Dr. J.P. Girard
U.S. Survey -1865- Present
The Fourteenth Amendment
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 . . .
The Fourteenth Amendment was initially ratified to safeguard the newly emancipated citizen from the annulment of his rights by the Southern states. To strengthen and protect the African American, the amendment commenced his citizenship and mandated that the federal government be liable for him. The Fourteenth Amendment restricted the States from denying or reducing the fundamental rights of every American citizen and required them to grant all people equal protection and due process.
It was evident that the “political rights” part of the anticipated change was intended to pave the way for Black voting on a national scale. The wording of the amendment appeared something, though apparently not entirely, like this: “Representatives and direct taxes shall be apportioned among the several states which may be included within this Union, according to their respective numbers, counting the whole number of citizens of the United States; provided that whenever in any State civil or political rights or privilege shall be denied or abridged on account of race or color, all persons of such race or color shall be excluded from the basis of representation or taxation.”
Ratification of the document took a dreadfully long time due to the fact that it was proposed toward the end of the Civil War. Southern states were required to ratify it in order to be readmitted into the Union . The Southern ratification of the fourteenth Amendment was a part of the bitter, decade-long struggle to reconstruct and later redeem the South.
The fourteenth amendment did not accept confederate debts and forbade service in congress to former confederate leaders. The southern states would not accept the Fourteenth Amendment and the three fourths majority could not be achieved for its passage. Johnson decided to take this issue to the voters in the 1866 congressional elections. He lost, and Republicans gained won more than two fourths of all congressional seats. Ironically, the amendment was ratified on July 28, 1868. However, the Supreme Court’s ruling in the 1873 Slaughterhouse cases undermined the amendment so much that all federal control over state police powers was practically eliminated.
For more than a century the Fourteenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution has served as the principal touchstone for legal debates over the meaning of equality and freedom in the United States. While originally structured to deal with the rights of freedmen, cases such as Brown vs. Board of Education, its construal came to be the legal core of the civil rights movement of the 1960s. The fourteenth amendment was questionably the most significant of all. It drastically revolutionized the definition of the United States Citizen.