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13th through 15th Amendments to the United States Constitution
Background and Summary
The 13th Amendment to the United States Constitution
officially abolished, and continues to prohibit, slavery
, and, with limited exceptions, prohibits involuntary servitude
. Prior to its ratification, slavery remained legal only in Delaware
, everywhere else; the slaves had been freed by state action and the federal government's Emancipation Proclamation
executive order. Abraham Lincoln
, who had issued the Emancipation Proclamation, and others, was concerned that the Proclamation would be seen as a temporary war measure, and so, besides freeing slaves in those two aforementioned states, they supported the Amendment as a means to guarantee the permanent abolition of slavery. The amendment was originally co-authored and sponsored by Congress
-member James Mitchell Ashley
-OH) and James Falconer Wilson
A) and Senator John B. Henderson
(D-MO). It was followed by the other Reconstruction Amendments
: the 14th
, which intended to protect the civil rights of former slaves and the 15th
, which banned racial restrictions on voting.
Section 1 of the 13th Amendment says: Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction. Section 2 says: Congress shall have the power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.
Historically, the 13th Amendment was unusual. The first 12 amendments had been adopted within 15 years of the Constitution’s creation and approval. The first 10 laws in the Constitution, known as the Bill of Rights, were passed in 1791, the 11th Amendment came in 1795 and the 12th in 1804. When the 13th was proposed there had been no new amendments adopted in more than 60 years.
The objective of the 13th was also unusual. During the crises of secession and prior to the outbreak of the Civil War, the majority of bills passed by Congress had kept slavery intact. There was very little proposed legislation to abolish slavery. Congress-memberJohn Quincy Adams made a proposal in 1839, but there were no new proposals until December 14, 1863, when a bill to support an amendment to abolish slavery throughout the entire United States was introduced by Congress-member Ashley (R-OH). This was soon followed by a similar proposal made by Congress-member Wilson, (R-IA).
13 Was Not Unlucky
Eventually, Congress and the public began to take notice and a number of additional legislative proposals were brought forward. Sen
.Henderson (D-MO) submitted a joint resolution for a constitutional amendment abolishing slavery on January 11, 1864. The abolition of slavery had, historically, been associated with Republicans, but Henderson was a “war Democrat.” The Senate Judiciary Committee, chaired by Lyman Trumbull (R-IL), became involved in merging all these different proposals together for an amendment. A radical Republican, Sen. Charles Sumner (R-M), submitted a constitutional amendment to abolish slavery as well as guarantee equality on February 8 of the same year. As the number of proposals and the extent of their scope grew, the Senate Judiciary Committee presented the Senate with an amendment proposal combining the drafts of Ashley, Wilson and Henderson.
After debating the amendment, the Senate passed it on April 8, 1864, by a vote of 38 to 6. Although they initially rejected the amendment, the House of Representatives passed it on January 31, 1865, by a vote of 119 to 56. President Abraham Lincoln signed a Joint Resolution, February 1, 1865, and submitted the proposed amendment to the states for ratification. Secretary of StateWilliam Seward issued a public statement verifying the ratification of the 13th Amendment on December 18, 1865. The 13th Amendment completed legislation to abolish slavery, which began with the Emancipation Proclamation issued by President Abraham Lincoln in 1863. Approximately 40,000 slaves remaining in Kentucky were freed by the 13th Amendment.
Since the 13th Amendment was proposed before the Southern states had been restored to the Union after the Civil War, it should have easily passed the Congress. However, while the Senate did pass it in April of 1864, the House declined to do so. President Lincoln then took an active role to ensure its passage through the House by ensuring the amendment was added to the Republican Party platform for the upcoming Presidential elections. His efforts came to fruition when the House passed the bill in January 1865. The 13th Amendment's archival copy bears an apparent Presidential signature, under the usual ones of the Speaker of the House and the vice president after the words "Approved February 1, 1865."
