The second section in effect repealed the Constitution's three-fifths clause of Article I, Section 2, Paragraph 3, that counted three-fifths of enslaved people in the apportionment of seats in the House of Representatives. The Fourteenth Amendment also authorized Congress to deny any state that deprived citizens of the right to vote in its legislative elections of a portion of its representation in Congress and of its allotted number of presidential electors. The third section denied the vote to men who served in the Confederate army or navy or had supported the rebellion if they had served in public office before the Civil War and had taken an oath to support the Constitution, but it allowed Congress by a two-thirds vote of both houses to remove individual disabilities. The fourth section invalidated all state debts incurred in support of the rebellion. And the fifth section granted Congress power to enforce all parts of the amendment by appropriate legislation.
On January 9, 1867, the members of both houses of the General Assembly, who had been elected in the autumn of 1865, voted against ratifying the amendment. All twenty-seven members of the Senate of Virginia who were in attendance that day voted against the amendment. The vote in the House of Delegates was 74 to 1. During the following days, fifteen delegates who were absent when the vote was taken asked to have their votes recorded against ratification.
On March 2, 1867, Congress required that the legislature of each state in the former Confederacy ratify the Fourteenth Amendment before its senators and elected representatives could be seated in Congress. That requirement remained in place even after the requisite number of states had ratified the amendment and it had become part of the U.S. Constitution. Ratification was completed on July 9, 1868, when the legislature of South Carolina became the twenty-eighth state to ratify it. On October 8, 1869, both houses of the General Assembly of Virginia ratified both the Fourteenth and Fifteenth amendments. The vote in the House of Delegates on the Fourteenth Amendment was 126 to 6 and in the Senate of Virginia 36 to 4. All twenty-one of the twenty-three African American members of the House of Delegates who were present voted for it; one of the six African American senators, Isaiah L. Lyons, voted against it.
Congress passed a bill that the president signed on January 26, 1870, permitting Virginia's senators and elected representatives to take their seats in Congress, which ended Congressional Reconstruction in Virginia.
During the 1870s Congress and the federal courts enforced the Fourteenth Amendment to make the abolition of slavery result in genuine freedom. One case from Virginia reached the Supreme Court of the United States in 1879, and the ruling in that case helped define the extent of congressional power under the Fourteenth Amendment and explained the amendment's purpose and meaning. The point at issue was the constitutionality of a provision in the Civil Rights Act of 1875. It stated that no citizen who was qualified to serve on a jury in any court in the United States could be disqualified from jury service by reason of race, color, or previous condition of servitude. A Danville, Virginia, judge was arrested on a charge that he had excluded African American men who were otherwise qualified for jury service from serving on juries in his court.
In the case, called Ex Parte Virginia, decided on March 1, 1880, a majority of the justices of the Supreme Court ruled that this section of the Civil Rights Act was an appropriate law to protect the freedom and rights that the Fourteenth Amendment secured. "One great purpose of these amendments," the majority opinion declared, referring to the three Reconstruction Amendments, "was to raise the colored race from that condition of inferiority and servitude in which most of them had previously stood, into perfect equality of civil rights with all other persons within the jurisdiction of the States. They were intended to take away all possibility of oppression by law because of race or color. They were intended to be, what they really are, limitations of the power of the States and enlargements of the power of Congress. They are to some extent declaratory of rights, and though in form prohibitions, they imply immunities, such as may be protected by congressional legislation."
Two members of the Supreme Court dissented, in part because they believed that jury service was a political right that the Fourteenth Amendment was not intended to protect, rather than a civil right that they agreed Congress was fully authorized by that amendment to protect from state abridgment.
Federal courts have also used the equal protection of the laws clause in the Fourteenth Amendment to invalidate state and local laws such as the ones that required compulsory racial segregation of public schools and other public facilities. Congress, too, has acted under the authority of the fifth section of the Fourteenth Amendment to enforce national reforms, especially in matters of civil rights, that outlawed numerous state laws and practices.
March 6, 1857 - The U.S. Supreme Court issues its ruling in Dred Scott v. Sandford. The decision denies Congress the authority to interfere with slavery in the territories and undermines the idea of "popular sovereignty."
June 8, 1866 - The U.S. Senate approves the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
June 13, 1866 - The U.S. House of Representatives approves the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
January 9, 1867 - Members of both houses of the General Assembly of Virginia vote against ratifying the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
March 2, 1867 - The U.S. Congress requires that the legislature of each state in the former Confederacy ratify the Fourteenth Amendment before its senators and elected representatives can be seated in Congress.
July 9, 1868 - South Carolina becomes the twenty-eighth state to ratify the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, completing the ratification process.
October 8, 1869 - Both houses of the General Assembly of Virginia ratify the Fourteenth and Fifteenth amendments to the U.S. Constitution.
January 26, 1870 - The U.S. Congress passes an act permitting Virginia's senators and elected representatives to take their seats in Congress. This ends Congressional Reconstruction in Virginia.
March 1, 1880 - In Ex Parte Virginia, the U.S. Supreme Court rules constitutional a provision in the Civil Rights Act of 1875 that prevents anyone from being disqualified from jury service by reason of race, color, or previous condition of servitude.
Cite This Entry
- APA Citation:
Tarter, B. Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. (2015, October 26). In Encyclopedia Virginia. Retrieved from http://www.EncyclopediaVirginia.org/Fourteenth_Amendment_to_the_U_S_Constitution.
- MLA Citation:
Tarter, Brent. "Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution." Encyclopedia Virginia. Virginia Humanities, 26 Oct. 2015. Web. READ_DATE.
First published: June 26, 2015 | Last modified: October 26, 2015
Contributed by Brent Tarter, founding editor of the Dictionary of Virginia Biography.