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Amendment XV

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Section 1.

The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude–

Section 2.
The Congress shall have the power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.

Passed by Congress February 26, 1869. Ratified February 3, 1870.

 

June 11, 2012 – Essay #81 – Amendment XXVI, Section 1 – Guest Essayist: Janice Brenman, Attorney

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http://vimeo.com/43824641

Amendment XXVI:

 

The right of citizens of the United States, who are 18 years of age or older, to vote, shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or any state on account of age.

 

The Twenty-Sixth Amendment: Empowering America’s Youth

 

 

Throughout our nation’s history the right to vote has remained a cornerstone of cherished civil liberties and democratic processes.  This right, however, was granted to select members of the populace until a century and a half ago. The end of the Civil War brought about 3 “Reconstruction Amendments” aimed to bring constitutionally granted “blessings of liberty” to the black male populace – the 3rd of these, the 15th Amendment, ratified in 1870, granted voting rights regardless of “race, color, or previous condition of servitude.”  Half a century later, women were also granted the right to vote, after various organizations staged a protracted series of processions and protests.  Several countries, such as Sweden, Finland (then known as the Grand Duchy (Dutch-ee)), Britain and Australia, had already forged ground in this area at the end of the 19th century.  The resulting 19th Amendment was ratified in 1920, which prohibited state and federal sex-based voting restrictions.  Additional suffrage privileges were granted with ratification of the 24th Amendment in 1964 – which guaranteed that voting rights of citizens

 

“shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or any State by reason of failure to pay any poll tax or other tax.”

 

Age was the next obstacle to overcome.

The Constitution allowed states to dictate voting qualifications, subject to restrictions incorporated into Amendments.  One of these Amendments, the 14th, mandated an age 21 minimum for male suffrage, with the caveat of withholding any state’s representation in Congress should this right be denied.  With the onset of World War II, many young men and women under age 21 entered military service, sparking discussions about reducing the voting age to 18.  It seemed ironic that one could be called up for military service at 18 and denied the right to vote for the country one was entrusted to defend.  So, in 1942, four Congressmen introduced resolutions to reduce the age to 18.  Over 150 proposals were initiated, some setting the age to 19.  In the early 1950s, Senate debated one of “18” resolutions, but it failed by a vote of 34 to 24.  By the late 1960s, the Vietnam War was rapidly escalating and thousands of young Americans enlisted, or, were drafted for active duty overseas.  As of 1968,  25% of the troops were under age 21 and made up an even higher percentage of casualties.  ‘Old enough to fight, old enough to vote’ became a mantra for the burgeoning Baby Boom generation.

The resolutions for lowering the voting age began to gain momentum once again.  Congress held hearings on the subject between 1968 and 1970. These hearings touched on the link between military service and voting, but primarily focused on the increased educational levels of modern youth.  Their discussions also focused on the ever-increasing responsibilities of the 18-21 year old demographic: attending college, driving automobiles, drinking alcohol (in subsequent years, states raised this age to 21), holding jobs, starting families, being tried as adults in court.  Concurrently, in a narrow 5-4 vote, the United States Supreme Court ruled in Oregon v. Mitchell (1970) that 18 year olds could vote in federal elections, but not in those held at the state, or, local levels.

States now were tasked with evaluating their suffrage-age laws, and sixteen states did just that in 1970.  Six states lowered the age and ten remained unswayed.  Other states began to weigh administrative and cost advantages in matching the new federal framework.  Congress then added a provision to the Voting Rights Act in 1970 setting the minimum voting age to 18 for both national and state elections, arguing it had broad power to protect voting rights under Section 5 of the 14th Amendment.  With that, Congress accelerated its commitment to incorporate the youth suffrage movement within the framework of the Constitution.  Congress passed the 26th Amendment March 23, 1971. In the fastest ratification process on record (107 days), three fourths of the states ratified this landmark proposal July 1, 1971.

Note: Amendment 14, section 2, of the Constitution was modified by section 1 of the 26th amendment.

Ms. Janice R. Brenman is a former prosecutor now in private practice in Los Angeles. She has commented in major legal publications on the subject of legal reform and celebrity influence on the legal system. She has also appeared in medical malpractice, products liability and complex civil litigation, and is well versed in all forms of discovery.  From 1999 to 2000, Ms. Brenman was a City Prosecutor and Community Preservationist. She clerked for the Honorable Rupert J. Groh(Grow), Jr., of the United States District Court for the Central District of California. Ms. Brenman also worked researching, writing and editing under a Nobel Prize winning laureate.

 

June 4, 2012 – Essay #76 – Amendment XXIV, Section 2 – Guest Essayist: Joerg Knipprath, Professor of Law at Southwestern Law School

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http://vimeo.com/43382879

Amendment XXIV:

1:  The right of citizens of the United States to vote in any primary or other election for President or Vice President, for electors for President or Vice President, or for Senator or Representative in Congress, shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or any state by reason of failure to pay any poll tax or other tax.

2:  The Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.

A poll tax is an ancient device to collect money. It is a tax on persons rather than property or activity. As a regressive tax from the standpoint of wealth, it is often unpopular if the amount at issue is steep. But it can also be unpopular for other reasons.

In the United States, such a capitation tax was assessed in many states on the privilege of voting. Amounts and methods varied. One of the last poll taxes of this type, that of Virginia, was just $1.50 per person at the time it was struck down by the Supreme Court in 1966. That is not more than $10.00 in current money, hardly an exorbitant price, except for the truly destitute. But the problem was more than the amount. It was the manner of administration.

The common practice was to require that the tax be paid at each election, and that a potential voter demonstrate that he had paid the tax for a specified number of previous elections. If not, those arrearages had to be paid to register to vote in the ongoing election. The effect of the tax was to hit many lower income groups, but primarily Southern blacks, whose participation in elections dropped to less than 5% during the first part of the 20th century. To be sure, that low rate of participation was not entirely due to the poll tax, but that tax was a particular manifestation of a regime of suppression of political participation by blacks.

The 15th Amendment had been adopted to prohibit overt racial discrimination in qualifying to vote. However, the poll tax and other restrictive measures, such as literacy tests, were not, strictly speaking, race-based, so they did not come within the 15th Amendment. A different solution was needed, according to those who saw the poll tax as intolerable. Literacy tests, if fairly administered (though often they were not), had a clear connection to the responsible exercise of the voting franchise that poll taxes lacked. After all, especially in those years before the electronic media, having a literate electorate was a significant community interest. Republican theory has traditionally looked to having those with the most interest and highest stake take the leading role in the community. Literacy provided a foundation to acquire the knowledge needed for a wise and effective participation in res publica. Poll taxes, on the other hand, are just revenue-raising devices, and, since they are applied equally per capita, they are removed from republican considerations of having those with the highest economic stake in society direct the political affairs of that society.

Opposition to the poll tax increased during the 1930s and President Roosevelt briefly attacked it in 1938. But FDR had to be mindful of the powerful influence of Southern Democratic barons in the Senate and the crucial role that the Southern states played in the politically dominant Democratic coalition. By the 1940s, the House of Representatives passed legislation to outlaw poll taxes but a Southern-led filibuster in the Senate killed the effort. By 1944, the Republican Party platform and President Roosevelt (though not his party’s platform) called for the tax’s abolition.

Eventually, qualms arose about using ordinary legislation to block the tax. Article I of the Constitution places principal control over voter qualification in the hands of the states. The 15th Amendment (race) and the 19th Amendment (sex) had limited the states’ discretion. To many—even opponents of the poll tax—the message from those amendments was that limitations on state power had to proceed through specific constitutional amendment. The opinions issued by the Supreme Court seemed to echo those sentiments, as the Court had accepted the predominant role of the states in that area even when it struck down the racially-discriminatory “white primaries” in the South in the 1940s and 1950s. The debate allowed Southern supporters of the poll tax to characterize the controversy as a states’ rights issue.

The effort to adopt a constitutional amendment to ban poll taxes dragged on through the 1950s into the 1960s, even as support for the tax grew weaker. Literacy tests remained widespread, even in the North. But Southern states, too, abandoned poll taxes until, in 1960, only 5 states retained them. Finally, in March, 1962, the Senate approved what would become the 24th Amendment. This time, no Southern filibuster occurred. In August of that year, the House concurred. The concerns over state sovereignty remained, in that the amendment proposed to abolish poll taxes only in federal elections, leaving states and municipalities free to continue the practice for their internal affairs.

When the amendment was sent out to the states, every state of the old Confederacy, but two, refused to participate, still portraying the matter as a states’ rights issue. The two exceptions were Mississippi, which formally rejected the amendment, and Tennessee, which approved it. Outside the South, every state adopted the amendment between November, 1962, and March, 1964, except Arizona and Wyoming.

But, as mentioned, states were still free to adopt poll taxes for local elections. This apparently was a call to action for the Supreme Court. Casting constitutional caution to the wind, the Court in Harper v. Virginia Board of Elections in 1966 struck down the Virginia poll tax for state and local elections. Creating an odd alloy of different constitutional concepts, due process and equal protection, Justice William Douglas announced for the majority that poll taxes impermissibly discriminated on the basis of wealth and/or improperly burdened a fundamental right to vote. In any event, the opinion announced, the Virginia tax violated the 14th Amendment.

The Court obviously was aware of the 24th Amendment, so recently adopted. But the learned justices must have found the effort to amend the Constitution through the proper Article V process unsatisfying. It appears that the 24th Amendment, having been limited to federal elections to avoid further intrusion into state sovereignty over voting qualifications, was not constitutionally rigorous enough. The Constitution, as it thus stood, was unconstitutional in the eyes of the Supreme Solomons. If the Court was right in Harper, members of Congress and of the state legislatures could have saved themselves much trouble and just used the 14th Amendment to declare all poll taxes unconstitutional. Congress could have accomplished the goals of the 24th Amendment, and more, just by passing a law to enforce these supposed rights protected under the 14th Amendment.

Of course, traditionally the 14th Amendment was not understood to provide direct restrictions on state control of voting qualifications. Otherwise, the 15th Amendment, as it applies to states, would have been unnecessary. The Court had used the 15th Amendment to strike down certain voting restrictions on race earlier in the 20th century, and did not even begin to take gingerly steps towards the 14th Amendment until striking down the “white primaries.”

Not much significance, other than as a symbol and a constitutional curiosity remains of Harper. The Court since then has repudiated the notion of wealth as a constitutionally “suspect” classification entitled to strict judicial scrutiny under the equal protection clause. As well, the notion of voting as a fundamental right protected under the due process clause, has had a checkered history.

Rights conceptually are “fundamental” if they do not depend on a political system for their existence; they are “pre-political” in the sense of the Anglo-American social contract construct that the Framers accepted. Freedom of speech and the right to carry arms for self-defense come to mind. Voting is an inherently political concept that does not exist outside a political commonwealth, and the scope of the voting privilege (that is the meaning of “franchise”) is, necessarily, a political accommodation. Even republics, never mind monarchies, have no uniform understanding of who may be qualified to vote. The great historical variety of arrangements of republican forms of government, and the inherently political nature of defining them, is one reason the Supreme Court has not officially involved itself in defining what is a republican form of government guaranteed under the Constitution.