Prior to 1988, inflicting involuntary servitude through psychologically coercive means was included in the interpretation of the 13th Amendment. In 1988 the Supreme Court of the United States ruled that compulsion of servitude through psychological coercion is not prohibited by the 13th Amendment. Psychological coercion had been the primary means of forcing involuntary servitude in the case of Elizabeth Ingalls in 1947. In 1988, U.S. v. Kozminski
, this was circumscribed to mean only physical coercion. However, the Supreme Court held that there are exceptions. The court decision circumscribed involuntary servitude to be limited to those situations when the master subjects the servant to either threatened or actual physical force, threatened or actual state-imposed legal coercion, or fraud or deceit where the servant is a minor, an immigrant or mentally incompetent. The federal anti-slavery statutes were updated in the Trafficking Victims Protection Act
of 2000, which expanded the federal statutes' coverage to cases in which victims are enslaved through psychological, as well as physical, coercion.
Labor is defined as work of economic or financial value. Un-free labor, or labor not willingly given, is obtained in a number of ways: First, by causing or threatening to cause serious harm to any person; by physically restraining or threatening to physically restrain another person; by abusing or threatening to abuse the law or legal process; by knowingly destroying, concealing, removing, confiscating or possessing any actual or purported passport or other immigration document, or any other actual or purported government identification document, of another person; through blackmail and/or causing or threatening to cause financial harm, or using financial control over, to any person.
Peonage: Refers to a person in "debt servitude," or involuntary servitude tied to the payment of a debt. Compulsion to servitude includes the use of force, the threat of force, or the threat of legal coercion to compel a person to work against his or her will. Involuntary Servitude: Refers to a person held by actual force, threats of force, or threats of legal coercion in a condition of slavery—compulsory service or labor against his or her will. This also includes the condition in which people are compelled to work against their will by a "climate of fear" evoked by the use of force, the threat of force, or the threat of legal coercion that is sufficient to compel service against a person's will. i.e., suffer legal consequences unless compliant with demands made upon them. The first Supreme Court case to uphold the ban against involuntary servitude was Bailey v. Alabama in 1911. Forced Labor is labor or service obtained by: threats of serious harm or physical restraint; by means of any scheme, plan, or pattern intended to cause a person to believe they would suffer serious harm or physical restraint if they did not perform such labor or services, or by means of the abuse or threatened abuse of law or the legal process.
Victims of human trafficking and other conditions of forced labor are commonly coerced by threat of legal actions to their detriment. A leading example is the deportation of illegal immigrants. "The prospect of being forced to leave the United States, no matter how degrading the current living conditions, sometimes serves as a deterrent to reporting the situation to law enforcement." Victims of forced labor and trafficking are protected by Title 18 of the U.S. Code. Title 18, U.S.C., Section 241 - Conspiracy Against Rights says: Conspiracy to injure, oppress, threaten, or intimidate any person's rights or privileges secured by the Constitution or the laws of the United States. Title 18, U.S.C., Section 242 - Deprivation of Rights Under Color of Law says: It is a crime for any person acting under color of law (federal, state or local officials who enforce statutes, ordinances, regulations, or customs) to willfully deprive or cause to be deprived the rights, privileges or immunities of any person secured or protected by the Constitution and laws of the U.S. This includes willfully subjecting to or causing to be subjected any person to different punishments, pains or penalties, than those prescribed for punishment of citizens on account of such person being an alien or by reason of his/her color or race.
Amendment to the Constitution of the United States was proposed to the legislatures of the several states by the 38th Congress
, on January 31
. The amendment was declared, in a proclamation of Secretary of State William Henry Seward
, dated December 18
, to have been ratified by the legislatures of 27 of the then 36 states. Although it was ratified by the necessary three-fourths of the states within a year of its proposal, its most recent ratification occurred in 1995 in Mississippi
, which was the last of the 36 states in existence in 1865 to ratify it. The dates of ratification were:
Ratification was completed on December 6
. The amendment was subsequently ratified by the following states:
The provisions in Section 1 have been interpreted to the effect that children born on United States soil, with very few exceptions, are U.S. citizens. This type of guarantee—legally termed jus soli
, or "right of the territory"— does not exist in most of Europe or Asia, although it is part of English common law
and is common in the Americas.
