Home Amendments An Overview of the 14th Amendment – Simplified & Explained

An Overview of the 14th Amendment – Simplified & Explained

An Overview of the 14th Amendment

14th Amendment Overview

The 14th Amendment to the United States Constitution was ratified in 1868, following the end of the American Civil War. It is one of the most significant amendments to the Constitution, as it granted citizenship to all individuals born or naturalized in the United States and ensured equal protection under the law. Throughout its history, the 14th Amendment has played a vital role in shaping the country’s political and social landscape, paving the way for many of the civil rights and legal protections we know today.

The 14th Amendment was one of three amendments that emerged from the Civil War and Reconstruction period, which sought to ensure that African Americans would be granted basic legal protections and civil rights. The first of these amendments, the 13th, abolished slavery and involuntary servitude, while the 15th guaranteed African American men the right to vote. However, the 14th Amendment was undoubtedly the most sweeping and comprehensive of the three, laying the foundation for some of the most significant legal and social changes in U.S. history.

The central idea behind the 14th Amendment is that all individuals, regardless of their race or ethnicity, are entitled to “equal protection” under the law. This means that the government cannot create laws or policies that discriminate against any particular group of people, and that all citizens are entitled to the same legal protections and rights. The amendment goes further than this, however, in its language: it provides “equal protection of the laws,” meaning that the states must also extend the same protections offered by the federal government in terms of the laws and legal procedures they apply to their citizens.

The 14th Amendment also addresses the issue of citizenship, declaring that anyone born or naturalized in the United States is a citizen and subject to all the rights and privileges of citizenship. This clause was particularly significant at the time of its passage, as it effectively overturned the Supreme Court’s decision in Dred Scott v. Sanford (1857), which had held that African Americans could not be citizens of the United States.

One of the most groundbreaking aspects of the 14th Amendment was its application of the “due process” clause, which guarantees individuals the right to a fair and impartial legal process. This means that the government cannot take away someone’s life, liberty, or property without providing them with a proper legal process, including the right to a fair trial and the opportunity to defend themselves.

The due process clause also underpins some of the various civil rights and social reforms that followed in the 20th century. For example, in the landmark case Brown v. Board of Education (1954), the Supreme Court relied on the 14th Amendment’s “equal protection” and “due process” clauses to overturn the doctrine of “separate but equal,” which had allowed segregation in public schools. The court held that segregation violated the “equal protection” clause of the 14th Amendment, setting the stage for the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and other civil rights reforms.

The 14th Amendment has also played a role in the fight for gender equality. In Reed v. Reed (1971), the Supreme Court relied on the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment to strike down a law that favored men over women in the appointment of estate administrators. Since then, the 14th Amendment has been cited in numerous cases related to gender discrimination, including Roe v. Wade (1973), which established a constitutional right to abortion.

In addition to its role in protecting civil rights, the 14th Amendment has also played a crucial role in cementing the federal government’s power over the states. Prior to the Civil War, the United States operated under a system of federalism, in which the federal government shared power with the states. The 14th Amendment transformed this relationship by firmly establishing the federal government’s duty to protect individual rights and the “equal protection of the laws.”

This shift had far-reaching implications for the country’s legal and political landscape, as it effectively gave the federal government greater authority to intervene in state and local affairs. It also paved the way for many of the social and legal reforms that followed, such as the development of federal regulations on worker safety, environmental protection, and other areas traditionally under state control.

In conclusion, the 14th Amendment has had a profound impact on the United States, both legally and socially. It has helped to establish the principles of citizenship, due process, equal protection, and federalism that are central to our political system and way of life. Although its application has faced challenges over the years, the amendment’s influence can still be seen in many of the legal protections and social reforms that we have today. As such, it remains a vital part of our nation’s history and a cornerstone of our democracy.

What is the 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 the power to enforce, by appropriate legislation, the provisions of this article.”

The 14th Amendment Defined

Date Proposed

The 14th Amendment was proposed on June 13th, 1865

Date Passed

The 14th Amendment was passed on July 9th, 1868

President of the United States

Andrew Johnson was the President of the United States during the ratification of the 14th Amendment; he assumed the roles of the Presidency as a result of the assassination of Abraham Lincoln

Stipulations of the 14th Amendment

The 14th Amendment illustrates legislation that disallows the government from infringing on the right(s) to pursue ‘Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness’ with regard to any and all citizens of the United States of America – this statute is applicable to all measures of gender, race, religion, and age

The 14th Amendment mandates that citizens of the United States may undergo the loss of their respective citizenship in the event of the discovery of citizenship fraud or the petition for the rejection of citizenship on the part of a once-naturalized citizen

14th Amendment Facts

The Citizenship Clause within the 14th Amendment mandates that all citizens of the United States are entitled to the rights expressed within the Constitution; the Equal Jurisdiction Clause within the 14th Amendment prohibits prejudice with regard to the jurisdiction of the Constitution

The 14th Amendment introduced the legal instrument of Due Process, which mandates the government’s obligation to respect, maintain, and uphold the legal rights of its citizens; the government is forbidden from infringing on individual’s human rights and liberties – this includes fair, respectful, and ethical treatment devoid of undue violence and harm

States Ratifying the 14th Amendment

1. Alabama

2. Arkansas

3. California

4. Connecticut

5. Delaware

6. Florida

7. Georgia

8. Illinois

9. Indiana

10. Iowa

11. Kansas

12. Kentucky

13. Louisiana

14. Maine

15. Maryland

16. Massachusetts

17. Michigan

18. Minnesota

19. Mississippi

20. Missouri

21. Nebraska

22. Nevada

23. New Hampshire

24. New Jersey

25. New York

26. North Carolina

27. Ohio

28. Oklahoma

29. Oregon

30. Pennsylvania

31. Rhode Island

32. South Carolina

33. Tennessee

34. Texas

35. Vermont

36. Virginia

37. West Virginia

38. Wisconsin

Although failing to receive unanimous ratification, the 14th Amendment has since received subsequent – and collective – ratification from all applicable states

Statutes Associated with the 14th Amendment

The 14th Amendment – in addition to the 13th and 15th Amendments – is categorized as one of the 3 Constitutional Amendments regarded as ‘Reconstruction Amendments’; these Amendments took place within 5 years following the Civil War – they may also be referred to as ‘Civil War Amendments’

The Dred Scott v. Sandford case (1857) mandated that African Americans – regardless of citizenship or applicable grandfather clauses – were ineligible to enjoy the freedoms and rights expressed within the Constitution of the United States; this court case was overturned as a result of the ratification of the 14th Amendment