Fourteenth Amendment Essay, Research Paper
The Fourteenth Amendment was adopted in 1868 as one of the longest amendments to the Constitution with five parts in total. The most significant part is section one. In the very first sentence of section one, “ All persons born or naturalized in the United States and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, as citizens of the United States and of the state where in they reside” citizenship was universalized. The Amendment was designed to prohibit state governments from curtailing the rights of former slaves after the Civil War, however it has been used to grant all of the personal liberties and rights conveyed in the Bill of Rights.
The Amendment gives definition to citizenship, requires due process and equal protection under the law ands reduces representation in Congress for states that deny voting rights to its citizens.
In the Dred Scott case, Chief Justice Taney ruled that United States citizenship belonged only to two classes of people; White people born in the United States as descendents of “persons, who were at the time of the adoption of the Constitution recognized as citizens in the several States and [who] became also citizens of this new political body, and those who were “born outside the dominions of the united states: but had migrated there and had become naturalized citizens.
Prior to the Constitution, each state regulated citizenship. With the adaptation of the document, Congress had the authority to establish a uniform rule for naturalization, but not citizenship – that was still left up to the state. In order to become a citizen of the United States, one had to first become a citizen of one of the States.
Any Negro was ineligible to attain citizenship, either by naturalization or birth. Even as a free man, any one of African descent could still not become a citizen. The purpose of the Fourteenth Amendment was to make citizenship of black individual permanent and secure. The amendment did not entirely universalize citizenship because it left out the right to vote, hence the need for the Fifteenth and Nineteenth Amendments granting the right to vote to blacks and then to women, respectively.
The Supreme Court under Justice Miller rejected that the
“amendment’s privileges and immunity clause incorporated the Bill of Rights, holding that the only rights protected were access to Washington D.C., and coastal seaports; the right to protection the high seas; the right to use navigable waters of the United States; the right to assembly and petition; and the privilege of Habeas Corpus.”
It wasn’t until the 1960’s that this amendment really came into play. The amendment is used to protect our civil rights and liberties as Americans. The Supreme court recognized in 1925 with Gitlow v. New York that the Bill of Rights was meant for all people, not just rich, white males. The court held that freedom of speech and of the press were basic personal rights that were protected by the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, “No…State shall deprive any person of life, liberty or property with out due process of law; nor deny to any person..equal protection of the law.”
In the 1960’s the court then applied that clause to those accused of crimes. They more thoroughly interpreted the Eighth Amendment, regarding cruel and unusual punishment and excessive bail. In 1963, the court universalized the right of the accused to have a lawyer, as noted in the Sixth Amendment. In the subsequent year, the right to “plead the Fifth,” or not incriminate one’s self was incorporated and guaranteed as a universal right. In 1966, the court implemented the right for a person to remain silent while being questioned by the police. This Sixth Amendment right now applied to all United States citizens.
In 1972, with Roe v. Wade, concerning a woman’s right to terminate a pregnancy, the Supreme Court decided that within the Fourteenth Amendment existed a fundamental right to privacy as the amendment guarantees liberty. Embedded in the Fourteenth Amendment’s right to privacy is the right to homosexuality and homosexual behavior.
The Fourteenth Amendment is what distinguishes the United States from any other democracy in the world. The Amendment truly is the charter of universal freedom because it guarantees that any person, black, white, Asian, female, or homosexual will have the same Constitutional guarantees as the next person. It deems that we are all equal under the law, meaning we are all equal under the Constitution and should govern ourselves accordingly. We are warranted the same rights, protection, privacy and due process under the law as any other American citizen regardless of race, age, religion or sexual orientation.