The phrase and subject to the jurisdiction thereof indicates that there are some exceptions to the universal rule that birth on U.S. soil automatically grants citizenship. In the case of United States v. Wong Kim Ark
, the Supreme Court ruled that a person born within the territorial boundaries of the United States is eligible for birthright citizenship regardless of the nationality of his or her parents. The only exceptions to this rule identified in Wong Kim Ark concern diplomats, enemy forces in hostile occupation of the United States or members of Native American
The distinction between "legal" and "illegal" immigrants was not clear at the time of the decision of Wong Kim Ark.
Neither in that decision, nor in any subsequent case, has the Supreme Court explicitly ruled on whether children born in the United States to illegal immigrant parents are entitled to birthright citizenship via the Amendment, although it has generally been assumed that they are. In some cases the Court has implicitly assumed, or suggested in dictaPlyler v. Doe. Nevertheless, some claim that Congress possesses the power to exclude such children from U.S. citizenship by legislation. Such legislation is often proposed by individual members of Congress but has never been passed into law.
, that such children are entitled to birthright citizenship: these include the cases of INS v. Rios-Pineda
The 14th Amendment does not explicitly provide any procedure for loss of United States citizenship. Loss of U.S. citizenship is possible only under the following circumstances: Fraud in the naturalization
process. Technically, however, this is not loss of citizenship, but rather a voiding of the purported naturalization and a declaration that the immigrant never was a U.S. citizen, or by voluntary relinquishment of citizenship. This may be accomplished either through renunciation procedures specially established by the State Department
or through other actions which demonstrate an intention to give up U.S. citizenship.
For a long time, voluntary acquisition or exercise of a foreign citizenship was considered sufficient cause for revocation of U.S. citizenship. This concept was enshrined in a series of treaties between the United States and other countries. However, the Supreme Court overturned this concept in a 1967 case, Afroyim v. Rusk
—as well as a 1980 case, Vance v. Terrazas
—holding that the citizenship clause of the 14th Amendment barred Congress from exercising this sort of authority to revoke citizenship.
Congress also passed the 14th Amendment in response to the “Black codes” that Southern states had passed in the wake of the 13th Amendment, which ended slavery in the United States. These “codes” were laws that attempted to return freed slaves to something like their former condition by, among other things, restricting their movement and by preventing them from suing or testifying in court.
Why the 14th Was Necessary
Prior to the adoption of this Amendment, the Bill of Rights was generally, though not universally, thought to act only as a restraint on federal governments, not those of the state, and a state's relations with its citizens and those of other states was legally restrained only by that state's constitution and laws and those provisions of the Constitution that limited the powers of the states. While many states modeled their constitutions and laws after the federal government’s, those state constitutions did not necessarily include provisions comparable to the Bill of Rights. There is good reason to believe that the framers and early supporters of the 14th Amendment believed that it would ensure that the states would be required to recognize the individual rights protected by the federal government. All of these rights were likely understood to fall within the "privileges or immunities" safeguarded by the Amendment. However, the Supreme Court sought to limit the reach of the Amendment by holding in the Slaughterhouse Cases of 1873 that the "privileges or immunities" clause was limited to "privileges or immunities" granted to citizens by the federal government in virtue of national citizenship. The Supreme Court further held in the civil rights cases that the Amendment was limited to "state action" and thus did not authorize Congress to outlaw racial discrimination on the part of private individuals or organizations. Neither of these decisions has been overturned and, in fact, has been specifically reaffirmed several times.
In the decades following the enactment of the 14th Amendment, the Supreme Court overturned laws barring Blacks from juries in Strauder v. West Virginia
, or discriminating against Chinese-Americans in the regulation of laundry businesses in Yick Wo v. Hopkins, under the aegis of the Equal Protection Clause. In Plessy v. Ferguson, the Supreme Court held that the states could impose segregation so long as they provided equivalent facilities. This was the genesis of the "separate but equal" doctrine. The popular understanding of what was encompassed under "civil rights" was much more restricted during the time of the 14th Amendment's ratification than the present understanding it involved such things as equal treatment in criminal and civil court, in sentencing and in availability of civil services if they apply. On this scheme, political rights were first guaranteed not with the 14th Amendment, but with the 15th Amendment and its giving everyone the right to vote. Social rights first explicitly appeared with Loving v. Virginia in 1967, which declared anti-miscegenation laws to be unconstitutional.
