14th Amendment Simplified

14th Amendment
The 14th amendment is the amendment to the constitution which gives equal rights to all citizens of the United States

14th Amendment of the Constitution
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.

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, 15 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. affects 2

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.

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.

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

What Is the 14th Amendment?

The Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution is one of the three Reconstruction Amendments introduced after the Civil War. It was ratified and adopted on July 9th, 1868.

Section 1

The Fourteenth Amendment sought to address the question of newly-freed slaves’ status by providing that everyone born in the United States would automatically be granted citizenship, no matter their race.

United States Passport
The 14th Amendment sought to grant citizenship to anyone born in the United States.

Additionally, it echoed the language of the Fifth Amendment by mandating that none of the states could deprive citizens of “life, liberty, or property, without due process of law.”

It also provides “equal protection of the laws” to all citizens of the country.

All of the above is covered by Section 1 of the 14th Amendment.

Sections 2-5

Sections 2, 3, and 4 of the 14th Amendment are primarily relevant only in the context of the Civil War (specifically the reintegration of southern states). 

Civil War cannon
Sections 2, 3, and 4 of the 14th Amendment relate to the reintegration of southern states following the Civil War.

In contrast, Section 5 gives Congress the power to enforce the provisions of the 14th Amendment through legislation.

Let’s take a quick look at some of the main points of the Fourteenth Amendment.

Birthright Citizenship

Section 1 of the Fourteenth Amendment provides that everyone born in the United States or territories is a citizen. This concept is known as “birthright citizenship.”

Memorial to enslaved people
The American Civil War saw 4 million slaves freed from bondage.

During and after the Civil War, some 4 million slaves were freed. Suddenly, there were 4 million people in the country whose legal position was unclear.

The 14th Amendment changed this by making it so that everyone born in the United States or its territories would automatically be citizens, regardless of race or their former status as slaves.

Today, birthright citizenship is brought up most often related to children of illegal immigrants.

Due Process and Equal Protection

The Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment are among the most influential sections of the entire Constitution.

US Supreme Court
United States Supreme Court.

First, due process extends the states’ federal protections in the Bill of Rights (the First Amendment to the Tenth Amendment).

The Equal Protection Clause, which mandates that individual states must protect every group equally, has been relevant in many Supreme Court cases.

Some of these include Loving v. Virginia (1967), permitting people of different races to be married anywhere in the country, and Roe v Wade (1973), permitting a woman to have an abortion. 

More recently, Obergefell v. Hodges (2015) permitted people of the same sex to marry one another.

Due process of law

As mentioned earlier, the Due Process clause states that the States may not curtail “life, liberty, or property without Due Process of law.”

What does this mean exactly?

Well, as one may guess through the many United States Supreme Court cases related to it, it’s open to interpretation. But, in general, it means that a defendant in a criminal case can expect fair treatment.

Today, however, it’s understood to mean much more.

Overturning the Three-Fifths Clause

The amount of representatives a state has in the House of Representatives is determined based on population. According to the Great Compromise, every state has at least one representative, even with a tiny populace. 

Map of United States
The House of Representatives is determined based on the population.

For example, today, California has 53 representatives, while Alaska has just one (along with six other states).

In the early days of the United States, slavery was prevalent in the south.

How were African American slaves – if at all – counted towards a state’s population? How did this affect how many representatives a state had in Congress?

Of course, the states that had slaves wanted all their slaves to count to have more representatives and more voting power. But, on the other hand, the northern states weren’t so keen to grant them so much power.

From 3/5s to 5/5s

The Three-Fifths Clause was reached as a compromise. It established that 3/5 of slaves would count towards a state’s population for purposes of representation in Congress.

Dr. Martin Luther King
Despite the 14th Amendment, African Americans had to continue to fight for civil rights.

The Fourteenth Amendment laid out, in no uncertain terms, that this discrimination would no longer be the case. Freed slaves were citizens now and, as a result, would be 100% counted as part of a state’s population.

It stipulated, however, that if black men over the age of 21 were denied the right to vote, the state’s number of representatives would be reduced as punishment.

Unfortunately, this was not really enforced, and Jim Crow laws often denied the average African American citizen equal rights to vote until the 1960s.

Ex-Confederates in Office

After the Civil War, 11 states that had declared their intent to secede from the Union were reintegrated.

Confederate flag
The 14th Amendment placed restrictions on former Confederates running for office.

Naturally, after the war, the question arose whether or not those who had betrayed their oaths to the United States (such as former members of Congress or military officers) should be allowed to run for office in the United States federal government.

Section three of this constitutional amendment establishes that they can’t unless Congress votes by a two-thirds majority to allow the person in question to run.

Confederate Debt

Section 4 of the 14th Amendment prohibits the payment of any debt owed to the Confederacy. It also negates the idea that the United States federal government should pay former slave owners for their losses.

14th Amendment Quiz

If you would like to download a PDF with our quiz, then please go to:

Download the quiz PDF

Alternatively, you can take our online quiz here:

14th Amendment Quiz

4 Responses

  1. “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.”

    “Additionally, it echoed the language of the Fifth Amendment by mandating that none of the states could deprive citizens of “life, liberty, or property, without due process of law.” It also provides “equal protection of the laws” to all citizens of the country.”

    The “explanation” in the second quotation above incorrectly calls persons citizens, a serious error. The 14th amendment statement in the first quotation above applies to persons, not citizens.

    1. The 14th Amendment needs to be changed. It should read “citizens” not “persons.” This is probably why the Biden admin is trying to take illegals to different states, to bolster the population, giving them more seats in the House.

Add a Comment

Your email address will not be published.