A final word about the 24th Amendment: Historically, many republics, including the states in our system, required voters to meet designated property qualifications, as a reflection of having a sufficient stake in the community to vote responsibly (and to pay for the cost of government). Strictly speaking, the 24th Amendment does not forbid those. The Supreme Court has upheld property qualifications for voting for special governmental units, such as water districts. One wonders, whether the abolition of such qualifications, if they were required in all elections, would need a constitutional amendment today, or whether the Supreme Court would just wave the magic wand of the 14th Amendment, as it did in Harper.

An expert on constitutional law, Prof. Joerg W. Knipprath has been interviewed by print and broadcast media on a number of related topics ranging from recent U.S. Supreme Court decisions to presidential succession. He has written opinion pieces and articles on business and securities law as well as constitutional issues, and has focused his more recent research on the effect of judicial review on the evolution of constitutional law. He has also spoken on business law and contemporary constitutional issues before professional and community forums. Read more from Professor Knipprath at: http://www.tokenconservative.com/.

May 18, 2012 – Essay #65 – Amendment XIX – Guest Essayist: Julia Shaw, Research Associate and Program Manager in the B. Kenneth Simon Center for Principles and Politics at the Heritage Foundation

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Amendment XIX:

The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex. Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.

The Nineteenth Amendment

The Nineteenth Amendment prohibits the federal government or state governments from denying individuals the right to vote on the basis of sex. It also grants Congress the power to impose this rule through legislation.

The Constitution introduced in 1787 was a gender-neutral document: It actually did not prohibit women from voting. The Framers gave individual states the power to determine who could participate in elections. All states granted men suffrage. In 1797, though, New Jersey made history by recognizing the right of women to vote. Never before in all of recorded history had women exercised the right to vote.

Because the Constitution did not prohibit women from voting, no constitutional amendment was technically necessary for women to exercise suffrage. This is evident in the variety of strategies that the women’s suffrage movement used to secure the right to vote.

The first strategy involved the interpretation of the Fourteenth Amendment. Section 2 of that amendment prohibited denying “male inhabitants” the right to vote, suggesting that the Constitution granted only men the right to vote. Proponents of women’s suffrage argued that the Citizenship Clause and the Privileges or Immunities Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment prevented states from denying women the right to vote in federal elections. In Minor v. Happersett (1874), however, the Supreme Court dismissed this argument.

The second strategy focused on convincing individual states to remove voting qualifications related to sex. These efforts were eventually quite successful. Wyoming entered the Union in 1890 with women’s suffrage, becoming the first state since New Jersey to allow women to participate in elections on an equal basis with men. By the time the Nineteenth Amendment was ratified, 30 states already granted voting rights to women for members of the House, members of the Senate, or the President.

The third and final strategy involved amending the Constitution to prevent states from imposing sex-based voting qualifications. The first of such amendments was proposed in 1869. In 1897, a California Senator proposed what would become the Nineteenth Amendment. The Amendment was ratified in 1920 with essentially the same wording as the Fifteenth Amendment.

There has been little litigation over the Nineteenth Amendment. The Supreme Court addressed the amendment directly in Breedlove v. Suttles (1937), a case in which Georgia law exempted women from a tax but required men to pay it upon registering to vote. The Court ruled that the amendment protected the right of both men and women to vote but did not limit a state’s authority to tax voters.

Julia Shaw is Research Associate and Program Manager in the B. Kenneth Simon Center for Principles and Politics at the Heritage Foundation.

 

 

May 16, 2012 – Essay #63 – Amendment XVIII, Section 1 – Guest Essayist: Gordon Lloyd, Ph.D., Professor of Public Policy at Pepperdine University

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Amendment XVIII:

Section 1: After one year from the ratification of this article the manufacture, sale, or transportation of intoxicating liquors within, the importation thereof into, or the exportation thereof from the United States and all territory subject to the jurisdiction thereof for beverage purposes is hereby prohibited.

Section 2: The Congress and the several States shall have concurrent power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.

Section One of the 18th Amendment contains only forty-four words.  These few words are intended, however, to introduce a remarkable and clear change in the relationship between the federal government and the individual American citizen.  In popular terminology, this section prohibited, and criminalized, what was formerly a matter of taste or culture, namely, the purchase and consumption of alcoholic beverages.  But, as we shall see, there is a bit more nuance and ambiguity in this section than what is captured by the common understanding.  Language matters and the thoughts behind the words also matter.  In addition, sometimes, what isn’t said is as important as what is said.

We can collect the words that are indeed said into five separate but related categories. 1) After one year from the ratification of this article 2) the manufacture, sale, or transportation of intoxicating liquors 3) within, the importation thereof into, or the exportation thereof from the United States and all territory subject to the jurisdiction thereof 4) for beverage purposes 5) is hereby prohibited.

This is the first time that an amendment to the Constitution would not take effect immediately upon receiving the requisite votes of 3/4 of the state legislatures, but at a later designated time.   The amendment was ratified on January 16, 1919 and went into effect on January 17, 1920.  Why designate a one-year delay?  The thought was that one-year would give American business, government, and citizens sufficient time to adjust their life style to a new, and so the proponents thought, improved American way of life.

Americans, for most of their history, however, accepted that the Constitution limited the reach of the federal government to few and defined objects leaving the rest of public policy to state and local governments or to the private sector.  The Constitution “enshrined” the rights of the individual and the states over against the federal government in the Bill of Rights, also known as the first ten amendments.

True, the 14th -15th Amendments, passed in light of the civil war, limited, for the first time, what state governments could and could not do.  Specifically, no state could deny the civil rights and voting rights of recently freed African Americans.  And the 13th Amendment also constitutionally limited what Americans could own:  it declared that no American could own another person.

A second feature to Section One of the 18th Amendment, therefore, is that it introduces over 100 years after the Founding amendments, and fifty years from the Civil War amendments, into the very Constitution itself, the proposition that we as individual Americans do not own ourselves with respect to the consumption etc., of certain beverages.  Not having a drink is made the moral equivalent of not owning a slave?

The prohibition of alcohol was not a phenomenon at either the Founding or the Civil War.  The case for federal, and then constitutional, prohibition grew out of the success of the Temperance Movement. Their appeal to end the evil of drink spread across the various states in the late nineteenth century and into national politics in the early twentieth century.  Overwhelming majorities of both political parties in Congress endorsed National Prohibition in 1917.  Thus, surprisingly, a formerly politically decentralized and alcohol drinking nation overwhelmingly accepted the Temperance argument that drinking was a moral issue, rather than a matter of personal taste, and that it ought to be constitutionally prohibited.

The fascinating interrelationship between the 16th, 17th, 18th, and 19th Amendments—the so-called Progressive Amendments—is beyond the scope of this essay.  But we do need to ask:  What is Progressive about Prohibition? Both movements see the “cleaning up” of the American political system, with its “smoked filled rooms,” on the one hand, and reforming public conduct and getting rid of saloons on the other hand, as twin forces in the transformation of America into a better nation.

But, once again, language is important.  The clear and purposeful prohibition language covering the importation, exportation, and domestic “manufacture, sale, or transportation” shows the moral side of America.  But what is not said in this “mission statement” shows the endurance of entrepreneurial politics in American life.  This is the third feature that is important in Section One.

Despite the common interpretation, Section One does NOT prohibit “the purchase and consumption of alcoholic beverages.” The words, “purchase,” “consumption,” and “alcohol,” are not mentioned.  What is found there instead is the phrase “intoxicating liquors.”  This leaves open to future Congressional debate, and political exemptions, what is “intoxicating” and what are “liquors?”   What about “sacramental wine,” and “medicinal alcohol?”  Shall they be exempt?  After all, the prohibition is “for beverage purposes.”  Nor is anything said about eating purposes.  This ambiguous language is not accidental; it reflects the persistence of entrepreneurial politics in America.

Professor of Public Policy at Pepperdine University, Dr. Lloyd is the coauthor of three books on the American founding and sole author of a book on the political economy of the New Deal. His latest coauthored book is The Two Narratives of Political Economy. He currently serves on the National Advisory Council for the Walter and Leonore Annenberg Presidential Learning Center through the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation.

 

May 9, 2012 – Essay #58 – Amendment XV, Section Two – Guest Essayist: Professor Joerg Knipprath, Professor of Law at Southwestern Law School

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Amendment XV:

Section 1: The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude.

Section 2: The Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.

As do its older companions among the three Reconstruction Amendments, the Fifteenth Amendment authorizes Congress to make laws to enforce its provisions. Congress acted almost immediately after the amendment’s adoption to protect the voting rights of black citizens through the Enforcement Act of 1870. Just six years later, however, the Supreme Court blunted that statute’s use as a practical tool to prevent Southern interference with the voting rights of blacks.

For the next eighty years, the focus of 15th Amendment law shifted to the Supreme Court as it struck down various ingenious ways, such as “grandfather clauses” and literacy tests, that states developed to continue the disenfranchisement of blacks. Not until 1957 did Congress involve itself again. Finally, in 1965, Congress used Section 2 to pass the Voting Rights Act of 1965. That statute is the most significant law passed under this section, and its constitutionality was quickly upheld in two major Supreme Court rulings in 1966.

The statute prohibits the use of any procedure or test that has the purpose or effect of abridging a citizen’s right to vote on account of race. Moreover, it requires that certain states and other political units that seek to change voting procedures must obtain pre-clearance from the Justice Department. These mechanisms, direct prohibition and pre-clearance from federal authorities, are key features of this potentially far-reaching statute. The latter requirement especially is controversial. Justice Hugo Black noted, a “federal law which assumes the power to compel the States to submit in advance any proposed legislation they have for approval by federal agents” threatens the system of structural federalism because it “approaches dangerously near to wiping the States out as useful and effective units in the government of our country.”

Section 2 is a remedial provision, similar to Section 2 of the 13th Amendment and Section 5 of the 14th Amendment. As to the last of these, the Supreme Court has held that any Congressional act must solely remedy violations by the states of the 14th Amendment and must not simply create new statutory rights to sue. Congress must show that the action by the states that the law prohibits is a violation of the 14th Amendment, as determined by Supreme Court precedent. Once such a violation is established, the law must seek to remedy that violation. The characteristics of a remedy are that it targets only the wrongdoers and the offending behavior, and is in place only as long as is needed to cure the problem. Under the 14th Amendment, that test would be met if the law targeted governmental bodies or government officials for sanction, was limited to states that engaged in the unconstitutional conduct, and applied only as long as the violation continued. The Court has coined a fancy and sonorous phrase for this requirement, calling it one of “congruence and proportionality.”

While the Court has not formally adopted the same test for Section 2 of the 15th Amendment, language from the lower courts and from the Supreme Court in the 2009 decision in Northwest Austin Municipal Utility District v. Holder suggests that this is the likely test that will be applied to laws under this section. The provisions of the Voting Rights Act originally met this test. The most controversial section of the Act, the pre-clearance provision, only applies to states or other political units, and only to those that engaged in violations of the 15th Amendment and abridged the right to vote of various racial or ethnic groups (usually blacks or citizens of Mexican ancestry). The statute was in effect only for five years and allowed a “bail-out” if a political subdivision could show that the reason it was covered by the statute (determined through a voting participation formula) was not due to any unlawful discriminatory practice.

Since then, however, the Act’s constitutionality has become more problematic. It has been re-adopted four times, the latest extension, in 2007, for 25 years. Entire states, such as Texas, continue to be subject to its restrictions. Bail-outs were rare, if they occurred at all, before 1982. Between 1982 and 2009, only 17 political units (e.g. towns or cities) out of 12,000 that are covered by the law successfully bailed out. The Justice Department consistently opposed and blocked bail-out suits.

