Visit HarpWeek.com
Go to the homepage...

Section One: Civil Rights // Section Two: Apportionment
Section Three: Punitive Measures // Section Four: Confederate Debt

Section Three of the Fourteenth Amendment prevented anyone who had “engaged in insurrection or rebellion” against the United States—i.e., former Confederates—from holding any civil or military office in federal or state government.  Instead of presidential pardons, as under President Johnson’s Reconstruction policy, Section Three authorized Congress to remove the disability by a two-thirds vote of each House.  Section Three stopped those who had supported the Confederate cause from controlling the Reconstruction process to the detriment of ex-slaves and Southern whites who had remained loyal to the Union during the Civil War. 

Like the other substantive sections of the Fourteenth Amendment, Section Three was originally introduced as a separate measure.  Among the proposals Senator Charles Sumner of Massachusetts made on the opening day of the 39th Congress, December 4, 1865, was a resolution that included restricting federal and state officeholders to those who were “of constant and undoubted loyalty.”  On December 20, a resolution submitted by Republican Congressman John Broomall of Pennsylvania specifically targeted “the active and willing participants in the late usurpation” (i.e., Confederates) who were to be “forever exclude[d] from all political power.”  Similar proposals were made by Republican Congressmen Rufus Spalding of Ohio and Roscoe Conkling of New York, respectively, on January 5 and January 16, 1866.

The punitive resolutions were referred to the Joint Committee on Reconstruction, but no action was taken on them until after it was agreed to combine proposals on the different topics—civil rights, apportionment, ban on ex-Confederate officeholders, and the national and Confederate debts—into one comprehensive amendment.  In the committee, Congressman George Boutwell, Republican of Massachusetts, introduced on April 28, 1866, a proposition that served as the basis for what became Section Three of the Fourteenth Amendment.  As presented to the full House on April 30, it also included a clause (introduced by Republican Senator Ira Harris of New York) disfranchising former Confederates until July 4, 1870.  That clause was removed before final passage. 

(The Amnesty Act of 1872 restored political rights to all but 500 ex-Confederates, and complete amnesty came in 1898.) 


Harper's Weekly References

1)  February 3, 1866, p. 67, c. 3
“Domestic Intelligence” column


Go to the homepage...

Section One: Civil Rights // Section Two: Apportionment
Section Three: Punitive Measures // Section Four: Confederate Debt
 
 

     
 

 
     
 

 
     
 

 

Website design © 2001-2005 HarpWeek, LLC & Caesar Chaves Design
All Content © 1998-2005 HarpWeek, LLC
Please submit questions to webmaster@harpweek.com