The 14th Amendment: A History

 

    

 

The Fourteenth Amendment was added to the Constitution in 1868 to empower the federal government -- including particularly federal courts -- to stamp out a culture of lawless tyranny and oppression in the South by enforcing basic civil rights of newly freed blacks and their white supporters. This culture of oppression took many forms, including widespread censorship, the systematic disarmament of freedmen and white unionists, and the wholesale denial of economic liberty. At the heart of the Fourteenth Amendment was the Privileges or Immunities Clause, which the Supreme Court effectively deleted from the Constitution in the 1873 Slaughterhouse Cases. Today, that judicial error continues to take its toll on important freedoms like private property and the right to earn an honest living, which receive virtually no protection from courts despite their obvious importance to ensuring the economic autonomy of the freedmen following the Civil War and all Americans today.

 

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