14th Amendment

The legal verification of giving the U.S. citizenship to any person, who is born in the United States, is presented in the 14th Amendment to the Constitution. Adopted after the Civil War, the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was aimed to extend the citizens’ privileges and immunities listed in the Bill of Rights. It also obligated state governments to provide people with equal protection under the law. Essentially, the 14th Amendment has become one of the most democratic in the history of American constitutionalism, since not only proclaimed the equality of all citizens regardless of skin color but also included state penalties for violation of these regulations. 

In the 19th century, there was an active expansion of the Southern states (extensive nature of the plantation) and the Northern states (the needs of industry and farming) to the West. In addition, the general political crisis arose due to the Missouri. By that time, 11 slave and 11 free slave states were the parts of the federation. Thus, the slavery first appeared as a national problem. As a result of the intense debate, a compromise was reached: Missouri joined the federation as the slave state, but at the same time, Maine became a member of the federation as a free state. The border of slavery, therefore, was set. This political deal, which was considered as the first Missouri compromise, was an attempt to maintain the equilibrium of the historical representation of slave and free states in the Senate.


After the Missouri compromise, a broad movement to abolish slavery, which was commonly referred to as the abolitionist movement, began throughout the country. As a result, a new compromise was reached: Northern California joined federation as a free state, but at the same time, the law obliged the Northern states’ authorities to detain runaway slaves and return them to their owners. Moreover, a bill of Nebraska was adopted, according to which the population of the state should have taken the decision on slavery. This led to violent armed clashes of the slaveholders’ units and the opponents of slavery. Virtually, this meant the eve of the Civil War. The Republican Party was also formed and, over the short time, included the slavery limiting in its program measures. Lastly, there was an uprising of John Brown, which was the attempt to struggle for the abolition of slavery by force of arms.

In 1861, a prominent supporter of the abolition of slavery, one of the founders of the Republican Party, Abraham Lincoln was elected for the presidential post. This showed the changes in the balance of social forces in favor of the abolitionists and meant the collapse of the long-lasting political hegemony of the slave owners. Importantly, Abraham Lincoln won owing to the program, which contained the requirements to limit slavery. In response, mass rebellions arose in Southern states. In addition, South Carolina announced its withdrawal from the Union, and by February, it was followed by another 6 states that proclaimed the formation of the Southern Confederacy with its capital in Richmond. In time, a total of 13 states left the federation. Shortly after the formal entry of Abraham Lincoln to the presidency, the Confederates mutinied, trying to forcibly overthrow the constitutional government and proclaim the new Constitution of the Confederate States of America. In an effort to extend slave relationship in the entire Union, the Confederates began the Civil War. 

Initially, the success accompanied the southerners. The turning point in the war was the result of Lincoln’s government activities, which included cleaning the army from the supporters of the Confederation and the introduction of compulsory military service. Moreover, the property of the rebels was confiscated and new taxes were introduced. However, the main thing was that Lincoln’s government adopted two laws: Homestead Act, according to which everyone could receive land, and the Proclamation on the elimination of slavery, which declared all slaves owned by the rebels free. 

The Civil War has led to major changes in the legal and political system of the United States. In this regard, the provisions of the 14th Amendment were highly important. The new balance of power marked the beginning of a bitter struggle on the question of granting blacks the constitutional right to vote. During this struggle, the reactionaries, who were supported by President Johnson, actively opposed the adoption of the amendments to the Constitution, which guaranteed the right of blacks to vote. 

The major mainspring of the struggle for the mentioned right of blacks was not moral considerations about the injustice of slavery, but purely pragmatic concerns of the victorious bourgeoisie of the North. Specifically, if freeing slaves was the military necessity during the Civil War, providing them with the right to vote after the war was politically expedient for the northern capitalists: they decided to establish a new economic and political order in the country, and blacks’ voices were necessary to reorganize the states of the South according to their own interests. The debate became acute and sharply polarized, and, in time, the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was offered. According to it, black men, but not women obtained the right to vote. The mentioned amendment was rightly regarded as a new plan of Congress’ Reconstruction of the South. Moreover, Congress received the right to ensure enforcement of the provisions of the new amendment to the Constitution. At that time, neither the United States nor any particular state could pay notwithstanding debts, obligations, and claims. Furthermore, the validity and binding force of debt, including debts and liabilities for pensions as well as awards for services, were confirmed. 

The Amendment prohibited all legislators of the executive and judicial authorities of the states, as well as the members of Congress and federal officials, who participated in the rebellion, be a Senator or Representative in Congress. They also could not be electors of President and Vice-President. Moreover, the 14th Amendment prohibited the states from enacting laws, which restrict the benefits of the U.S. citizens and deprive them of liberty or property without due process of law. Thus, the 14th Amendment not only created the legal conditions for the release of blacks but also equaled their rights with whites’ ones. It also ensured the right of citizenship and permanent residence to everyone, who was born or naturalized in the United States. According to Jimenez, “the 14th Amendment is an enduring and essential instrument to protect racial justice.” Most importantly, it did not become a remnant of the past: nowadays, colored people continue to obtain protection under the law. 

The 14th Amendment significantly impacted the criminal justice system by permitting every U.S. citizen to fall under the jurisdiction of the U.S. Constitution. Moreover, it ensured that any governmental department has no right to refuse American citizen of liberty, life, and happiness. For example, the Due Process Clause of this Amendment expresses the commitment of the criminal justice system and law enforcement to protect human’s liberties and rights. Exactly this clause became the basis of Brown v. Board of Education (1954), in which the Supreme Court’s decision helped to disassemble the cases of racial segregation as well as other cases that rejected racial discrimination. 

The first section of a new amendment to the U.S. Constitution seemed to turn former slaves into competent citizens; all U.S. residents, regardless of skin color, should have received equal civil and political rights. However, this idea was put under the question because of the second part of the amendment, which allowed the deprivation of voting rights of certain categories of the adult male population. Moreover, the amendment had the negative effect on the immigration laws. According to it, any child that was born in the United States receives American citizenship. At the same time, the status of the parents is irrelevant, which leads to the issue of illegal immigration. “There is increasing interest in repealing birthright citizenship for the children of aliens – especially, undocumented persons”. This right is successfully and widely used by illegal immigrants. Their children, who were born in the United States, immediately receive all benefits of the U.S. low-income families: baby food, immunization, diapers, the WIC services, food stamps, baby seat in the car, Well Baby checks, doctor visits, medications, and schooling. Therefore, the application of the 14th Amendment has put the country on the brink of financial disaster. 

Although the amendment has been created to guarantee the recognition of the U.S. citizenship, it was later used to justify judicial activism in a number of policy areas. It means that in the process of decision-making on the matters of compliance with the Constitution, judges can express personal views on a matter of public policy and court cases. The legal thinking of judges and the end result of their work, therefore, are impacted by certain political and legal theories. In this regard, the 14th Amendment works to the detriment of the American people.

In conclusion, the 14th Amendment was submitted to Congress by the end of the Civil War to provide the rights for black people of America, who had returned to their homes in the states that were parts of the Confederacy. Despite providing a range of rights for the black population, the amendment has a number of disadvantages. However, today, the 14th Amendment remains one of the most crucial development blocks of the democracy. It upholds the American idea that every citizen is equal under the law regardless of gender, race, and nationality. Nowadays, the 14th Amendment is still highly important and continues to have an impact on the U.S. history and development.

Oct 7, 2020 in Research
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