Conditions in the states have changed since 1965. Indeed, the evils of unbalanced voting rates between whites and others are greater today in some states that are not subject to the Act’s coverage formula. All changes in election law are covered by the statute and must be shown not to have a racially discriminatory effect on voting and must receive Justice Department approval. As one frustrated Georgia Congressman tartly remarked, “If you move a polling place from the Baptist church to the Methodist church, you’ve got to go through the Justice Department.”

This was precisely the problem faced by a small water district in Texas that wanted to move the voting place for election of its board from a private house to a public school. The district was formed in 1987 and never engaged in voting discrimination in violation of the 15th Amendment. But, since Texas was covered by the Act, the district was covered, and the Justice Department opposed the district’s suit to bail out of coverage.

The Supreme Court heard the Northwest Austin case in 2009. While the justices did not reach the constitutionality of the Act, the oral argument and the opinion served strong notice that the Court was skeptical that current social and political conditions warranted a “remedy” based on a formula reflecting nearly 50-year-old evidence. At argument, Chief Justice Roberts and Justice Alito wondered why the Act had not been extended to other states where there were greater voting disparities between whites and racial and ethnic minorities than in the covered states. Such unequal treatment goes against the basic constitutional presumption of equality among the states and can only be avoided in unusual cases. The opinion noted the “federalism cost” of interference with the fundamental political decisions of states, the same concern that Justice Black had raised 40 years earlier.

Since Northwest Austin, several additional political subdivisions have been able to extricate themselves from the Act’s preclearance requirement, including the first outside the state of Virginia. Local politicians, the Justice Department, and the lower courts may have received the Court’s signal and are facilitating bail-outs as a way to avoid having the Court declare the Act unconstitutional.

The Act is an object lesson of how a problem begets a law that remains long after the events that gave rise to it are past. The Act was to be “temporary,” but such measures rarely are. It is in truth a remedy without an ill and becomes thereby part of a political spoils system.

Constituencies develop whose economic livelihood or political influence depends on the continued existence of the law and the perpetuation of the appearance of need for it. Those constituencies include the bureaucrats and lawyers in the Justice Department, but also the politicians—federal, state, and local—who can use their support for the Act as evidence of political virtue to further their own power. The political system may be unable to reform itself under such circumstances, and it remains for the courts to declare that the emperor lacks clothes.

An expert on constitutional law, Prof. Joerg W. Knipprath has been interviewed by print and broadcast media on a number of related topics ranging from recent U.S. Supreme Court decisions to presidential succession. He has written opinion pieces and articles on business and securities law as well as constitutional issues, and has focused his more recent research on the effect of judicial review on the evolution of constitutional law. He has also spoken on business law and contemporary constitutional issues before professional and community forums. Read more from Professor Knipprath at: http://www.tokenconservative.org/.

 

May 8, 2012 – Essay #57 – Amendment XV – Guest Essayist: Colin Hanna, President, Let Freedom Ring

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Amendment XV:

1: The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude.

2: The Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.

The Fifteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution was passed by Congress on February 26th 1869, and ratified by the States on February 3rd, 1870.  Although many history books say that it “conferred” or “granted” voting rights to former slaves and anyone else who had been denied voting rights “on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude,” a close reading of the text of the amendment reveals that its actual force was more idealistic.  It basically affirmed that no citizen could rightfully be deprivedof the right to vote on the basis of that citizen’s race, color or previous condition of servitude – in other words, that such citizens naturally had the right to vote.  That is how “rights” should work, after all; if something is a right, it does not need to be conferred or granted  and cannot be infringed or denied.

It is worth noting that the Fifteenth Amendment only clarified the voting rights of all male citizens.  States have the power to define who is entitled to vote, and at the time of the signing of the Constitution, that generally meant white male property owners.  The States gradually eliminated the property ownership requirement, and by 1850, almost all white males were able to vote regardless of whether or not they owned property.  A literacy test for voting was first imposed by Connecticut in 1855, and the practice gradually spread to several other States throughout the rest of the 19th Century, but in 1915, the Supreme Curt ruled that literacy tests were in conflict with the Fifteenth Amendment.

Section 2 of the Fifteenth Amendment sets forth the means of enforcing the article: by “appropriate legislation.”  It was not until nearly one hundred years later, with the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, that the enforcement of the Fifteenth Amendment was sufficiently clarified that no State could erect a barrier such as a literacy test or poll tax that would deny any citizen the right to vote, as a substitute for overtly denying voting rights on the basis of race or ethnicity.  The Civil Rights Act of 1957 had taken a step in that direction, but practices inconsistent with the Fifteenth Amendment remained widespread.  The Nineteenth Amendment. ratified in 1920, had granted women the right to vote.  The only remaining legal barrier to citizens is age, and that barrier was lowered to 18 by the Twenty-Sixth Amendment, ratified in 1971.  Many people do not realize that a State could permit its citizens to vote at a lower age than 18, and none has.

The moral inconsistency between a Declaration of Independence that proclaimed that all men (and, by widely accepted implication, all women) were created equal, and a Constitution that tolerated inequality based on race and gender, required more than 150 years to be resolved.  The ratification of the Fifteenth Amendment in 1870 was one of the major milestones along that long path.

Colin Hanna is the President of Let Freedom Ring, a public policy organization promoting Constitutional government, economic freedom, and traditional values. Let Freedom Ring can be found on the web at www.LetFreedomRingUSA.com.

 

May 7, 2012 – Essay #56 – Amendment XIV – The 14th Amendment’s Impact on the Constitution – Guest Essayist: Justin Dyer, Ph.D., Author and Professor of Political Science, University of Missouri

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Amendment XIV:

 

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, 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.

 

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.

In his Notes on the Constitutional Convention of 1787, James Madison observed “the real difference of interest” between states “lay, not between large & small but between N. & Southn.” “The Institution of slavery & its consequences,” Madison maintained, “formed the line of discrimination.” At several points, the original Constitution struck a compromise between these competing interests. The most obvious: slaves would be counted as three-fifths of a person for the purposes of representation (Art. 1§2), Congress would not proscribe the African slave trade until 1808 (Art. 1§9), and runaway slaves would be returned to the state from which they fled (Art. 4§2).

Yet even in these provisions, the word “slavery” never appeared. As Supreme Court Justice John McLean noted, one reason the Constitution crafted in Philadelphia did not mention slavery directly is because “James Madison, that good and great man, was solicitous to guard the language of the instrument.” Indeed, Madison recorded in his notes on the convention that “it would be wrong to admit in the Constitution the idea that there could be property in men” because men, by nature, were not consumable merchandise. And so in “the provision respecting the slave trade, in fixing the ratio of representation, and providing for the reclamation of fugitives from labor,” McLean maintained, “slaves were referred to as persons, and in no other respect are they considered in the Constitution.”

McLean’s comments came in a spirited dissenting opinion in Dred Scott v. Sandford (1857), a case in which the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court claimed, among other things, that “the right of property in a slave is distinctly and expressly affirmed in the Constitution” and that African slaves and their descendents (including free blacks) were not and could never become citizens of the United States. The Dred Scott decision, in turn, set off a firestorm of controversy and was among the precipitating causes of the Civil War– a conflict that would claim some six hundred thousand American lives.

Although the war wrought enormous damage to the southern infrastructure and exacted a heavy price in both blood and treasure, one of the enduring legacies of the conflict was the adoption of the Thirteenth, Fourteenth, and Fifteenth Amendments to the Constitution during the first few years after Appomattox. Collectively known as the Reconstruction or Civil War Amendments, these provisions ended slavery, granted birth citizenship, protected the privileges and immunities of citizens, prohibited states from denying anyone the equal protection of the laws or the due process of law, and prohibited racial discrimination in state and national voting laws.

Section 1 of the Fourteenth Amendment, in particular, was written with the Dred Scott decision in mind. “All persons born or naturalized in the United States,” the Amendment declares, “. . . are citizens of the United States and the state wherein they reside.” No longer is there room for debate about whether the descendants of slaves are full citizens of the American republic. The Amendment also introduced into the Constitution several restrictions on state governments: “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.”

Initially, there was some debate about how radical a transformation the Fourteenth Amendment worked in the American federal system. According to some members of the Thirty-Ninth Congress, the answer (at least theoretically) was “not much.” As Iowa Congressman James Wilson contended, the amendment established “no new right” and declared “no new principle.” Rather, it was in line with the general principles that had always undergirded American government. In this, Wilson echoed the sentiment of the runaway-slave-turned-abolitionist, Frederick Douglass, who argued that the “Federal Government was never, in its essence, anything but an anti-slavery government . . . If in its origin slavery had any relation to the government, it was only as the scaffolding for the magnificent structure, to be removed as soon as the building was completed.”

The Fourteenth Amendment, which held out the promise of meaningful freedom to newly freed slaves, was also interpreted as something emanating from the principles of the founding. “Let it be remembered,” the Fourteenth Amendment’s principal architect John Bingham declared, quoting an address by the Continental Congress in 1783, “that the rights for which America has contended are the rights of human nature.” To borrow a metaphor made popular by Abraham Lincoln, the end of slavery and the protection of equal civil rights was the working out of an aspiration already present in the American founding, an aspiration summarized by the core political teaching in the Declaration of Independence that “all men are created equal and endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights.”

And yet the story of Reconstruction begins, rather than ends, with the Civil War Amendments. Although the post-war Constitution guaranteed equal protection to all persons and an equality of civil rights among citizens, the reality on the ground has often been much different. From the history of Jim Crow to the twentieth century civil rights movement to the debates about fundamental rights today, the tension between the principles of the revolution and the realities of American constitutional politics is one of the enduring features of American government.

Justin Dyer teaches political science at the University of Missouri. He is the author of Natural Law and the Antislavery Constitutional Tradition and the editor of American Soul: The Contested Legacy of the Declaration of Independence.

May 6, 2012 – Essay #56 – Amendment XIV – The 14th Amendment’s Impact on the Constitution – Guest Essayist: J. Eric Wise, a partner in the law firm of Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP

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Amendment XIV:

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, 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.

 

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.

After the Civil War came the Reconstruction Amendments.  Thinking about the Civil War leads to thinking about the compromises in the Constitution over slavery, which in turn leads to thinking about the Declaration of Independence.  The Declaration embodied the principles that were compromised, “the proposition that all men are created equal.”  The Reconstruction Amendments in a sense constitutionalize the promise of the Declaration and represent a “new birth of freedom,” eliminating the compromises in the Constitution over slavery.  While the 13th Amendment prohibits de jure slavery and the 15th Amendment secures voting rights, the 14th Amendment is as a guaranty against de facto slavery.

The Constitution of 1789 contained a few key limits on state action.  No state could enter into treaties, coin money, pass bills of attainder or ex post facto laws, impair contracts or confer nobility, impose tariffs, conduct foreign policy or make war.  Citizens of each state were entitled to the privileges and immunities of citizens in the several states, but states had the power to determine who was a citizen.  Every state was guaranteed a Republican form of government.

States could make laws with respect to almost any other subject matter, and enforce them as they saw fit, subject only to the state constitution.  The states had broad latitude to shape their laws, to determine issues with respect to fairness and rights, and therewith shape the habits – the virtues and vices – of their peoples.  This latitude included, by intention, the power to impose and protect slavery (and by extension other social and political perversions, short of monarchical government).  The 14th Amendment fundamentally changed this.

Section 1 of the 14th Amendment reads:

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.

