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As a united nation, America stood on its foundations of a country that offers freedom and liberty. During the late 1700’s, Congress felt that our country needed a stronger union and a government with greater power. After we declared independence from Great Britain, the Articles of Confederation, ratified on March 1, 1781, served as the first written constitution of the United States which established the functions of the national government. After suffering from the British government, many Americans were not fond of strong central governments.
From the fear of central authority, the Articles of Confederation were created as a governing agreement among the 13 states to establish some limited federal power. However, as more power was given to the states, the central government became too weak and Congress had no power to the slave trade, commerce, taxations, protection, court, or law. Soon, the people came to a realization that the nation “required having consistent rules and protections that only a strong central government could provide” (Gale). With the task to revise the Articles of Confederation, the Constitutional Convention held its first meeting on May 25th, 1787 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
Fifty-five state delegates representing every state except for Rhode Island gathered to discuss the changes they could make. However, the delegates soon began considering a new form of government. Throughout the summer of 1787, they debated on this issue and developed a plan that established three branches of national government, each with its own powers and responsibilities; executive, legislative and judicial (history.com). They put a system of checks and balances in place to prevent one branch from having too much authority. Their plan was to mimic Britain’s parliament with a “bicameral legislature with proportional representation of the states in the lower house and equal representation in the upper house” (history.com). The new U.S. Constitution was signed on September 17, 1787, and to better guarantee, the protection of the citizens and the states, James Madison and Congress created ten amendment to address the major concerns that were brought up, known as the Bill of Rights. It was officially added to the Constitution on December 15, 1791. Regarding all the rights and freedoms it protects, there is no doubt that the Bill of Rights “lies at the heart of American conceptions of individual liberty, limited government, and the rule of law” (history.com). Eventually, the ten amendments of the Constitution turned into twenty-seven, one of which is the fourteenth amendment. Although every amendment represents the Common Good in its own way, the citizenship and equal civil and legal rights granted to all citizens by the fourteenth amendment has the most impact on our nation’s common good. Called the second Bill of Rights, the Fourteenth Amendment extends many legal protections against federal government abuse of power.
After the Civil War ended, Congress ratified three amendments to the U.S. Constitution during the era known as Reconstruction, one of them being the fourteenth amendment, to establish political equality for all Americans. They came to be known as the Civil War amendments or the Reconstruction Amendments. The fourteenth amendment grants citizenship to “all persons born or naturalized in the United States,” including former slaves. It was submitted by Congress on June 13, 1866, ratified by twenty-eight of thirty-seven on July 9, 1868, and officially declared as part of the Constitution on July 28, 1868. The fourteenth amendment declared blacks as equal citizens and gives everyone the same right to be called an American citizen with no discrimination. The primary author of the first section who set the legal basis and crucial language of this important amendment was Congressman John A. Bingham of Ohio. He intended for the amendment to also nationalize the Bill of Rights by “making it binding upon the states” (ourdocuments.gov).
The fourteenth amendment contained three vital provisions: The Citizenship Clause, The Due Process Clause, and the Equal Protection Clause. The Citizenship Clause granted all those who were born or naturalized in the United States citizenship, including slaves and Blacks. Protecting the rights of the people, the Due Process Clause affirms that no state is allowed to deny any person of life, liberty, or property without suitable process of law and therefore bans state governments from doing anything that robs a person of their promised rights (Gale). Guaranteeing equal protection of the laws to all citizens regardless of background or race, the Equal Protection Clause ensures that everyone is given the same treatment under state laws. Despite the big role it played on the history of America, the thirteenth amendment has some aspects it lacks, which the fourteenth amendment better secures. The thirteenth amendment abolished slavery in all American states and prohibited involuntary servitude, except for those who have been convicted of a crime. Although it formally freed slaves, the thirteenth amendment fails to provide any other rights for the slaves except for the freedom from being subject to forced labor. Rather, the fourteenth amendment is the one that grants all people as equal citizens and guarantees the protection of their life, liberty, and property. It promises the equal protection of the law for all citizens of the United States, declaring all people born or naturalized in the US as worthy citizens. The thirteenth amendment is a crucial amendment to our constitution that greatly impacted the history of America. However, the fourteenth amendment is the one that greatly expanded the protection of civil rights to all Americans. It has been cited in more Supreme Court cases than any other part of the constitution, which proves that it serves as the best amendment that equally secures and protects the rights of the people to life, liberty, and property. It would become a change in the landscape of America and secured a more appropriate application of human and equal rights to its citizens. more privileges The Supreme Court contains the responsibility as the “referee” of the Constitution, making the final decisions and judgments in all cases. They decide whether certain actions are violations of the law or not, and have the ultimate say on whether something is unconstitutional or constitutional. However, its power is limited by the other two branches of government.
Judicial review is the power of the US Supreme Court to “review laws and actions from Congress and the President to determine whether they are constitutional” (thoughtco.com). In the notorious Dred Scott v. Sandford decision that took place in 1857, Chief Justice Roger Brooke Taney ruled that only two categories of people were qualified to hold citizenship but excluded Blacks, stating that they could not become a U.S. citizen no matter if they were a freeman, descended from free people. After the Civil War ended in 1865, Congress expanded citizenship, reversing the Dred Scott decision, and granted both U.S. and state citizenship to “all persons born or naturalized in the United States,” which is stated in section 1 of the fourteenth amendment.
Resultingly, all black Americans, including the newly freed slaves, became citizens. Created as one of the three Reconstruction Amendments, the fourteenth amendment secures and promises equality for all people and grants citizenship to Blacks and former slaves. The goal was to reinforce the Civil Rights Act of 1866, which ensured that “all persons born in the United States” were citizens and were to be given “full and equal benefit of all laws.”
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