Structure of the Fourteenth Amendment:
The 14th Amendment has various provisions extending the Constitution to the states, but the most important is Section 1.
Along with the 13th and 15th Amendments, the 14th Amendment reshuffled the deck of American government and opened the
way for the Bills of Rights to
apply to the states. 11
It makes relevant BILLS,
QUILLS, AND STILLS: AN ANNO-
TATED, ILLUSTRATED, AND ILLU-
MINATED HISTORY OF THE BILL
OF RIGHTS (2015), my book on
The first sentence directly nullified the Constitution’s
“Three-Fifths Clause” (Article
I, § 2) and the Fugitive Slave
Clause (Article IV), which had
defined slaves as property, not
as citizens. 12
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.
Freedmen are citizens.
This sentence dumped the Supreme Court’s disastrous 1857
Dred Scott definition of citizenship where Chief Justice Taney had
held people of African descent,
“had no rights which the white man was bound to respect; and
that the negro might justly and lawfully be reduced to slavery
for his benefit. He was bought and sold, and treated as an
ordinary article of merchandise and traffic, whenever profit
could be made by it.” 13
By recognizing black people’s
citizenship, the 14th Amendment’s very first line changed
federalism. People born here
are citizens of America “and
of the State wherein they reside.” The slavery-bound federalism was to end. This broad
definition of citizenship applied not only to freedmen,
but to Native Americans and
From Thomas Jefferson’s,
“All men are created equal,”
to Lincoln’s “dedicated to
the proposition that all men
are created equal,” the 14th
Amendment’s first sentence
is a lineal descendant.
former Confederate state except Tennessee refused to ratify it. In
response, Congress provided that Southern states could not rejoin
the Union until they ratified the 14th Amendment. 10 Congress
also passed Reconstruction Acts imposing military governments
throughout the South.
On July 28, 1868, Secretary of State William Seward issued an
unconditional certificate of ratification declaring three-fourths of the
states had ratified the 14th Amendment.
Oregon: A Land of Opportunity and Racism
An unfair view of history is that the South was racist and the north was not – Racism prevailed throughout.
When Oregon joined the Union in 1859 as a “free state,” its constitution prohibited Negroes
or mulattos from entering or living there. They also could not make contracts, own land, or
“maintain any suit” (in courts). Congressman John Bingham argued Oregon should be kept
out of the Union until it changed this constitution.
Therefore, “free African-Americans were ‘entitled to all the privileges and immunities of
citizens of the United States, amongst which are the rights to life, liberty, and property, and
their due protection in the enjoyment thereof by law.”’ See Goldstein at 320. Oregon came
in the Union with its racist constitution but showed why we needed 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.
Principal framer of the 14th Amendment