The Fourteenth Amendment’s “Citizenship Clause”










Senator Jacob M. Howard
Author of the “Citizenship Clause”


The Thirteenth, Fourteen, and Fifteenth Amendments are called the “Reconstruction Amendments” because they were the first enacted after the Civil War and because they addressed the legal and political status of African Americans.

The five sections on the Fourteenth Amendment dealt with citizenship and equal protection of the laws, and with the power of Congress to enact those laws. It was vehemently contested, especially by the formerly Confederate states, forced to ratify it in order to regain representation in Congress, but the amendment was ratified and became part of the Constitution on July 9, 1868.

Section 1 (“the citizenship clause”) was the most disputed in 1868, and remains the most litigated today. It states:

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.

This clause reversed the Dred Scott Decision. Free blacks and former slaves were now citizens. But they did not have the right to vote.

Posted in Slavery and The Constitution.

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