Posted in American History, essay, history, Politics

The Amendments: Fourteen

The Fourteenth Amendment is a debatable amendment as some believe it is not clear enough.  It has several elements to it, so its not as simple as the last amendment was.  I’ve put it behind a read more due to length.

This amendment was passed by Congress in 1866, but it wasn’t ratified till 1868.  


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.


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.


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.


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.


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


Section One gives citizenship to everyone who is born in the United States or who applies for and is granted citizenship.  This disallows States from picking and choosing what is considered a citizen’s right due to their race, or naturalized status.  This also makes sure the States know they have to follow the Fifth Amendment as well.

This section also provides equal protection under the law.  Considering the time period, this was to assist the equal protection of African-Americans.  It has been used as defense for anti-discrimination groups of various kinds, including gender and LGBQT rights.  However its often left up to the courts to decide what counts as suspect criteria and what is a legitimate reason for not giving someone a job, or any other situation that might be considered discriminatory.

There have been attempts to add to this Amendment with the Equal Protection Act, which would specify that discrimination according to gender was unconstitutional.  However, the debate rages on whether the 14th amendment is all that is necessary on that subject.

Section Two changes the way representation was calculated.  Up till this point, African-Americans were not counted as full people. States would count white men and then each african-american as a 3/4 of a person. Now,  Congress counts each person as a whole person. It would be the 15th amendment which would address voting rights.

(personally I found the language of this section a little hard to understand because it kept running in circles)

Section Three disallows people who rebelled against the United States or helped people rebel against the United States to hold office.  Congress could, with a 3/4ths majority, remove such a statement and allow them to once again seek office.

Section Four basically states that the United States wasn’t about to pay the bills of the Confederate Army, or pay restitution to people for the loss of their slaves.  I think this may be the most straightforward segment of this amendment.

I believe this amendment to be partially a reaction to the reconstruction movement in the south.  When this amendment was voted on, we were only a few years post the Civil War, and different issues were coming up as the South started to rebuild and the government had to deal with reuniting the states.  That is why three fourths of this amendment deal with issues involving those who sided against the United States.

This amendment is a very important one, but I feel in some ways it is too vague about discrimination laws.  The fact that there are a couple more amendments adding to or editing this one tells me that I’m not the only one.


A thirty-something Graphic Designer and writer who likes to blog about books, movies and History.

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