President Andrew Johnson as Abraham Lincoln’s successor, post his assassination in April 1865, the position of overseeing the intricate task of reintegrating former Confederate states into the Union following the Civil War as well as making sure the rights of former enslaved individuals were brought into existence and they are treated as equitable members of society, were the key tasks performed by the said president.
It is not only that he is from Tennessee but also the fact that he had also been a Democrat with a history of slave ownership, President Johnson endorsed the concept of emancipation vehemently.
On the same lines, his perspective also broadened on the essence of the course of Reconstruction which diverged notably from that of the Republican-controlled Congress.
Complementing the same, the aforesaid President, put forth a relatively forgiving stance towards the reinstatement of the former Confederate states to the Union.
On the development of the recently elected southern state legislatures, a considerable number of people from the North were deeply not only affected but also angered.
This was solely because the aforementioned legislatures were positioned under the control of former Confederate leaders, who were responsible for bringing to existence black codes.
The said codes were not only oppressive laws designed to meticulously control the actions of Black individuals but also ultimately perpetuated their reliance on white plantation owners.
1. The Civil Rights Act of 1866
While curating one of the most important statutes known as the Civil Rights Act of 1866, Congress had utilized the power bestowed upon them which was to uphold the recently ratified 13th Amendment, which not only revolved around eradicating slavery but also safeguarding the rights of Black Americans.
As a shock as it came, President Johnson in his reign, exercised his veto on the bill.
However, not only did Congress manage to surpass his veto followed by enacting the law in April 1866, but this step also marked the inaugural instance in history when Congress overrode a bill of importance that was vetoed by a president.
On the same lines, it has been stated that despite this achievement, certain Republicans believed that an additional amendment to be brought into force deemed essential to establish a solid constitutional foundation for the newly enacted legislation.
2. The Contribution Of Thaddeus Stevens and The 14th Amendment
Towards the end of April 1886, Representative Thaddeus Stevens put forth a comprehensive and brief strategy that amalgamated various legislative propositions.
From putting across the essence of civil rights for Black individuals, highlighting the methods for allocating representatives in Congress, to curating punitive actions against the former Confederate States of America, as well as pinpointing the rejection of Confederate war debt, the strategy as afore-stated comprised all aspects needed for the said hour.
Combined into a singular constitutional amendment, these elements were brought into force.
Following votes in both the House as well as receiving the assent of the Senate in June 1866, the said amendment was put across to the states for ratification of the same.
Diving further, while the 14th Amendment progressed through the ratification process, the idea of opposing the same during the process, to restrain it from being brought to play, was utilized by President Johnson very evidently.
Serving as a highlight was the fact that the Congressional elections that were held in late 1866 bestowed the Republicans with a concept of ‘veto-proof’ majorities in both the House and Senate.
Not only President Johnson, but the Southern states as well exhibited resistance to another level, and despite their struggle, Congress was still able to mandate their ratification of the 13th and 14th Amendments as a prerequisite for reestablishing their representation in Congress.
Complementing the same was the fact that the continued presence of the Union Army within the former Confederate states made sure their adherence was witnessed to this requirement.
It was on the esteemed date of July 9, 1868, when both the states of Louisiana and South Carolina cast their votes in favour of ratifying the 14th Amendment, which gave an advantage as they helped in reaching the essential three-fourths majority requisite that is needed for an adoption of a bill.
3. Provisions Under the 14th Amendment
3.1 Section One of the 14th Amendment
The first statement that is found to be of great importance under the ambit of Section One in the 14th Amendment bestows upon a definition of United States citizenship which puts forth the following:
“All individuals born or naturalized within the United States and subject to its jurisdiction are citizens of the United States and of the State where they reside.”
The above-crafted definition explicitly rejected the United States Supreme Court’s renowned decision that was put forth in the case of Dred Scott, in 1857.
It was emphasized in that ruling, as asserted by Chief Justice Roger Taney, the fact that even a Black man born free could not lay claim to citizenship rights under the federal constitution.
Following further, the second clause under the same section pinpointed the fact that:
“No State shall create or enforce any law which curtails the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States.”
The aforesaid branch had a profound impact as it drastically broadened the civil and legal rights of all the citizens of the United States.
The fact that it safeguarded them from violations not only brought to play by the federal government but also by individual states made this clause utmost crucial.
On the same lines, the aforementioned section also took into account under its third provision the idea that:
“Nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty or property, without due process of law,”
The above-stated clause vehemently extended the due process clause which is covered under the ambit of the Fifth Amendment, which deems applicable to both state governments as well as the federal government.
