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HarpWeek is pleased to present “Citizenship, Due Process, and Equal Protection:  The Creation of the Fourteenth Amendment” as a public service for students, teachers, and interested citizens.   

The end of the Civil War in April 1865 brought defeat to the Confederacy, and the ratification of the Thirteenth Amendment in December 1865 put an end to slavery in the United States.  Serious questions remained, however, concerning the fate of former Confederates and the newly freed slaves in the restored Union.  The Fourteenth Amendment was an attempt to provide some answers to the troubling and shifting situation in the early postwar years.  Its creation took place within the context of concerns over the mistreatment of blacks in the South, the reelection of ex-Confederates to political office, and the struggle between President Andrew Johnson and Congress over the control and content of Reconstruction.  The novelty, complexity, and flux of the period were reflected in the development of the Fourteenth Amendment, which had its origins in distinct constitutional and legal remedies to address the disparate problems of civil rights, the apportionment of federal representation, punitive measures against ex-Confederates, and the public debt of both the Union and the former Confederacy.    

The HarpWeek website: 

  • begins with President Johnson’s Reconstruction program;
  • continues with the search in Congress during the winter of 1865-1866 for ways to secure civil rights in the South;
  • follows the course of the Freedmen’s Bureau Act, the Civil Rights Act, and the Fourteenth Amendment to passage in Congress (including the first congressional override of a presidential veto in the adoption of the Civil Rights Act of 1866);
  • depicts the intensified violence in the South manifested in the Memphis and New Orleans race riots;
  • notes the collapse of the working relationship between President Johnson and Congress, including the president’s National Union Convention that August, his disastrous campaign tour, “Swing Around the Circle,” in September, and the crucial congressional elections in November 1866, which gave Republicans veto-proof majorities to control the Reconstruction process;
  • describes Southern resistance to the Fourteenth Amendment and the congressional response in the First Reconstruction Act of March 1867, which mandated ratification before a former Confederate state could be represented in Congress again;
  • and concludes with ratification of the amendment in July 1868.

The Fourteenth Amendment

Section 1. 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.

Section 2. Representatives shall be apportioned among the several states according to their respective numbers, counting the whole number of persons in each state, excluding Indians not taxed. But when the right to vote at any election for the choice of electors for President and Vice President of the United States, Representatives in Congress, the executive and judicial officers of a state, or the members of the legislature thereof, is denied to any of the male inhabitants of such state, being twenty-one years of age, and citizens of the United States, or in any way abridged, except for participation in rebellion, or other crime, the basis of representation therein shall be reduced in the proportion which the number of such male citizens shall bear to the whole number of male citizens twenty-one years of age in such state.

Section 3. No person shall be a Senator or Representative in Congress, or elector of President and Vice President, or hold any office, civil or military, under the United States, or under any state, who, having previously taken an oath, as a member of Congress, or as an officer of the United States, or as a member of any state legislature, or as an executive or judicial officer of any state, to support the Constitution of the United States, shall have engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the same, or given aid or comfort to the enemies thereof. But Congress may by a vote of two-thirds of each House, remove such disability.

Section 4. The validity of the public debt of the United States, authorized by law, including debts incurred for payment of pensions and bounties for services in suppressing insurrection or rebellion, shall not be questioned. But neither the United States nor any state shall assume or pay any debt or obligation incurred in aid of insurrection or rebellion against the United States, or any claim for the loss or emancipation of any slave; but all such debts, obligations and claims shall be held illegal and void.

Section 5. The Congress shall have power to enforce, by appropriate legislation, the provisions of this article.

The primary source materials for this website are taken from the pages of Harper’s Weekly, the leading American illustrated newspaper in the second-half of the nineteenth century.  The items include editorials, feature stories, news items, illustrations, and cartoons.  Of special interest are the news briefs in the “Domestic Intelligence” column under the subheading, “Congress,” which give readers today a unique opportunity to follow the proposals, counterproposals, debates, and votes in Congress on the major issues of the day. 

In addition to the primary source material, HarpWeek has added an annotated timeline, biographical sketches of significant players in the creation of the Fourteenth Amendment, and a glossary of terms.

Historian Robert C. Kennedy selected, organized, and wrote commentary for this website.  Greg Weber and Richard Roy provided the technical skills to make it function effectively on the Internet.

If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to contact Robert Kennedy at

John Adler, Publisher


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