively. Congress left a trail of intent.

Borrowed from the Annenberg Institute, “the 14th Amendment limited the broad grant of citizenship to those “subject to U.S. jurisdiction.” As a result, Native Americans, who were governed by tribal law, were not guaranteed citizenship by this amendment. Many Native Americans became citizens by a variety of means such as marriage, treaties, or military service. But with the passage of the Indian Citizenship Act of 1924, Congress granted the rights of citizenship to all Native Americans.”

Taken from Wikipedia, “The Fourteenth Amendment provides that children born in the United States become American citizens regardless of the citizenship of their parents. At the time of the amendment’s passage, three Senators, including Trumbull, the author of the Civil Rights Act 1865, as well as President Andrew Johnson, asserted that both the Civil Rights Act and the Fourteenth Amendment would confer citizenship on such children at birth; however, Senator Edgar Cowan of Pennsylvania had a definitively contrary opinion. These congressional remarks applied to non-citizens lawfully present in the United States, as the problem of unauthorized immigration did not exist in 1866, and some scholars dispute whether the Citizenship Clause applies to unauthorized immigrants, although the law of the land continues to be based on the standard interpretation.”

The Civil Rights Act of 1865 was proposed by Congress. The Act in summary purpose was “to protect all Persons in the United States in their Civil Rights and liberties, and furnish the Means of their Vindication.” President Andrew Jackson vetoed and the Act was resubmited in 1866 he vetoed once again but by a two-thirds majority in both Houses of Congress Jackson veto was overturned and the Act became law.

States were readmitted after the Civil War beginning in 1866 and the last three in 1870. Delaware ratified the 14th amendment in 1902, Maryland and California in 1959, Kentucky in 1976 and Ohio in 2006. These ratifications can only be viewed as symbolic although they are recorded in the archives.

The 14th amendment contains the Citizenship Clause, Privileges or Immunities Clause, Due Process Clause, and Equal Protection Clause.

Annenberg describes the clauses: “ Procedural Due Process: The Fourteenth Amendment’s due process clause has been interpreted by the courts to provide the same “protection against arbitrary state legislation, affecting life, liberty and property, as is offered by the Fifth Amendment.” This has meant that state laws that take away a person’s property or otherwise jeopardize their life or liberty must afford persons a fair and impartial way to challenge that action.

For example, the due process clause has ensured that people on welfare are able to challenge the loss of their benefits at an administrative hearing, and has meant that parents who are accused of child abuse, or the mentally ill who are being committed will have the opportunity to contest the state’s allegations in a court hearing. Often thought of as a provision that guarantees fairness, the due process clause requires government to use even-handed procedures, so that it is less likely to act in an arbitrary way.

Substantive Due Process: The Supreme Court has found that the Fourteenth Amendment’s due process clause protects individuals from arbitrary state laws or actions that interfere with fundamental liberties. More than offering a process of fairness, courts have found that the Fourteenth Amendment prohibits states from harming an individual’s ability to fully participate in society. Liberty, the Court held in Meyer v. Nebraska, “denotes not merely freedom from bodily restraint but also the right of the individual to contract, to engage in any of the common occupations of life, to acquire useful knowledge, to marry, establish a home and bring up children, to worship God according to the dictates of his own conscience, and generally to enjoy those privileges long recognized at common law as essential to the orderly pursuit of happiness by free men.”

Annenberg further states “Although the Supreme Court usually presumes that state legislation, particularly economic regulation, is valid since it is the product of a democratic process, the Court has held that substantive due process will provide some protections for parents’ rights to care for their children, a woman’s ability to use contraception and to have an abortion [Roe v Wade]; and other significant freedoms.”

Cornell Law “The first clause of the fourteenth article was primarily intended to confer citizenship on the negro race, and secondly to give definitions of citizenship of the United States and citizenship of the States, and it recognizes the distinction between citizenship of a State and citizenship of the United States by those definitions.

The second clause protects from the hostile legislation of the States the privileges and immunities of citizens of the United States, as distinguished from the privileges and immunities of citizens of the States.”

Section one is the most contested of the 14th.

Section 3 and Article 1, Section 5 of the U.S. Constitution as well Section 3 of the 14th gives broad powers to unseat elected representatives.

When Congress having taken an eight month hiatus, after setting continuously during the war years, returned to Washington to find that Southern states seeking readmission to the Union had elected representatives without congressional approval. According to U.S. History “Among them were four Confederate generals, six Confederate cabinet officers, and CSA Vice-President Alexander H. Stephens. It seemed to Northerners as if very little had changed;

From the Georgia online encyclopedia “After the war Stephens was imprisoned for five months at Boston’s Fort Warren. Upon his release, Georgia’s citizens elected him in 1866 to the U.S. Senate under President Andrew Johnson’s forgiving Reconstruction scheme. Northerners were naturally dismayed by the prospect of the vice president of the Confederacy sitting in the Senate chambers a year after the Civil War ended, and congressional Republicans refused to seat Stephens. He used the resulting hiatus from public life to pen A Constitutional View of the Late War between the States (1868-70), his two-volume apology for the Confederacy.” Alexander Stevens was an interesting figure to have served as a VP of the Confederacy.