It has been witnessed that as time has progressed, the United States Supreme Court has interpreted the aforesaid branch of Section One to safeguard a broad spectrum of rights that lies against the concept of encroachment by the states.
From establishing rights explicitly listed in the Bill of Rights standing inclusive of ideas about freedom of speech, free exercise of religion, the right to bear arms, and others, to emphasizing the right to privacy as well as other fundamental rights that are not expressly mentioned elsewhere in the Constitution, the aforesaid takes all of the aforesaid under its purview.
Running parallelly on the same lines of thought, the essence of the “equal protection clause” which refers to the concept of “nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws” was crafted to prevent state governments from engaging in discriminatory practices executed against Black Americans.
It has been seen in the aspects of history how this clause has played a pivotal role in the numerous landmark civil rights cases.
3.2 Section Two of the 14th Amendment
Speaking of another branch of the 14th Amendment, section two of the aforesaid, encompassed the idea of abolishment of the three-fifths clause which revolves around Article I, Section 2, Clause 3 in the original Constitution.
The aforementioned clause had calculated enslaved individuals as three-fifths of a person to determine congressional representation.
The eradication of slavery that was brought into play when the 13th Amendment was ratified, had shone a light on the fact that clarified that all inhabitants, regardless of their race, should be counted as complete individuals.
On the same lines of thought, the aforesaid section had made sure that the essence of the voting rights of all the male citizens who were above the age of 21, regardless of their racial background was given emphasis.
Not only the aforesaid but deeming it essential to state the fact that during the Jim Crow era, the southern states of the country had diligently made efforts to deny Black men the right to vote, by using an assortment of state and local principles.
Keeping in mind the subsequent course of events, introducing the constitutional amendments that revolved around granting women the right to vote as well as lowering the legal voting age to 18 became highly essential.
3.3 Section Three of the 14th Amendment
The power to disqualify individuals who had taken an oath of allegiance to the United States Constitution from holding office if they were involved in “insurrection or rebellion” against the Constitution, is the concept that falls under the umbrella of the Congress, which forms the entire crux of Section Three.
To prevent the president from enabling former Confederacy leaders to reclaim authority within the United States government following a presidential pardon was the primary purpose of bringing the aforementioned into play.
Not only the aforesaid but this section also stipulated that a Congress vote with a two-thirds majority was necessary to reinstate the rights of United States citizenship for public officials who had participated in the rebellion, which allows them to hold positions once again in the government or military.
The section, verbatim, stated that:
“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.“
3.4 Section Four of the 14th Amendment
Declaring the fact about the legitimacy of the United States public debt, as lawfully authorized as well as encompassing debts accrued to provide pensions and rewards for services in quelling insurrection or rebellion, to not be doubted, serves as the core stance of section four under the ambit of the 14th amendment.
On the same lines of thought, it has been seen that historians have put forth suggestions about the fact that this clause has been curated for the sole reason of guaranteeing that the federal government would not disavow its debts, referring to a situation that had occurred with certain former Confederate states.
Not only the aforementioned but the fact that this section has prohibited the settlement of any debts owed to the dissolved Confederate States of America as well as has forbidden any disbursements to former enslavers as recompense for the forfeiture of human “property” also called enslaved individuals, has also been termed as a key branch of the idea under the said section.
3.5 Section Five of the 14th Amendment
The last section, also known as the fifth section of the 14th Amendment revolves around the said definition:
“Congress shall have the power to enforce, by appropriate legislation, the provisions of this article”
The said statement has acted as a mirrored comparable enforcement provision that has been curated under the umbrella of the 13th Amendment.
On the same lines, deeming it essential is the fact that by granting Congress the authority to enact laws for the protection of the comprehensive provisions outlined in Section One, the 14th Amendment effectively reshaped the power dynamics between the federal as well as the state governments in the United States which pinpointed the idea that this shift in authority became particularly pronounced.
The essence that close to a century later, Congress exercised this mandate to enact pivotal civil rights legislation, standing inclusive of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965 has also been a point which is a must highlight.
4. The Connection Between the 5th and the 14th Amendment
What deems the 14th Amendment a crucial one, is the fact that lies in the resemblance it holds with the 5th Amendment.
The Due Process Clause that is discerned within the ambit of the Fourteenth Amendment bears a close similarity to a provision found in the Fifth Amendment, that revolves around solely limiting the actions of the federal government.
The said provision puts forth the idea in the stated definition:
“deprived of life, liberty, or property without due process of law.”