The citizenship clause extinguished the ante bellum issues created by Dred Scott v. Sanford (1854) on questions of citizenship.  The privileges and immunities clause placed alien and resident persons in a state on equal footing.  The due process clause guaranteed fair procedure in an actions under state law. The equal protection clause provided for federal oversight as to the equal application of laws to persons within each state.  Additionally section 2 of the 14th Amendment eliminated the three-fifths compromise provisions regarding apportionment of representatives.

As a federal guaranty of certain rights, the 14th Amendment subjects states to federal supervision with respect to fairness and basic rights, whether or not state constitutions already provide such guarantees.  That oversight has provides the federal government – in particular the federal judiciary – with great power to shape the institutions and character of people where once the states had almost exclusive authority.

Judicial construction of the 14th Amendment has changed over time and with it the direction of federal influence over state affairs.  Cases such as Lochner v. New York (1905) and Adkins v. Children’s Hospital (1923) upheld “freedom of contract” as a protected right until the doctrine was reversed in West Coast Hotel v. Parrish (1937).  Equal protection case Brown v. Board of Education (1954) profoundly changed – indeed rescued — the American social landscape, dismantling racial segregation. Equal protection case Hernandez v. Texas (1954) created protected classes of racial and ethnic groups.  Through 14th Amendment cases the First, Second, Fourth, portions of the Fifth, Sixth and Eighth Amendments have incorporated against the states under the doctrine of “substantive due process.”

Also through the 14th Amendment, the judiciary has incorporated rights against the states that are implied by “penumbras” and “emanations” of other express Constitutional provisions.  For example, Griswold v. Connecticut (1965) established a right to privacy which limited the right of a state to prohibit the use of contraceptives.  And there is Roe v. Wade (1973), a 14th Amendment case, famously establishing a national rule over the regulation of abortion, where previously each state had set its own rules, including prohibiting abortion in many states.  These last two cases raise an important question.  Was the 14th Amendment intended to displace the state legislatures with the nine justices of the Supreme Court to the extent it has in practice?

J. Eric Wise is a partner in the law firm of Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP, where he practices restructuring and finance

 

Tuesday, May 1, 2012 – Essay # 52 – Amendment XIV, Section 2 – Guest Essayist: Timothy Sandefur, Author and a principal attorney at the Pacific Legal Foundation

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Amendment XIV, 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.

The end of the Civil War brought radical changes to the United States Constitution.  Leaders of the victorious Republican party hoped now to make the principles for which they waged such a punishing war into a permanent part of the Constitution.   The Fourteenth Amendment renounced the “states’ rights” theories that so prevalent before the war, by declaring first that all Americans are citizens of the United States first and foremost, and only secondarily of the states where they reside.   States had formerly, enjoyed authority to determine both state and federal citizenship; now the nation would determine both.   Second, the Amendment prohibited states from depriving Americans of their “privileges or immunities”—i.e., of the rights that belong to all Americans—or of equal protection of the law, or of life, liberty or property without due process of law.  These new guarantees ensured that the theory of “paramount national citizenship,” for decades the backbone of the Republican anti-slavery crusade, would be enshrined forever in the nation’s highest law.

But the Amendment was not concerned only with these crucial abstract principles.  It was also a matter of practical politics.  The second section of the Amendment—pointing toward the future Fifteenth Amendment—punished any state that deprived people of the right to vote.  Southern states, after all, could be expected to take steps to bar their former slaves—now citizens—from exercising their new rights as citizenship.  Rather than banning such interference outright, as the Fifteenth Amendment would do, this provision declares that if a state deprives “any of the male inhabitants” who are 21 or older from voting in a federal or state election, that state will lose seats in the House of Representatives.

This provision that overrode the Constitution’s infamous “three-fifths” clause, whereby Congress was apportioned on the basis of the white populacealong with “three-fifths” of the slaves, and it marked the first steps toward a democracy in which all races could participate.  Of course, there was also a steely political reality behind Congress’s choice of language: if southern states were restored to the union, and apportioned Congressmen on the direct basis of population, the Republicans might soon find themselves outvoted in Congress, destroying their unique opportunity for constitutional reform.  Thus the Amendment permitted states to deprive people of the right to vote on account of their having “participat[ed] in rebellion, or other crime.”

The inclusion of the world “male” was also a calculated political move, and it also sparked a clash among the Amendment’s friends.  Never before had the U.S. Constitution conditioned the right to vote on sex, and in fact, at the time the Constitution was originally ratified, some states allowed women to vote.  But no state allowed women to vote in 1868, and had the Amendment been written in language that included female suffrage, the proposal would have faced far more opposition within the Northern political coalition.  But adding a provision that explicitly allowed states to disenfranchise women put the nation’s imprimatur on discrimination, and offended many of the same female activists who had helped lead the Abolitionist movement.  Some of them—including Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony—now opposed any guarantee of voting rights that was not gender-neutral.  The former slave Frederick Douglass was more pragmatic.  He believed strongly in women’s suffrage, but that was a goal for another day.  “Woman has a thousand ways to attach herself to the governing power of the land and already exerts an honorable influence on the course of legislation.”  But “the Negro is mobbed, beaten, shot, stabbed, hanged, burnt, and is the target of all that is malignant in the North and all that is murderous in the south.”

Although section 2 was largely rendered obsolete by the Fifteenth and Nineteenth Amendments—which barred states from discriminating on the basis of race or sex when it comes to the right to vote—it has still played an important role in shaping the power of states to deprive certain groups of voting rights.  In a 1974 case, the Supreme Court ruled that states may disenfranchise felons, pointing out that the Fourteenth Amendment explicitly allowed this.  And in 1970, Justice John Marshall Harlan, whose grandfather had been the lone dissenter in Plessy v. Ferguson, relied partly on the language of section 2 to conclude that the Fourteenth Amendment did not allow Congress to interfere with a state’s power to determine voter qualifications.

That the Amendment’s language regarding the right to vote was so quickly superseded by the Fifteenth Amendment should come as no surprise.  The Fourteenth Amendment was just one step in a long-overdue effort to make the Declaration of Independence’s promise of equal liberty a reality for all.

Timothy Sandefur is a principal attorney at the Pacific Legal Foundation and author of Cornerstone of Liberty: Property Rights in 21st Century America (Cato Institute, 2006) and The Right to Earn A Living: Economic Freedom And The Law (Cato Institute, 2010).

 

Monday, April 30, 2012 – Essay #51 – Amendment XIV, Section 1: Equal Protection Under the Law – Guest Essayist: Professor Joerg Knipprath, Professor of Law at Southwestern Law School

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Amendment XIV, 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

Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes once dismissively declared the equal protection clause to be the “usual last resort of constitutional arguments.” At the time, 1927 in the notorious case of Buck v. Bell, Holmes could not have foreseen the explosion in the use of the equal protection clause that would occur a generation later.

The Declaration of Independence had famously asserted the proposition, self-evident to the Founders, that “all Men are created equal.” But this was a metaphysical proposition in that there was to be no aristocracy by birthright, a moral one in that we are all (with allowance for the truly insane) equally imbued with free will, and a religious one in that we are all children of God. The Founders were hardly so naïve to believe that all people are physically, intellectually, and emotionally equal, never mind that they are alike. Aristotle had written in the Politics, “Democracy arises out of the notion that those who are equal in any respect are equal in all respects; because men are equally free, they claim to be absolutely equal.” Aristotle viewed this as a fatal flaw of democracy, a theme echoed in Madison’s Federalist 10. In a trenchant dissection of the instability of democracies, Madison sarcastically observed, “Theoretic politicians, who have patronized this species of government, have erroneously supposed that, by reducing mankind to a perfect equality in their political rights, they would, at the same time, be perfectly equalized and assimilated in their possessions, their opinions, and their passions.”

Moreover, the very real presence of slavery in the great majority of the states demonstrated the limitations of the concrete application of the Declaration’s sentiments. While Thomas Jefferson, agonizing over the institution of slavery from which he personally benefitted, might write, “I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just,” it was also the case, as the historian Forrest McDonald observed, “Few of his countrymen trembled with him.”

In practice, then, both simple human differences as well as more profound human inequalities have to be taken into account in a successful social order. Regarding the former, the law routinely discriminates by drawing lines that target some in the community for unfavorable treatment. The tax code, for example, is a mass of discriminations. As to the latter, attempts to equalize conditions that arise from the human inequalities about which Madison wrote is a prescription for totalitarian government. That is the dark side of egalitarianism and exposes the tension between equality and liberty.

Moving from a manifesto for independence to a plan for governing the Union, the Framers did not imbed either a general principle of non-discrimination or one of equality of condition in the Constitution. There are only specific limited instantiations of non-discrimination, such as the protection offered under the privileges and immunities clause of Article IV to persons coming into a state from another and under the commerce clause to out-of-staters competing with local businesses.

There is, however, no equal protection clause. That had to await the adoption of the 14th Amendment. However, as was the case with the 13th and 15th Amendments, that provision had to do solely with race discrimination and, more directly, the conditions that resulted from institutionalized slavery based on the black man’s race. The 14th Amendment was the immediate product of concern over the constitutionality of the Civil Rights Act of 1866, a law passed under the 13th Amendment. That statute was an anti-discrimination law. Since it prohibited race discrimination in various matters and did not limit itself to slavery as such or apply only in former slave states, there were doubts about the ability of the 13th Amendment to support this law. To cure that defect, a movement for another constitutional amendment, the eventual 14th, arose in Congress under the auspices of the Joint Committee on Reconstruction and the leadership of Congressman John Bingham of Ohio and Senator Jacob Howard of Michigan.

The equal protection clause was only intended to insure formal equality before the law and only regarding race discrimination. That its reach did not extend further was made clear by the Supreme Court in 1872 in the Slaughterhouse Cases, in which a claim by butchers that a Louisiana law violated, among others, their right to equal protection under the 14th Amendment was rejected almost summarily. As Justice Samuel Miller declared, “We doubt very much whether any action of a State not directed by way of discrimination against the negroes as a class, or on account of their race, will ever be held to come within the purview of this provision.” In a companion case decided on the same day, Bradwell v. Illinois, a claim by a woman that the state’s refusal to allow women to practice law violated the 14th Amendment did not even produce an argument by her attorneys or a discussion by the Court of a violation of the equal protection clause. The singularly race-focused nature of the equal protection clause was reiterated by the Court of that era in the Civil Rights Cases and Plessy v. Ferguson.

Leaving aside a few odd cases involving unenumerated fundamental rights, it was not until the 1950s that the Supreme Court began to consider non-race-related equal protection claims, and it was not until Reed v. Reed in 1971 that a claim of unconstitutional sex discrimination was successful. In the last several decades, the Court has used the equal protection clause to strike down state laws that discriminate against various classes of aliens, illegitimate children, and homosexuals. Race, ethnicity, religion, national origin and (many) alienage classifications are considered constitutionally “suspect,” meaning that they are presumptively unconstitutional and subject to “strict judicial scrutiny.” Sex and illegitimacy are “quasi-suspect” classifications subject to “intermediate” scrutiny. In either case, the government must show greater need for such discrimination than would be required for ordinary discriminations by government, such as age, wealth, disability, or other classifications. This means effectively that racial and other such differences must not be formally recognized in laws.