Between 1869 to 1900 thirty Southern Democrats were unseated. Article 1, Section 5 of the U.S. Constitution allows Congress this power. The Federal Contested Elections Act of 1969 spells out the procedures the House must use when there exist contested elections.

From the Heritage Guide to the Constitution “The effort to make the national debt sacrosanct and to repudiate the Confederate debt was the least controversial of the sections of the Fourteenth Amendment, at least in the North. As Representative Thaddeus Stevens of Pennsylvania put it, “I need say nothing of the fourth section, for none dare object to it who is not himself a rebel.” The only objection to it was from owners of slaves in the loyal slave states who thought they should be compensated.

Section 4 has been called out during the debates on our current national debt using it to substantiate arguments centered around not defaulting on the national obligations.

In applying the section, federal courts held that no contracts involving Confederate bonds could be enforced and that “a court of the United States must hesitate to give them any recognition whatever.” Contracts involving Confederate currency, on the other hand, were enforceable “to prevent injustice to people who, when war was flagrant, had no other currency in which to make the exchanges required in the ordinary business of life.” Branch v. Haas (1883).”

The 14th by clearly stating in Section 1 “All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the state wherein they reside.” extends all of the amendments to the Constitution up to and including the 14th to all peoples within the jurisdiction of the United States. All persons are to be considered covered by the ‘peoples rights’.

The 13th in effect freed some four million former slaves. Now the question before the country was one of citizenship for this group and to ensure “no state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.” The statement was thought necessary otherwise it was of concern many of the Southern states would return to slave states.

From the Senate website “The Thirteenth Amendment, ratified by the states on December 6, 1865, abolished slavery “within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.” Congress required former Confederate states to ratify the Thirteenth Amendment as a condition of regaining federal representation.”

The United States Senate website put the context of the14th’s intention is to provide “”equal protection under the laws,” extending the provisions of the Bill of Rights to the states. The amendment authorized the government to punish states that abridged citizens’ right to vote by proportionally reducing their representation in Congress. It banned those who “engaged in insurrection” against the United States from holding any civil, military, or elected office without the approval of two-thirds of the House and Senate. The amendment prohibited former Confederate states from repaying war debts and compensating former slave owners for the emancipation of their slaves.”

The so-called radical Republicans in Congress were still reeling in anger from the ravages of the war and rightly so, they were out for a bit of revenge. Therefore, Congress banned those who “engaged in insurrection” against the United States from holding any civil, military, or elected office without the approval of two-thirds of the House and Senate.”

To reference persons ‘engaged in war’ as merely “engaged in insurrection” is puzzling. The Confederacy established their own Confederate Constitution and capital city with their own White House. Jefferson Davis (June 3, 1801- December 6, 1889) was the Confederacy president and the Confederacy established their own currency. Basically the Confederacy was a separate country that would come into war with the United States.

The 14th according to a snippet from, Cornell Law “equally forbids Mexican peonage or the Chinese coolie trade when they amount to slavery or involuntary servitude, and the use of the word “servitude” is intended to prohibit all forms of involuntary slavery of whatever class or name.”

By 1872 many moderate Republicans became fed-up with the vindictive Reconstruction policies (often referred to by many as the ‘other Civil War’) and corruption in government, which they call Grantism [ Ulysses Grant].

“I see in the near future a crisis approaching that unnerves me and causes me to tremble for the safety of my country. . . . corporations have been enthroned and an era of corruption in high places will follow, and the money power of the country will endeavor to prolong its reign by working upon the prejudices of the people until all wealth is aggregated in a few hands and the Republic is destroyed.”
—U.S. President Abraham Lincoln, Nov. 21, 1864
(letter to Col. William F. Elkins)

Since the passage of the 14th other amendments and Acts of Congress was viewed as necessary. They are the 15th Amendment of 1870, Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Voting Rights Act of 1965. The 19th amendment gave women the right to vote, the 24th amendment banned poll taxes and the 26th amendment nailed the right to vote for 18 year olds.

Section 1 of the 14th kinda reiterates, Article IV, Section 2 of the Constitution states “No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.” The 9th amendment, constructed by James Madison, was an attempt to address the issue that those rights not in enumerated in the Constitution “shall not be so construed as to diminish the just importance of other rights retained by the people, or as to enlarge the powers delegated by the constitution; but either as actual limitations on such powers, or as inserted merely for greater caution.”

It is not a disputable fact that states within the Republic, since the ratification of the Reconstruction Amendments, continued to be creative in legislating within States to codify “separate but equal” e.g. segregation, white & black drinking fountains and the list goes on and on.

Even with the use of amendments, Acts and other types of legislation plus rulings from the Supreme Court it takes more than a half century or century for the citizen knuckleheads, if you will, to settle into the spirit of equal treatment under the law.

To this day most citizens live their private lives as ‘separate and equal’.

An aside: The Civil War resulted between 700,000 up to 1.4 million deaths and untold numbers from the ‘other Civil War’, deaths during the Reconstruction Era.