It has been put forth as a general statement that the clause of “due process” revolves around the aspect of equitable procedures.
However, on the other hand, the United States Supreme Court has not only utilized this aspect of the Fourteenth Amendment to outright prohibit certain practices but has also ruled that the Due Process Clause safeguards the rights that have not been explicitly enumerated in the Constitution, that stands inclusive of the right to privacy concerning intimate relationships.
In the landmark case Roe v. Wade, positioned in the year 1973, the Supreme Court of the United States determined that the right to privacy takes under its umbrella the concept of a woman’s choice to undergo an abortion.
Not only this, but the fact that the Court employed the Due Process Clause to progressively apply the protections of the Bill of Rights to individual states through a process termed “incorporation”, also deemed it highly crucial for the same.
On the same lines of thought, the Fourteenth Amendment also makes it a mandate that every individual within the jurisdiction of the United States is entitled to the “equal protection of the laws.”
The aforementioned idea revolves around the aspect that discrimination cannot occur without valid justification.
It has been also said that since all laws are made to curate a line of distinction, as governments must determine what is lawful, it follows that discrimination is inherent in the legislative process.
Taking, as an illustration, is the fact that a law that criminalizes burglary inherently discriminates against burglars.
On the other hand, the Equal Protection Clause stipulates that a state must possess a valid rationale or a “rational basis” for making such aforesaid differentiation.
In certain domains that are marked by a history of past unjust actions which stands inclusive of the concept of discrimination based on race or gender.
It has been put across that a much higher standard is required for the state to justify the aforesaid segregation, hence it can be said that this rise in the standard not only necessitates but also emphasizes the need for a more substantial justification upon the same.
Under the 14th Amendment, there also stands a branch encompassing the concept of Equal Protection, which extends its coverage to certain situations that involve several undocumented immigrants.
It was stated very categorically in the case of Plyler v. Doe, in the year 1982, by the Supreme Court of the United States that a Texas law that prohibited children without legal residency from attending free public schools stands invalidated.
Diving further into the said idea, the said court’s ruling was solely based on the understanding that the aforementioned stature of Texas inflicted a vehement amount of hardships on a specific set of children who bore no responsibility for their disadvantaged status.
Going further into the aforesaid idea, the 14th Amendment provided states with the authority to disenfranchise individuals who are convicted of either rebellion or other crimes.
The aforesaid was a clause that specifically aimed at restricting the voting rights of the Former Confederate soldiers.
On the other hand, talking about the nation’s idea of a “war on drugs,” this very same clause had led to the action of denying voting rights to many African Americans, who, as a group, have been irrationally convicted of drug-related offences.
As ironic as it stands, the aforementioned amendment that was created to ensure the aspect of equal rights are bestowed upon the African Americans, has now become a means to relegate them to a second-class status.
Not only this but the fact that in numerous states, a significant number of minority offenders are still unable to vote due to their criminal records also serves as an alarming issue.
Completing the essence of the entire section of thought is the fact that according to Michelle Alexander’s book “The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colour-blindness,” the concept of racial discrimination still prevails brilliantly in the United States under a different guise, perpetuating a form of social hierarchy that disproportionately affects minorities.
5. Famous Landmark Judgements About the 14th Amendment
Being one of the most crucial amendments that led to a huge development in the judiciary of the United States, several cases have not only used the ambit of the said amendment to curate a pronouncement but have also served as precedents to maintain the sole purpose of bringing such an amendment to existence.
The cases, renowned ones, are stated below:
5.1 Case of the Slaughter-House, 1873
The Slaughter-House Cases, which saw the light of day in the year 1873, witnessed a situation where the disposal of waste products from slaughterhouses that were positioned upstream of New Orleans had caused health issues over a prolonged period.
On the same lines, as a response, it was said that Louisiana had decided to centralize the slaughterhouse industry into a single facility which shall positioned in the south of the city.
Following the decision of the said move, a strong revolt was witnessed from the existing slaughterhouse owners, who contended that the state-sanctioned monopoly infringed upon their recently ratified 13th and 14th Amendment rights.
Diving deeper into the said case, proceeding towards the pronouncement of the said matter, Justice Samuel Miller, who was presiding over the case, dismissed the butchers’ claims related to the clause of due process as well as involuntary servitude.
Instead, he focused on Article IV, which stated and granted “the Citizens of each State” the “Privileges and Immunities of Citizens in the several States.”