, or laws against interracial marriages,
Manymaintain that the 14th Amendment was designed to encompass a broad anti-discrimination principle, or at least to declare personal rights broader than the restricted concept of "civil rights." On this view, Plessy v. Ferguson sapped the Equal Protection Clause of its original meaning by restricting its application to this degree. The Supreme Court went even further in restricting civil rights in Berea College v. Kentucky holding that the states could force private actors to discriminate by prohibiting an integrated college from admitting both Black and White students. By the early 20th century, the Equal Protection Clause had been eclipsed to the point that Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes dismissed it as "the usual last resort of constitutional arguments."
The Supreme Court held to the "separate but equal" doctrine for more than 50 years, despite numerous cases in which the Court itself had found that the segregated facilities provided by the states were almost never equal. This held until the case, Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka reached the U.S. Supreme Court. The Brown decision was met with a campaign of resistance from White Southerners, and for decades the federal courts attempted to enforce Brown's mandate against continual attempts of circumvention. This resulted in the controversial forced busing decrees handed down by federal courts in many parts of the nation, including major Northern cities such as Detroit and Boston.
In the half century since Brown, the Supreme Court has extended the reach of the Equal Protection Clause to other historically disadvantaged groups, such as women, aliens and illegitimate children, although it has applied a somewhat less stringent test than applied to governmental discrimination on the basis of race. Beginning in the 1880s, the Supreme Court interpreted the 14th Amendment's Due Process Clause as providing substantive protection to private contracts and thus prohibiting a range of social and economic regulation. The Supreme Court held that the 14th Amendment protected "freedom of contract," or the right of employees and employers to bargain for wages without great interference from the state.
Yet while the Supreme Court has emphatically rejected the substantive due processprecedents that allowed it to overturn states' economic regulations, in the past 40 years, it has recognized a number of "fundamental rights" of individuals, such as privacy and some parental rights, which the states can regulate only under narrowly defined circumstances. In effect, it has found an alternative mechanism for fulfilling many of the intentions the Amendment's framers and ratifiers expressed in the Privileges or Immunities Clause, though without acknowledging the inconsistency of earlier decisions with that clause or opting for the full Incorporation of all relevant federal rights against the states in the manner the Amendment seems designed to require.
While it has not been fully implemented, the doctrine of Incorporation has thus been used to ensure, through the unwieldy and unexpected means of the Due Process Clause instead of the Privileges or Immunities Clause, the application of nearly all of the rights explicitly enumerated in the Bill of Rights to the states. As a result, the 14th Amendment not only empowered the federal courts to intervene in this area to enforce the guarantee of due process and the equal protection of the laws, but to import the substantive rights of free speech, freedom of religion, protection from unreasonable searches and cruel and unusual punishment and other limitations on governmental power. At the present, the Supreme Court has held that the Due Process Clause incorporates all of the substantive protections of the First, Fourth, Sixth, and Eighth Amendments and all of the Fifth Amendment
, other than the requirement that any criminal prosecution must follow a grand juryindictment, but none of the provisions of the Seventh Amendment relating to civil trials. Thus, the Supreme Court has also greatly expanded the reach of procedural due process requiring some sort of hearing before the government may terminate civil service employees, expel a student from public school or cut off a welfare recipient's benefits.
The Congress proposed the 14th
Amendment on June 13
. There being 37 states in the Union at that time, the ratification of 28 would bring this Amendment into operation. By July 9
, 28 states had ratified the Amendment:
However, Ohio passed a resolution that purported to withdraw their ratification on January 15
. The New Jersey legislature also tried to rescind their ratification on February 20
. New Jersey’s governor had vetoed its withdrawal on March 5
, and the legislature overrode the veto on March 24
. Accordingly, on July 20
, Secretary of State William H. Seward
certified that the amendment had become part of the Constitution if the rescissions were ineffective. Congress responded on the following day, declaring that the amendment was part of the Constitution and ordering Seward to promulgate the Amendment.