The expansion of non-discrimination protection has made obsolete Justice Holmes’ comment about the futility of equal protection clause claims. The Constitution now protects more broadly against discrimination by government than was the case in the 1920s, and certainly than in the 1790s. Still, there is generally no obligation by government to eliminate inequalities that result from human nature and capabilities or from what might be called expansively the human condition. President Obama, speaking years ago at an academic gathering, bemoaned the Supreme Court’s failure to use the equal protection clause to equalize economic and social conditions of inequality, but the Court has generally avoided such judicial legislation. The only exceptions have been in matters related to access to courts, such as the right of an indigent defendant to a paid attorney.

Beyond those few cases, the justices have declined numerous invitations to turn the Constitution from one of rights against the community (a “negative” constitution) to one of rights from the community (a “positive” constitution). Human experience shows that the latter always becomes one of obligations to the community, as government grows and individual liberty shrinks. Certain justices would be happy to move in the direction of the European model to enact their ideal egalitarian world. Justice Ruth Ginsburg’s admonition to the Egyptians that they follow the South African constitution rather than the American in establishing their new system comes to mind. But the increasingly precarious economic status of the welfare state shows the wisdom of the Court in not amending the Constitution to remake the equal protection clause into a constitutional forge of egalitarianism.

An expert on constitutional law, Prof. Joerg W. Knipprath has been interviewed by print and broadcast media on a number of related topics ranging from recent U.S. Supreme Court decisions to presidential succession. He has written opinion pieces and articles on business and securities law as well as constitutional issues, and has focused his more recent research on the effect of judicial review on the evolution of constitutional law. He has also spoken on business law and contemporary constitutional issues before professional and community forums. Read more from Professor Knipprath at: http://www.tokenconservative.com/.

April 26, 2012 – Essay #49 – Amendment XIV Privileges or Immunities – Guest Essayist: Kevin R. C. Gutzman, M.P.Aff., J.D., Ph.D., Associate professor of the Department of History and Non-Western Cultures at Western Connecticut State University

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Amendment XIV, 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 1, Clause 2 of the 14th Amendment says, “No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States.” This Privileges or Immunities Clause applies a prohibition previously limiting the Federal Government’s powers to the state governments.

From the Federal Government’s earliest days, the Supreme Court, the Congress, and the president assumed that when the Constitution used technical legal terms having fixed historic meanings, those terms were to be read as having those meanings. If we apply this rule of construction to the Privileges or Immunities Clause, the precedent to which we must look is Justice Bushrod Washington’s decision in the case of Corfield v. Coryell (1823). In that case, Washington—sitting as circuit justice for Pennsylvania—described the “privileges and immunities of citizens in the several States,” mentioned in Article IV, Section 2.

According to Washington:
The inquiry is, what are the privileges and immunities of citizens in the several States? We feel no hesitation in confining these expressions to those privileges and immunities which are, in their nature, fundamental; which belong, of right, to the citizens of all free governments; and which have, at all times, been enjoyed by the citizens of the several States which compose this Union, from the time of their becoming free, independent, and sovereign…. They may … be all comprehended under the following general heads: protection by the government; the enjoyment of life and liberty, with the right to acquire and possess property of every kind, and to pursue and obtain happiness and safety; subject nevertheless to such restraints as the government may justly prescribe for the general good of the whole. The right of a citizen of one State to pass through, or to reside in any other State…; to claim the benefit of the writ of habeas corpus; to institute and maintain actions of any kind in the courts of the State; to take, hold and dispose of property, either real or personal; and an exemption from higher taxes or impositions than are paid by the other citizens of the State…[,] to which may be added, the elective franchise, as regulated and established by the laws or constitution of the State in which it is to be exercised. These, and many others which might be mentioned, are, strictly speaking, privileges and immunities, and the enjoyment of them by the citizens of each State, in every other State, was manifestly calculated (to use the expressions of the preamble of the corresponding provision in the old Articles of Confederation) “the better to secure and perpetuate mutual friendship and intercourse among the people of the different States of the Union.”

The first case in which the Supreme Court had an opportunity to construe the Privileges or Immunities Clause was The Slaughter-House Cases (1873). There, the Court divided the privileges and immunities of American citizens between those that are protected by state governments and those that are, as Section 1 of the Fourteenth Amendment puts it, “privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States.” While it declined to list all of the ones that fell under the Fourteenth Amendment, it did say that virtually all of our rights remained rights of state citizenship, not rights “of citizens of the United States”—just as they had been before the Fourteenth Amendment.

So, some of the “privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States” that it listed were “to come to the seat of government to assert any claim he may have upon that government, to transact any business he may have with it, to seek its protection, to share its offices, to engage in administering its functions[;] … the right of free access to its seaports, through which operations of foreign commerce are conducted, to the sub-treasuries, land offices, and courts of justice in the several States[;] … [a citizen’s right] to demand the care and protection of the Federal government over his life, liberty, and property when on the high seas or within the jurisdiction of a foreign government[;] … [t]he right to peaceably assemble and petition for redress of grievances[;] the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus[;] … the right to use the navigable waters of the United States, however they may penetrate the territory of the several States[;] … all rights secured to our citizens by treaties with foreign nations[;] … [the] privilege … to become a citizen of any State of the Union by a bona fide residence therein, with the same rights as other citizens of that State[; … and] the rights secured by the thirteenth and fifteenth articles of amendment, and by the [rest of the] fourteenth….”

Nowadays, liberal critics commonly decry the Court’s decision in Slaughter-House for not creating numerous new rights for federal courts and Congress to enforce against the states under the cover of the Fourteenth Amendment. However, as the Slaughter-House majority pointed out, to have taken a different position would have made the Court the “censor” of all state and local legislation with a supervisory power over all state laws. While the 20th-century Supreme Court carved out precisely such a role for itself, the Reconstruction-era justices remained committed to the Founders’ vision of a decentralized government in which most decisions were made by elected officials. It is unsurprising that they did not behave as modern liberal judges would behave.

Kevin R. C. Gutzman, M.P.Aff., J.D., Ph.D. is an American historian and New York Times bestselling author. He is an associate professor of the Department of History and Non-Western Cultures at Western Connecticut State University.

April 24, 2012 – Essay #47 – Amendment XIII: Section 1 – Guest Essayist: Horace Cooper, Senior Fellow with the Heartland Institute

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Amendment XIII, Section 2

 

  1. 1. Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.

 

  1. 2. Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.

The Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution officially made all forms of slavery and involuntary servitude except as punishment for a crime unlawful.

Introduced by Ohio Rep. James Ashley originally in 1863, it languished for over a year until companion legislation was introduced in the United States Senate. To give the resolution a final strong push, President Abraham Lincoln had pushed for its inclusion in the GOP platform in 1864 and personally persuaded Democrats from pro-union states to support the effort.

Ultimately, it was passed by the Senate on April 8, 1864, by the House on January 31, 1865, and adopted on December 6, 1865.

Historians record that when the House vote was announced the galleries cheered, congressmen embraced and wept, and Capitol cannons boomed a 100-gun salute.  One Representative, Congressmen George Julian of Indiana wrote in his diary, “I have felt, ever since the vote, as if I were in a new country.”

On December 18, Secretary of State William H. Seward declared that it had been officially ratified by the states.  It was the first such change to the Constitution in 61 years, and it happened just two and a half months before President Lincoln would be tragically assassinated.

Since our country’s founding the issue of slavery had bedeviled our nation.  At the Constitutional Convention good men like George Mason of Virginia argued vehemently against slavery, warning his fellow delegates:   “Every master of slaves is born a petty tyrant.  They bring the judgment of heaven on a country.  As nations cannot be rewarded or punished in the next world, they must be in this.  By an inevitable chain of causes and effects, providence punishes national sins by national calamities.”

While the Constitution that was ultimately adopted failed to completely resolve the slavery issue, it was neither completely silent nor neutral.

The oft-criticized 3/5th compromise specially limited the ability of southern slave-holding states to obtain equal representation in the House of Representatives with that of the non-slave-holding northern states.  Ultimately this would result in a pro-freedom tilt in the House of Representatives.  The Constitution also gave Congress the power to prohibit the importation of new slaves after 1808, which Congress promptly did once it was legally allowed to.

Section 2. Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation

With the passage of the 13th Amendment (specifically clause 2) Congress was given full power to stamp out slavery in all its forms. The motivations of the Members of Congress give us a great degree of insight into the meanings and operations of clause 2 of the 13th Amendment.  While most discussions of the 13th amendment include the 14th and 15th, Congress’ treatment is quite different.  At the time of its introduction, its Republican supporters in Congress and abolitionists across the land saw this amendment and Section 2 in particular as a comprehensive tool to root out not just slavery, but all of its vestiges.

It is for this reason that they didn’t stop with just banning or ending slavery; they empowered Congress to root it out.  Their goal was to assure that the ending of slavery wasn’t a hollow victory, that passage lead to a national commitment to adopt whatever substantive changes were needed to eliminate all “badges and incidents of slavery.”

The men surrounding the introduction were very clear in their objectives.  Leaders like Senator James Harlan, Rep. Thaddeus Stevens, Sen. Charles Sumner, and Rep. Wilson were virulently anti-slavery.  They worked assiduously to draft language that would cover “every proposition regarding slavery.”   And they also saw the 13th amendment as the affirmation of the founder’s principles.  Rep. Godlove Orth (R-IN) said that the 13th Amendment to “be a practical application of that self-evident truth” of the Declaration of Independence “that all men are endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”

It was in this context that within days of passage of the 13th Amendment, Members of Congress began debating new statutes to achieve the Thirteenth Amendment’s purposes.  The first bill introduced roughly a week after the amendment was ratified was S. 427 by Senator Henry Wilson (R-MA).  This bill prohibited states, municipalities, corporations and all persons from excluding any person on account of race from travel on railroads or navigable waters.  Although this bill ultimately stalled in Congress, within 2 years four laws using the congress’ enforcement power would be enacted:  The Civil Rights Act of 1866, The Slave Kidnapping Act of 1866, the Peonage Act of 1867, and the Judiciary Act of 1867.  The Civil Rights Act of 1866 in particular set the pace for an aggressive intervention on the part of Congress on behalf of the newly freed slaves.   It provided litigants the right to transfer their legal disputes to federal court when the local and state court system failed to allow them an opportunity for relief.  Across the nation the new law aided families and individuals that had never had access to the court or to equal protection of the law.

Unfortunately for the abolitionists, subsequent elections and the deaths of key leaders would result in an ebbing of enthusiasm for use of the 13th amendment’s authority to remediate the wrongs of slavery.  The deaths of Salmon P. Chase, Thaddeus Stevens, and Edwin Stanton were huge losses for the freedom agenda.  And new President Andrew Johnson was particularly hostile to their efforts going so far as to veto many of the remaining anti-slavery measures that could pass Congress.  But the final death knell for robust authority arising under the 13th amendment came from the Supreme Court.

In a series of lawsuits groups together as the Civil Rights cases, the Supreme Court struck down parts of the Civil Rights Act of 1875 (18 Stat. 335) originally proposed by Senator Charles Sumner and Representative Benjamin F. Butler (both Republicans) in 1870, passed by Congress in February, 1875 and signed by President Grant on March 1, 1875.

The Act protected everyone, regardless of race, color, or previous condition of servitude, to the same treatment in “public accommodations” (i.e. inns, public conveyances on land or water, theaters, and other places of public amusement).  Violators could face a penalty anywhere from $500 to $1,000 and/or 30 days to 1 year in prison. In a setback that the drafters of the 13th amendment would not have expected, the Supreme Court ruled that the 13th amendment like the 14th and 15th amendment didn’t authorize Congress to intervene in private non-government areas. The Court’s ruling would stifle Congress’ ability to exercise its Section 2 power for nearly a century.