Not only the aforesaid but he was also a strong believer of the fact that the 14th Amendment, which is bestowed with the authority to safeguard the concept of the “Privileges or Immunities of citizens of the United States.”
On the same lines of thought, it deems it necessary to shine a light on the fact that Justice Miller’s argument hinged on the distinction that these two clauses protected the distinct sets of rights.
The idea that Article IV took under its umbrella the rights associated with state citizenship, whereas the 14th Amendment safeguarded the rights connected to national citizenship, also serves as of great importance.
Complementing the aforesaid thoughts of Justice Miller is another aspect of the ideology that pertains to the privileges as well as the immunities that are tied to United States citizenship.
Not only was the aforesaid narrow but was also particularly limited to those explicitly outlined in the Constitution.
From the freedom to travel freely between states to other concepts of freedom, the said idea took under its guidance the rights of utmost liberty.
However, what it did not comprise were the rights related to an individual residing in the United States occupation as well as protection against monopolies, which Justice Miller asserted very categorically meaning positioned the aforesaid clause as to be exempted from this category.
5.2 Case of Lochner v. New York, 1905
Witnessed in the year 1905, the case of Lochner v. New York has been termed to be one of the most crucial ones. Joseph Lochner, a baker from New York, was found guilty of violating the New York Bakeshop Act.
The fact that provisions of the statute imposed strict restrictions on bakers, in terms of limiting their work hours to no more than 10 hours a day and 60 hours a week was the key aspect of the matter.
However, the Supreme Court of the United States pronounced a judgement falling against the Bakeshop Act, which means that the said court asserted the idea that it encroached upon Lochner’s “right to contract.”
Complementing the same thought, the Supreme Court also derived this perceived “right” from the Due Process Clause that falls under the purview of the 14th Amendment, which stands as a legal manoeuvre that many experts contend, meaning that it has surpassed the boundaries of the judicial authority.
5.3 Case of Gitlow v. New York, 1925
Before the year 1925, the rights put forth in the document known as the Bill of Rights were not universally bestowed upon the citizens of the United States at the local level as well as the ones that were directed solely towards the actions of the federal government.
The aforementioned case of Gitlow v. New York, in 1925, serves as one of the initial efforts taken by the Supreme Court of the United States to incorporate, as well as broaden the provisions curated in the Bill of Rights to take responsibility for state actions.
Benjamin Gitlow, the party in the said case, was a socialist, who not only published an article advocating for the violent overthrow of the government but was also arrested for the same under the ambit of the New York state law.
Following the same line, Gitlow went ahead and contended that his rights to freedom of speech as well as the press were being violated which falls under the umbrella of the First Amendment.
Going ahead, post the hearing of the appeal, the Supreme Court of the United States articulated that the First Amendment applied to states through the Due Process Clause of the 14th Amendment.
Not only the aforesaid but the fact the Supreme Court pronounced the idea that Gitlow’s speech was not being safeguarded under the First Amendment through the application of the “clear and present danger” test, was another key element in the case.
Hence the aforesaid judgement not only marked the initial instance of incorporating the Bill of Rights but also set a precedent for subsequent cases where the Supreme Court extended the protections of the Bill of Rights to the actions of individual states.
5.4 Case of Brown v. Board of Education, 1954
It would stand as a huge failure if mentioning the significance of the Brown v. Board of Education case witnessed in the year 1954, about the victory of the Civil Rights Movement is skipped.
Post the Supreme Court of the United States judgment in the year 1896 with regards to the case of Plessy v. Ferguson, the states were permitted to enforce racial segregation in public schools as long as the facilities were deemed to fall under the concept of “equality.”
The aforesaid mentioned which is known as Brown v. Board of Education radically reversed this above-stated precedent.
The fact that Supreme Court’s ruling emphasized the idea that, standing irrespective of the perceived “equality” of facilities, the action to create segregation solely based on the broad umbrella of ‘race’ was inherently inequitable.
Hence, as a result, the Supreme Court of the United States declared racial segregation in public schools to be a violation of the Equal Protection Clause that falls within the widened purview of the 14th Amendment.
From moving through the reconstruction era to the civil rights movement, the emergence of the 14th Amendment has served to be of great importance.
Not only the various provisions stemming from sections 1 to 5 but the fact that there are landmark judgments that either use or stand as a precedent for future cases about the same, the essence of the 14th amendment is not only vital but also vehemently huge.
Though President Andrew Johnson revolted vigorously against the birth of the said amendment, with the assistance of Congress, the 14th amendment was brought into play and since its initiation, it holds a great value in the judiciary system of the United States.