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Minor v. Happersett

The Fourteenth Amendment

The Fourteenth Amendment, ratified in 1868, is the most prominent of the three Aamendments designed to secure the civil rights of the millions of slaves freed during the Civil War. Indeed, the Fourteenth is one of the most important of all constitutional amendments, and has been the case of more legal action--and more discussion by legal scholars--than any other part of the Constitution.

Most of the attention centers on the first of the amendment's five sections. Section 1 extends the rights to due process and equal protection under the law, first applied to the federal government in the Fifth Amendment, to the states. This was a revolutionary step, because it was primarily under state governments that citizens' civil rights were being violated.

The other four sections of the amendment relate chiefly to situations prevailing at the time, and have enjoyed considerably less attention than section 1 in years since. Thus for instance section 3 denies the opportunity of service in Congress or as president or vice president to anyone who "engaged in insurrection or rebellion against" the federal government--i.e. in the Confederacy. Likewise section 4 validates the debt incurred by the federal government during the war, but invalidates that incurred by the Confederate government.

Additional topics

Law Library - American Law and Legal InformationNotable Trials and Court Cases - 1833 to 1882Minor v. Happersett - Significance, The "new Departure", A Constitutional Approach, All Or Nothing, The Fourteenth Amendment