It is ironic that many of the 1875 Act’s provisions were later enacted in the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Fair Housing Act, this time using the federal power to regulate interstate commerce.

Eventually the Court would reverse itself.  In 1968, in a case called Jones v. Alfred H. Mayer Co. the US Supreme Court case once again dealt with the Civil Rights Act of 1866.  In that case they held that Congress could regulate the sale of private property in order to prevent racial discrimination: “42 U.S.C. § 1982 bars all racial discrimination, private as well as public, in the sale or rental of property, and that the statute, thus construed, is a valid exercise of the power of Congress to enforce the Thirteenth Amendment.”

A long time coming, the view of the framers was finally validated.  Today as during Reconstruction, Congress, the President and the Courts recognize that Section 2 gives Congress the power to “determine what are the badges and incidents of slavery, and the authority to translate that determination into effective legislation” to prevent its effects.

Horace Cooper is the Director of the Institute for Liberty’s Center for Law and Regulation and is a legal commentator

 

 

Monday, April 23, 2012 – Essay #46 – Amendment XIII: Section 1 – Guest Essayist: W.B. Allen, Dean Emeritus, James Madison College; Emeritus Professor of Political Science, Michigan State University

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Amendment 13 – Slavery Abolished, Ratified December 6, 1865.

Section 1. Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.
Section 2. Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.

An Ordinance for the Government of the Territory of the United States, North- West of the River Ohio, known as the Northwest Ordinance or “The Ordinance of 1787,” an act of the Congress of the Confederation of the United States, passed July 13, 1787.
Article 6. There shall be neither slavery nor involuntary servitude in the said territory, otherwise than in the punishment of crimes whereof the party shall have been duly convicted: Provided, always, That any person escaping into the same, from whom labor or service is lawfully claimed in any one of the original States, such fugitive may be lawfully reclaimed and conveyed to the person claiming his or her labor or service as aforesaid.

 

The 13th Amendment is often referred to as the first of the “Reconstruction Amendments.” While it is true that the abolition of slavery was certainly the first priority for the Congress that conducted the War for the Union, it is not exactly correct to pair the 13th Amendment with the 14th and 15th Amendments, which were literally debated in the context of the aftermath of the war and specifically adopted to extend the “privileges and immunities” of citizenship to the ex-slaves. The 13th Amendment, by contrast, was debated and adopted by the Congress while the war yet raged, and specifically as blow against the rebellion as well as an affirmation of the principle of equality at the heart of the Declaration of Independence. As such, the 13th Amendment represents the cashing of the promissory note that Lincoln issued at Gettysburg in 1863.

The best way to analyze the 13th Amendment, therefore, is to recognize that it was adopted before the Reconstruction Congress took office. Then one may review the dramatic debates in the House of the Representatives and the Senate over the period from early 1864 until spring of 1865, when the resolution sending the 13th Amendment to the States was adopted. The debates of that era opened with a reports and discussion on “equality before the law,” “emancipation in the District of Columbia,” employment rights for American blacks, streetcar discrimination, and similar issues before eventuating in the direct discussion of national abolition.

What makes this progression of interest is that it reveals the Congress tentatively, cautiously, approaching the tricky question of national emancipation, although having a firm grasp of the fundamental rights at stake. What all conceded the Congress had the authority to legislate for the District of Columbia, some doubted that the Congress could even propose to the nation at large. In the end the idea of the authority of the people as a whole — the ultimate ratification authority — trumped arguments about “dispossession of property” and interfering with the “police power” in the states. The matter was sensitive not so much on account of the attitudes of the states in rebellion; it was sensitive because several Border States still held slaves but had been loyal to the Union. The idea of an uncompensated emancipation seemed a hard blow to many of their advocates and was, besides, a departure from the precedent of British emancipation in the West Indies a generation earlier The argument was summed up by Senator Lazarus Powell, Democrat from Kentucky, April 8, 1864:

“We were told by the Government in every form in which it could speak, at the beginning of this revolution, that whatever might be the result, the institutions of the States would remain as they were. The President in his inaugural address, announced that he had no constitutional power to interfere with the institution of slavery in the States. The Secretary of State announced it in a communication which he sent abroad. Congress, by a resolution, announced virtually the same thing when they declared that the object of the war was to restore the Union as it was and to maintain the Constitution as it is.”

Senator Henry Wilson, Free Soiler and Republican from Massachusetts, however, would have none of it. The question for him was a matter of setting the nation “right” and removing a fundamental flaw in its fabric:

Throughout all the dominions of slavery republican government, constitutional liberty, the blessings of our free institutions were mere fables. An aristocracy enjoyed unlimited power while the people were pressed to earth and denied the inestimable privileges which by right they should have enjoyed in all the fullness designed by the Constitution.

Senator Charles Sumner, Republican from Massachusetts, summed the matter up with the observation that the proposed amendment was nothing less than the fulfillment of a promise first expressed at the founding and periodically renewed (as in the Missouri Compromise) only with great controversy. He pointed out, accordingly, that the proposed amendment was nothing less than “the idea of reproducing the Jeffersonian ordinance.”

A quick comparison of the text of the 13th Amendment with the language of Article 6 from the Northwest Ordinance will reveal the point of Sumner’s observation. What Jefferson authored and the Confederation Congress adopted and the new government under the Constitution of 1787 solemnly re-affirmed was, effectively, the incompatibility of republicanism and slavery. While that early declaration applied only to the Northwest Territory, and subsequently, the territorial division established by the Missouri Compromise (1820), its purpose and language were to declare the fundamentals of republican government, as the Northwest Ordinance on the whole does expansively (leading some to call it the “first national bill of rights”).

Although the 13th Amendment avoids the Ordinance’s language with regard to fugitive slaves, that omission is understandable where the objective is no longer to admit slavery anywhere, rather than to temporize with it where it already existed. It is safe to say, therefore, that the meaning of the 13th Amendment is authoritatively to be recovered from the intentions and meaning of the Northwest Ordinance — not a mere administrative regulation concerning slavery, but rather a dramatic recovery of the fundamental meaning of republican freedom.

W. B. Allen is Dean Emeritus, James Madison College; and Emeritus
Professor of Political Science, Michigan State University

June 21, 2011 – Amendment XXIV of the United States Constitution – Guest Essayist: Joerg Knipprath, Professor of Law at Southwestern Law School

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Amendment XXIV

1:  The right of citizens of the United States to vote in any primary or other election for President or Vice President, for electors for President or Vice President, or for Senator or Representative in Congress, shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or any state by reason of failure to pay any poll tax or other tax.

2:  The Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.

A poll tax is an ancient device to collect money. It is a tax on persons rather than property or activity. As a regressive tax from the standpoint of wealth, it is often unpopular if the amount at issue is steep. But it can also be unpopular for other reasons.

In the United States, such a capitation tax was assessed in many states on the privilege of voting. Amounts and methods varied. One of the last poll taxes of this type, that of Virginia, was just $1.50 per person at the time it was struck down by the Supreme Court in 1966. That is not more than $10.00 in current money, hardly an exorbitant price, except for the truly destitute. But the problem was more than the amount. It was the manner of administration.

The common practice was to require that the tax be paid at each election, and that a potential voter demonstrate that he had paid the tax for a specified number of previous elections. If not, those arrearages had to be paid to register to vote in the ongoing election. The effect of the tax was to hit many lower income groups, but primarily Southern blacks, whose participation in elections dropped to less than 5% during the first part of the 20th century. To be sure, that low rate of participation was not entirely due to the poll tax, but that tax was a particular manifestation of a regime of suppression of political participation by blacks.

The 15th Amendment had been adopted to prohibit overt racial discrimination in qualifying to vote. However, the poll tax and other restrictive measures, such as literacy tests, were not, strictly speaking, race-based, so they did not come within the 15th Amendment. A different solution was needed, according to those who saw the poll tax as intolerable. Literacy tests, if fairly administered (though often they were not), had a clear connection to the responsible exercise of the voting franchise that poll taxes lacked. After all, especially in those years before the electronic media, having a literate electorate was a significant community interest. Republican theory has traditionally looked to having those with the most interest and highest stake take the leading role in the community. Literacy provided a foundation to acquire the knowledge needed for a wise and effective participation in res publica. Poll taxes, on the other hand, are just revenue-raising devices, and, since they are applied equally per capita, they are removed from republican considerations of having those with the highest economic stake in society direct the political affairs of that society.

Opposition to the poll tax increased during the 1930s and President Roosevelt briefly attacked it in 1938. But FDR had to be mindful of the powerful influence of Southern Democratic barons in the Senate and the crucial role that the Southern states played in the politically dominant Democratic coalition. By the 1940s, the House of Representatives passed legislation to outlaw poll taxes but a Southern-led filibuster in the Senate killed the effort. By 1944, the Republican Party platform and President Roosevelt (though not his party’s platform) called for the tax’s abolition.

Eventually, qualms arose about using ordinary legislation to block the tax. Article I of the Constitution places principal control over voter qualification in the hands of the states. The 15th Amendment (race) and the 19th Amendment (sex) had limited the states’ discretion. To many—even opponents of the poll tax—the message from those amendments was that limitations on state power had to proceed through specific constitutional amendment. The opinions issued by the Supreme Court seemed to echo those sentiments, as the Court had accepted the predominant role of the states in that area even when it struck down the racially-discriminatory “white primaries” in the South in the 1940s and 1950s. The debate allowed Southern supporters of the poll tax to characterize the controversy as a states’ rights issue.

The effort to adopt a constitutional amendment to ban poll taxes dragged on through the 1950s into the 1960s, even as support for the tax grew weaker. Literacy tests remained widespread, even in the North. But Southern states, too, abandoned poll taxes until, in 1960, only 5 states retained them. Finally, in March, 1962, the Senate approved what would become the 24th Amendment. This time, no Southern filibuster occurred. In August of that year, the House concurred. The concerns over state sovereignty remained, in that the amendment proposed to abolish poll taxes only in federal elections, leaving states and municipalities free to continue the practice for their internal affairs.

When the amendment was sent out to the states, every state of the old Confederacy, but two, refused to participate, still portraying the matter as a states’ rights issue. The two exceptions were Mississippi, which formally rejected the amendment, and Tennessee, which approved it. Outside the South, every state adopted the amendment between November, 1962, and March, 1964, except Arizona and Wyoming.

But, as mentioned, states were still free to adopt poll taxes for local elections. This apparently was a call to action for the Supreme Court. Casting constitutional caution to the wind, the Court in Harper v. Virginia Board of Elections in 1966 struck down the Virginia poll tax for state and local elections. Creating an odd alloy of different constitutional concepts, due process and equal protection, Justice William Douglas announced for the majority that poll taxes impermissibly discriminated on the basis of wealth and/or improperly burdened a fundamental right to vote. In any event, the opinion announced, the Virginia tax violated the 14th Amendment.

The Court obviously was aware of the 24th Amendment, so recently adopted. But the learned justices must have found the effort to amend the Constitution through the proper Article V process unsatisfying. It appears that the 24th Amendment, having been limited to federal elections to avoid further intrusion into state sovereignty over voting qualifications, was not constitutionally rigorous enough. The Constitution, as it thus stood, was unconstitutional in the eyes of the Supreme Solomons. If the Court was right in Harper, members of Congress and of the state legislatures could have saved themselves much trouble and just used the 14th Amendment to declare all poll taxes unconstitutional. Congress could have accomplished the goals of the 24th Amendment, and more, just by passing a law to enforce these supposed rights protected under the 14th Amendment.

