Fourteenth Amendment 1868
Rights of citizens / equal protection of the laws
Rights of citizens / equal protection of the laws
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.
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 bea
to the whole number of male citizens twenty-one years of age
in such state.
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.
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.
The Congress shall have power to enforce
by appropriate legislation,
the provisions of this article."
The Fourteenth Amendment
addresses many aspects of citizenship
and the rights of citizens.
The most commonly used
-- and frequently litigated -- phrase
in the amendment
is "equal protection of the laws",
which figures prominently
in a wide variety of landmark cases,
including Brown v. Board of Education
Roe v. Wade
Bush v. Gor
Reed v. Reed
and University of California v. Bakke
(racial quotas in education).
The citizenship portion of the 14th Amendment
was tied together with the idea of suffrage for all men.
If Black men were made citizens, for the most part,
they could also be made voters.
(This didn’t work as smoothly as some had thought.
It would require the adoption of the 15th Amendment
two years later, in 1870,
to guarantee that right, as it read:
“The right of citizens of the United States to vote
shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State
on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude.”)
One of the heroes of the 14th Amendment
as well as the 13th Amendment,
which abolished slavery
was Representative Thaddeus Stevens of Pennsylvania.
He badgered Lincoln on abolishing slavery
and he helped to write the 13th Amendment.
he gave the closing remarks on the debate of the amendment.
As the National Endowment for the Humanities has noted,
when the House passed the bill that authorized the 13th Amendment,
“I will be satisfied if my epitaph shall be written thus,
‘Here lies one who never rose to any eminence,
and who only courted the low ambition to have it said
that he had striven to ameliorate the condition of the poor, the lowly,
the downtrodden of every race and language and color.’ ”
Stevens would also help write the 14th Amendment,
and in the lead-up to it
he was quite prescient on “universal enfranchisement,”
offering words then that we would do well to heed today.
In January of 1868,
Stevens wrote in The New York Times:
So far as I took any position with regard to Negro suffrage,
it was and is that universal suffrage is an inalienable right,
and that since the amendments to the Constitution,
to deprive the Negroes of it
would be a violation of the Constitution
as well as of a natural right.
True, I deemed the hastening of the bestowal of the franchise
as very essential to the welfare of the nation,
because without it I believe
that the Government will pass
into the hands of rebels and their friends,
and that such an event
would be disastrous to the whole country.
With universal suffrage,
I believe the true men of the nation can maintain their position.
whether that suffrage be impartial, or in any way qualified,
I look upon this Republic as likely to relapse into an oligarchy,
which will be ruled by coarse copperheadism and proud conservatism.
Copperheads were Northern Democrats, mostly in the Midwest,
who opposed the Civil War and emancipation
and wanted to negotiate a compromise
with the South to preserve the Union.
The name comes from the copperhead snake,
a notoriously sneaky serpent.
But the 14th Amendment would go on
to be passed and ratified,
and it signified the birth of Black citizenship.
The day is such an important marker of citizenship that
when the first Black senator, Hiram Revels of Mississippi,
arrived in Washington to be seated in 1870,
his being seated was objected to by conservative congressmen,
some arguing that he had only been a citizen
since the ratification of the 14th Amendment two years earlier
and thus didn’t meet the citizenship requirements for a senator.
(By the way,
Revels was born in America and fought in the Civil War.)
the Supreme Court strikes down
a racial zoning law in Louisville, Ky.,
that prohibits nonwhites
from moving into homes
in majority-white areas
Laws like these, which existed
in numerous cities at the time,
are part of a larger,
In Buchanan v. Warley,
the court ruled that such ordinances
violate the 14th Amendment
and related statutes
that “entitle a colored man
to acquire property
without state legislation
discriminating against him
solely because of his color.”
245 U.S. 60
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