Meanwhile, two additional states had ratified the amendment:
Alabama (July 13
, the date the ratification was "approved" by the governor)
Thus, on July 28
, Seward was able to certify unconditionally that the 14th
Amendment was part of the Constitution without having to endorse Congress's assertion that the withdrawals were ineffective.
A number of individuals argue that the ratification of the 14th Amendment violated Article V of the Constitution. For instance, some argue that: First, the 14th Amendment was proposed by a rump Congress that did not include representatives and senators from most ex-Confederate states, and, had those congressmen been present, the Amendment would never have passed. Second, ex-Confederate states were counted for Article V purposes of ratification, but were not counted for Article I purposes of representation in Congress, and finally, the ratifications of the ex-Confederate states were not truly free, but were coerced. For instance, many ex-Confederate states had their re-admittance to the Union conditioned on ratifying the 14th Amendment.
Getting the Vote
The 15th Amendment is the last of the three “Reconstruction amendments” that passed after the Civil War. This amendment prohibits the states or the federal government from using a citizen's race, color or previous status as a slave to be a voting qualification. Its basic purpose was to enfranchise former slaves who weren’t allowed to vote and weren’t even considered American citizens prior. The first person to vote under the provisions of the amendment was Thomas Mundy Peterson who cast his ballot in a school board election held on February 4, 1870, the day after the 15th Amendment was ratified. But it was not really until the Voting Rights Act in 1965, almost a century later, that the full promise of the 15th Amendment was actually achieved in all states.
After the passage on a per capita and absolute basis, more Blacks were elected to political office during the period from 1865 to 1880 than at any other time in American history. Although no state elected a Black governor during Reconstruction, a number of state legislatures were effectively under the control of a substantial
Black caucus. These legislatures brought in programs such as, universal public education that are considered part of government's new duty, but at the time were seen as radical. They also set aside all racially-biased laws, even those prohibiting interracial marriage, or miscegenation.
Despite the efforts of groups like the Ku Klux Klan to intimidate Black voters and White Republicans, which was the political party of people who believed in progressive ideals, a unified nation and abolition of slavery. At last, there was assurance of federal support that meant that most Republican voters could both vote and rule in confidence. When an all-White mob attempted to take over the interracial government of New Orleans, President Ulysses S. Grant sent in federal troops to restore the elected mayor. However, after the close presidential election of Rutherford B. Hayes, he, in order to mollify the South, agreed to withdraw federal troops from New Orleans. He also overlooked voting-poll violence in the South that was occurring even after the 15th Amendment was passed. There were several attempts by the Republicans to pass laws assuring the rights of Black voters and to punish intimidators. It showed the unwillingness of a Congress under the Hayes administration to take any action at this time, bills that would require incidents of violence at polling places to be publicized were never passed. Without the restrictions, voting place violence against Blacks and Republicans increased, including instances of murder. Most of this was done without any interference by law enforcement, and sometimes with their cooperation.
Congress proposed the 15th Amendment on February 26
. The following states ratified the amendment:
Ratification was completed on February 3
. The amendment was subsequently ratified by the following states:
Wikipedia.com; Amendments to the Constitution of the United StatesMount, Steve, Ratification of Constitutional Amendments
, January, 2007; Herman Belz, Emancipation and Equal Rights: Politics and Constitutionalism in the Civil War Era, 1978; Mitch Kachun, Festivals of Freedom: Memory and Meaning in African American Emancipation Celebrations, 1808-1915, 2003
; C. Peter Ripley, Roy E. Finkenbine, Michael F. Hembree, Donald Yacovone, Witness for Freedom: African American Voices on Race, Slavery, and Emancipation, 1993
; Michael Vorenberg, Final Freedom: The Civil War, the Abolition of mavery, and the Thirteenth Amendment, 2001
; Model State Anti-trafficking Criminal Statute
U.S. Dept of Justice.. GPO Access.
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