Of course, traditionally the 14th Amendment was not understood to provide direct restrictions on state control of voting qualifications. Otherwise, the 15th Amendment, as it applies to states, would have been unnecessary. The Court had used the 15th Amendment to strike down certain voting restrictions on race earlier in the 20th century, and did not even begin to take gingerly steps towards the 14th Amendment until striking down the “white primaries.”

Not much significance, other than as a symbol and a constitutional curiosity remains of Harper. The Court since then has repudiated the notion of wealth as a constitutionally “suspect” classification entitled to strict judicial scrutiny under the equal protection clause. As well, the notion of voting as a fundamental right protected under the due process clause, has had a checkered history.

Rights conceptually are “fundamental” if they do not depend on a political system for their existence; they are “pre-political” in the sense of the Anglo-American social contract construct that the Framers accepted. Freedom of speech and the right to carry arms for self-defense come to mind. Voting is an inherently political concept that does not exist outside a political commonwealth, and the scope of the voting privilege (that is the meaning of “franchise”) is, necessarily, a political accommodation. Even republics, never mind monarchies, have no uniform understanding of who may be qualified to vote. The great historical variety of arrangements of republican forms of government, and the inherently political nature of defining them, is one reason the Supreme Court has not officially involved itself in defining what is a republican form of government guaranteed under the Constitution.

A final word about the 24th Amendment: Historically, many republics, including the states in our system, required voters to meet designated property qualifications, as a reflection of having a sufficient stake in the community to vote responsibly (and to pay for the cost of government). Strictly speaking, the 24th Amendment does not forbid those. The Supreme Court has upheld property qualifications for voting for special governmental units, such as water districts. One wonders, whether the abolition of such qualifications, if they were required in all elections, would need a constitutional amendment today, or whether the Supreme Court would just wave the magic wand of the 14th Amendment, as it did in Harper.

An expert on constitutional law, Prof. Joerg W. Knipprath has been interviewed by print and broadcast media on a number of related topics ranging from recent U.S. Supreme Court decisions to presidential succession. He has written opinion pieces and articles on business and securities law as well as constitutional issues, and has focused his more recent research on the effect of judicial review on the evolution of constitutional law. He has also spoken on business law and contemporary constitutional issues before professional and community forums. Read more from Professor Knipprath at: http://www.tokenconservative.com/.

June 14, 2011 – Amendment XIX of the United States Constitution – Guest Essayist: Carol Crossed, Owner and President, Susan B Anthony Birthplace Museum

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Amendment XIX

The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex. Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.

It is hard to imagine that only 90 years ago, one half of the population of the United States could not vote because of their gender.  But the passage of the Nineteenth Amendment in 1920 mandated that states could no longer deny women this fundamental right.  It was named the Susan B Anthony Amendment, after the foremost leader for women’s suffrage.

On that first Election Day, November 2, 1920, single and married women, young and old, exercised a right they had fought for in their homes and churches, in town halls, and on the streets.  Polling places swelled almost beyond capacity with voters who had never before done such a thing.  Mothers, daughters, sisters, and aunts proud and eager, rushed to their polling location as early in the morning as possible, as if vying for the front row seat at the theater. Flustered by the idea of a secret ballot, one woman thought she needed to sign the back of the card. Others carried their groceries on their hips, maneuvering the crowds and chatting enthusiastically over screaming children.

The New York Times reported that while approximately one in three women, who were eligible, voted, more women than men actually voted in some districts. The Chicago Tribune credited Republican Harding’s landslide victory to the woman’s vote.

Unlike some other amendments to the constitution, the 19th Amendment was hard fought.  For instance, the 26th Amendment passed in 1971, which granted the right to vote for citizens 18 years of age, took only 3 months and 8 days to be ratified.  As a matter of fact, of the 27 amendments to the Constitution, 7 took only 1 year or less to become the law of the land.

However, women struggled for72 years to pass the Nineteenth Amendment.  Anti suffrage organizations were most popular in the New England states.  Opponents claimed that the female brain was of inferior size.  Others claimed that women did not possess a soul.  Humorous postcards portrayed women taking too long to get all their petticoats on to get to the polls.  Some newspaper editorials said that women would only vote the way their husbands told them to anyway.

But even the movement that supported votes for women was ripe with internal dissention.  The passage of the 15th Amendment, giving the Negro the right to vote in 1869, caused a 30 year split in the women’s movement.  Some felt that Negro suffrage should only be passed if it also gave women suffrage.  Others felt that the country was not prepared to enfranchise both and therefore women had to take a back seat.

Did the rights of the Negro have to diminish the rights of women, black and white?

That question was also being asked about women’s rights as it related to motherhood and family life.  Would freeing women to participate in government put at risk the care of children?  In other words, could the rights of all coexist?

Against this backdrop, suffrage leaders took seriously these portrayals of power and domination by their gender.  They exercised their greatest skill in combating this perception put forth by their opponents that they would abandon their children. Nowhere was this made more apparent than in their opposition to ‘Restellism,’ the term given to abortion, the most heinous form of child abandonment. It was named after the infamous abortionist Madame Restell, frequently arrested and discussed in Susan B Anthony’s publication The Revolution. Suffrage leaders saw opposition to ‘ante-natal murder’ and ‘foeticide’ as an opportunity to clear their name of unfair accusations against them by anti-vice squads, who believed the decadence of the Victorian Era lay at women’s independence.

But opposing abortion was more than a political strategy.  It was support for a human right, a right that was integral to their own.  The organizer of the first women’s rights convention in 1848, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, made these connections in a letter to suffrage leader Julia Ward Howe.  Howe believed war was the enemy of women because it destroyed their sons and husbands and brothers. Stanton made this same death connection with mothers who destroyed their children: “When we consider that women are deemed the property of men, it is degrading that we should consider our children as property to destroy as we see fit.”

Not only were anti-suffrage crusaders misinformed about the care for children that was integral to the suffrage agenda, they misunderstood that women wanted the vote not so much for their own self aggrandizement but for ‘life over material wealth’ or for the good of families and children. Child labor laws, poverty, and universal education were issues for which they sought the vote. They sought the vote for themselves because they were mothers who knew the needs of everychild. It was their maternity that they saw as their greatest gift of citizenship. As political artist J Montgomery Flagg’s winning 1913 poster proclaimed, Mothers bring all voters into the world.

Susan B Anthony did not live to see the passage of the Amendment that was named for her life’s work.  A radical young new woman leader, Alice Paul, was jailed with 66 colleagues for their protest at an event honoring President Wilson and the US participation in World War I.  This sparked the nation’s awakening and compassion, but more importantly, weakened the President’s opposition to the justice they demanded.

Paul created a flag with the suffrage colors: gold for the sunflower of Kansas (an early state to grant women suffrage), white for purity, and purple for eminence.  She sewed on it a star for each state that ratified the Amendment.  Only one more state was needed, and on August 18, 1920, Paul received a telegram proclaiming the ‘yes’ vote by the Legislature of the State of Tennessee.  Paul draped the flag over a balcony in Washington DC.  Women now could exercise the right to shape and determine the course of history.

Resources:

·         Boston Daily Globe, Nov. 3, 1920

·         NY Times, December 19, 1920

·         Chicago Daily Tribune, Nov. 3, 1920

·         Archive collection, Susan B Anthony Birthplace, Adams, MA

Carol Crossed is the Owner and President of the Susan B Anthony Birthplace Museum in Adams, Massachusetts.

June 8, 2011 – Amendment XV of the United States Constitution – Guest Essayist: Colin Hanna, President, Let Freedom Ring

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Amendment XV

The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude.

The Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.

The Fifteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution was passed by Congress on February 26th 1869, and ratified by the States on February 3rd, 1870.  Although many history books say that it “conferred” or “granted” voting rights to former slaves and anyone else who had been denied voting rights “on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude,” a close reading of the text of the amendment reveals that its actual force was more idealistic.  It basically affirmed that no citizen could rightfully be deprived of the right to vote on the basis of that citizen’s race, color or previous condition of servitude – in other words, that such citizens naturally had the right to vote.  That is how “rights” should work, after all; if something is a right, it does not need to be conferred or granted  and cannot be infringed or denied.

It is worth noting that the Fifteenth Amendment only clarified the voting rights of all male citizens.  States have the power to define who is entitled to vote, and at the time of the signing of the Constitution, that generally meant white male property owners.  The States gradually eliminated the property ownership requirement, and by 1850, almost all white males were able to vote regardless of whether or not they owned property.  A literacy test for voting was first imposed by Connecticut in 1855, and the practice gradually spread to several other States throughout the rest of the 19th Century, but in 1915, the Supreme Curt ruled that literacy tests were in conflict with the Fifteenth Amendment.

Section 2 of the Fifteenth Amendment sets forth the means of enforcing the article: by “appropriate legislation.”  It was not until nearly one hundred years later, with the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, that the enforcement of the Fifteenth Amendment was sufficiently clarified that no State could erect a barrier such as a literacy test or poll tax that would deny any citizen the right to vote, as a substitute for overtly denying voting rights on the basis of race or ethnicity.  The Civil Rights Act of 1957 had taken a step in that direction, but practices inconsistent with the Fifteenth Amendment remained widespread.  The Nineteenth Amendment. ratified in 1920, had granted women the right to vote.  The only remaining legal barrier to citizens is age, and that barrier was lowered to 18 by the Twenty-Sixth Amendment, ratified in 1971.  Many people do not realize that a State could permit its citizens to vote at a lower age than 18, and none has.

The moral inconsistency between a Declaration of Independence that proclaimed that all men (and, by widely accepted implication, all women) were created equal, and a Constitution that tolerated inequality based on race and gender, required more than 150 years to be resolved.  The ratification of the Fifteenth Amendment in 1870 was one of the major milestones along that long path.

Colin Hanna is the President of Let Freedom Ring, a public policy organization promoting Constitutional government, economic freedom, and traditional values. Let Freedom Ring can be found on the web at www.LetFreedomRingUSA.com.

June 6, 2011 – Amendment XIII of the United States Constitution – Guest Essayist: Hadley Heath, a Senior Policy Analyst at the Independent Women’s Forum

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Amendment XIII

Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction. Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.

The Declaration of Independence, penned in 1776, proclaimed that “All men are created equal,” and “they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

God gives rights; government serves God and the people by protecting rights.  America’s Founding Fathers recognized this principle, but our young country failed to protect the God-given rights of some Americans.  In the U.S., the practice of slavery continued throughout the Revolutionary War and the birth of our new country, and for nearly 100 years afterward.

It was not until the ratification of the Thirteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, in 1865, that our government established a protection of liberty for all Americans, specifically liberty from slavery or forced labor.

For centuries, slavery was a worldwide phenomenon, legal and socially acceptable in many empires, countries, and colonies.  From their early development, the southern American colonies relied on slavery as integral to their agricultural economy.  But opposition to slavery – in the colonies and abroad – was growing stronger throughout the 17th and 18th centuries.

In America, religious groups including the Quakers strongly opposed slavery and advocated for its abolition. Pressure from Quakers in Pennsylvania led to the passage of the state’s “Act for the Gradual Abolition of Slavery” in 1780, only four years after the establishment of the United States as a country.

The British government put an end to slavery in its empire in 1833 with the Slavery Abolition Act.  The French colonies abolished it 15 years later in 1848.  These worldwide events added fuel to the anti-slavery movement in the U.S.

Some American Abolitionists, including William Lloyd Garrison, called for the immediate emancipation of all slaves.  Other Americans who opposed slavery did not call for immediate emancipation, but instead hoped that the containment of slavery to the southern states would lead to its eventual end.

The American Civil War broke out in 1861 when several of the southern slave states seceded from the Union and formed the Confederate States of America.  This dark chapter of America’s history ultimately decided the fate of slavery when the nation came back together after the defeat of the Confederate States.

President Lincoln dreamt of an America where all people were free.  In fact, he declared all slaves to be free in his 1863 Emancipation Proclamation.  An amendment to our Constitution followed as the next step to make the end of slavery a permanent part of our nation’s governing document.

Together, at the end of the Civil War, the Thirteenth, Fourteenth, and Fifteenth Amendments greatly expanded the civil rights of many Americans.

While the Thirteenth Amendment outlawed slavery, it did not grant voting rights or equal rights to all Americans.  Nearly a century after the Thirteenth Amendment was ratified, Congress passed the Civil Rights Act of 1964 that outlawed racial discrimination and segregation.

Sadly, the Thirteenth Amendment did not bring about an immediate or total end to slavery in the U.S.  Today, it is estimated that 14,500 to 17,500 people, mostly women and children, are trafficked into our borders for commercial sexual exploitation or forced labor each year.  This is in clear violation of the Thirteenth Amendment, and Americans should work toward a swift end to human trafficking in the U.S. and all over the world.

Before our Declaration of Independence was written, English philosopher thinker John Locke developed the idea that individuals have the natural right to defend their life, health, liberty, and possessions (or property).  While the United States has always and should always protect the property rights of individuals, the Thirteenth Amendment makes it clear that owning “property” in the United States cannot mean owning another person.

Individual liberty for all and the God-given right to pursue happiness are not compatible with slavery.  The end of slavery with the ratification of the Thirteenth Amendment is one of the most “American” of all of our historical events, because this event brought our country closer in line with the principles upon which it was founded.

Hadley Heath is a senior policy analyst at the Independent Women’s Forum. (www.iwf.org)

April 27, 2010 – The Amendments to the United States Constitution – Cathy Gillespie

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Great discussion today – loved seeing some new names blogging!   Remember to invite your friends to join the conversation – and share this with your children! Encourage them to enter our We The People 9.17 Contest – sign up online ASAP – entries due July 4!  Tell high school students we especially need short films, PSA’s and we are asking middle schoolers and high schoolers to compose cool songs!  Students can enter in teams of two for the songs, short films and PSA’s.  Sign up today!

Tackling the Bill of Rights, and the Amendments in one day was a big job!   As I read through the Amendments, I wondered about the efforts and battles that must have gone into the passage of each.  Reading through the Amendments is like a quick reading of the history of our country.  The Amendments reflect the times and current events in the eras in which they were passed.  We can be proud as Americans that MOST of the Amendments reflect the founding fathers’ principles. (see today’s and yesterday’s blog for lively discussion on some such as the 16th and 17th which many feel do not!)

All of the Amendments have fascinating stories that accompany their passage.  We all know of the stories and have seen photos of the women’s suffrage movement, for example. That battle spanned 50 years before Congress approved the 19th Amendment in 1919 and 3/4 of the States ratified it in 1920. But there is an interesting back story to the passage of the 19th Amendment that I love.  In August of 1920 Tennessee was the final state needed to achieve ratification of the 19th Amendment. The vote in the Tennessee Legislature came down to a young State Representative, Harry Burn, who represented a district bitterly divided on the issue, and who was facing re-election that fall.  Representative Burn had voted previously with the Anti-Amendment forces.  The vote was tied 48-48, and Harry was expected to vote with those opposing the Amendment again.  But Harry carried a letter from his mother in his breast pocket, admonishing him “Don’t forget to be a good boy,” and vote for the Amendment.  Harry surprised everyone by voting yes, and thus on August 18, 1920 Tennessee became the 36th State to ratify the 19th Amendment, and one young 24 year old man empowered millions of women in our country with his brave vote.

Earlier today Rich asked an interesting question about how the 17th Amendment came to be passed, so I pulled two books off my shelf that I recommend to anyone who is interested in the stories and history of the Amendments, the Bill of Rights, and the Constitution:

Seth Lipsky’s The Citizen’s Constitution: An Annotated Guide (2009) and the Heritage Foundation’s Guide to the Constitution, edited by Ed Meese, Mathew Spalding and David Forte (2005).

Upon reading about the 17th Amendment’s history in both of the above sources, I found it was passed in reaction to many State legislatures which were deadlocked on the issue of choosing a U.S. Senator, thus leaving their states without representation in the U.S. Senate. The 17th Amendment was passed in the name of enhancing Democracy, yet many feel it has been detrimental to protecting States’ rights, expanding the federal government’s reach.

To me, the most important Amendments to our Constitution were the 13th, 14th and 15th Amendments, which abolished slavery, established citizenship for former slaves, and prohibited restrictions on the right to vote based on color, race or previous condition of servitude.  President Lincoln received pressure from those who thought the 13th Amendment should be ratified only by the Northern States, in order to get it done quickly.  But Lincoln favored 3/4 ratification of the 13th Amendment by all the States, so the Amendment’s legitimacy could not be challenged.  He also believed the ratification process in the Southern States was important to Reconstruction and healing.  Regarding the 14th Amendment, Seth Lipsky writes, “Were the Amendments musical compositions, the fourteenth would be the grand symphony in four movements, full of exciting themes, varied movements, and clashing symbols….” Indeed the 14th did much more than overturn the Dred Scott decision and extend citizenship to former slaves, it contains the State Action, Privileges or Immunities, Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses, as well as Section Two, Apportionment of Representatives. The 15th Amendment, the last of the Amendments dealing with Reconstruction, prohibited voting discrimination for former slaves, and any voting discrimination based on race and color.  These three Amendments set the stage for the healing of our country.

It is another testament to the beauty of our Constitution that the Amendments read like a short hand version of the history of the United States.  It is all there, from the the 11th Amendment stemming from States being held accountable for their Revolutionary War Debts, to the 27th Amendment restricting congressional pay raises from taking effect until after an election. Interestingly the 27th Amendment was first proposed in 1789 and finally ratifed in 1992!

What will our next Amendment be?   Let us pray it will reflect the founding fathers’ principles as so many of our great Amendments have.  The only thing that is certain, though is that fascinating stories and struggles will accompany its passage, and it will add to the historical narrative of our country which is embodied in the United States Constitution.

Posted in Constitutional Essays by Cathy, The Amendments to the United States Constitution | 7 Comments »

7 Responses to “April 272010 – the Amendments to the United States Constitution – Cathy Gillespie

  1. Susan says:

    We were trying to place the amendments in the context of history by guessing what was going on at the time they were enacted without peeking at the date. Amazingly, we were pretty close.

  2. Mary Lou Leddy says:

    I want to thank bothCathy and Janine for their blogs on the amendments today. As I have never studied theConstitution, Bill of Rights and the amendments in great detail before ; I must admit it can be very challenging to understand; but your blogs as well as the essays of the guest bloggers have made some things much clearer. Thank you again. I look forward to continuing this great study

  3. Pam says:

    I have been trying to get an answer to this question for about a month. In regards to illegal aliens, George Wills wrote an article stating that our policy of granting citizenship to children born in this country to illegal aliens is a misapplication of the 14th Amendment. That it does not apply to illegal immigrants, because at the time it was written, there were no restrictions on immigration.

    As far as I know, we are the only country that has this policy. Right now (to quote George) the best thing a poor person of any country can do for their children is to have them here. I think that changing our policy in regards to children of illegals would go a long way to stop the flood. Any comments?

  4. Susan Craig says:

    My understanding of the whys and wherefores of the 14th was to clarify the citizenship status of the newly emancipated slaves after the Civil War and its intention was never for transient immigrants who wish to anchor themselves here with all the privileges but not necessarily the duties.

  5. Sandra Rodas says:

    I realize that to keep with the 90 day format, it was necessary to have all the amendments be covered in one day, but it sure would be nice to look at each in a little more depth. Maybe when the 90 day challenge is over, we could revisit them one at a time on the blog.

  6. Martin says:

    With regard to the 14th Amendment. Those who would reinvent the Constitution as a document of positive rights versus a document of negative rights have sought to contort the “privileges and immunities” clause to meet their ends.

    Basically, the Constitution is written as a set of guarantees limiting what government actually has the power to do and in fact, limiting what it can do to it’s citizenry. There is a movement under way to redefine government in terms of what it must do for its people.

    The Slaughter supreme court decisions (right after the Civil War) have defined this narrowly to apply to the states, guaranteeing that the federal government supersedes state governments only in the realm of guaranteed protections specified by the Bill of Rights.

    The folks who promulgate the concept of the Constitution as a “living” document want to overturn this precedent so that more “rights” can be forced down over the objections of the states. These new “rights” would be things like – housing, guaranteed employment, health care, and guaranteed access to the political process. By defining them as obligations or entitlements, the government would have to take steps to ensure that they are fulfilled. This would necessarily entail funding and enforcement.

    The movement doing this is called the Constitution 2020 movement.

    Hillsdale College recently produced a paper documenting their efforts. I’ve written a synopsis at whatwhouldthefoundersthink.com, where I’ve included links to this paper as well links to some of this groups writings.

  7. Kirk John Larson says:

    Greetings and Salutations,

    I wish to address certain issues. The 17th Amendment and the 2020 Movement.

    Cathy pointed out that some have argued that the 17th Amendment hurt States rights, and it did. In passing that amendment, State Governments no longer have true representation in Washington. As a result, the Federal government has infringed upon States issues by mandating how the States spends its tax revenues and what laws to pass lest the Federal government would suspend funding as a form of punishment over the states. This practice works to diminish the role and need for State Governments at all. This has been the plan by progressives since 1913. More over, by stripping the State Governments of authority, the Public role in governance and more over the publics ability to self govern is also eroded.

    As for the Constitution 2020 movement; this effort to impose ‘new rights’ is not to say our rights have been lost or confused but to say that the US Government is the sole granter of “Rights.” This is a secular push toward a more socialized society where in the Government defines and prescribes where you live, how you live, and whether or not you live.

    Housing is a replaceable commodity, (Just ask any tornado.) Employment is a personal choice and on occasion deniable due to the lack of employers. Ultimately, the “Right to Employment” is to destroy the Entrepreneurial Spirit of America. Health Care is a personal responsibility. The effort hear is ultimately establish euthanasia as a legal recourse. Then there is guaranteed access to political process, which is an intent to eradicate responsibility. Today, under the law, criminal conduct suspends your rights to vote or participate in the political process such as serving as a representative in congress. (either house) The idea the progressives have here is Americans should be free from responsibility and consequences for their actions. This is intended to bring more freedom but will actually encourage chaos. As a result, the very idea actually produces the opposite affect as the public cannot be trusted to conduct themselves responsibly, so totalitarian rules must be imposed. The two step process bring greater freedom from responsibility and consequences is to eliminate freedom altogether.

    The left will argue to the contrary but the truth is; the absence of responsibility produces chaos and public endangerment.
    Socialism has failed time and again. It will always fail because it dehumanizes the people into little more than cattle to be processed.