We had a constitutional revolution but didn't rebuild the South? (April 2023) | Freedom Online Library (2023)

Revolution(s) "a violent overthrow of a government or social order in favor of a new system."

How many constitutional revolutions has America experienced? I'm sure everyone agrees with the first one. Was there another constitutional revolution after the Civil War with Reconstruction? Did Reconstruction really achieve its intended goals, or "old habits die hard"? We asked these questions to a group of scientists to get their opinions. Read on as the conversation unfolds in this month's Liberty Matters.

We had a constitutional revolution but didn't rebuild the South? (April 2023) | Freedom Online Library (1)

The discussion

Jeffrey Rogers Hummel, Twists and Twists of Reconstruction

Vernon Burton, Reconstruction Revolution

Jeffrey Rogers Hummel, Twists and Twists of Reconstruction

Assessing the impact of Reconstruction and its constitutional changes is complex. The three decades following the Civil War were a turbulent period for the American South, with several major turning points. To recognize the successes and failures of this period, an overview of the sequence of events is needed. The story is not as simple as it sometimes seems.

the ratification ofThirteenth Amendmentin December 1865, all slaves in the nation were fully emancipated. It took place during a period called the Presidential Reconstruction, initiated byAbraham Lincolnbefore the end of the war, but now under the lenient policies of President Andrew Johnson. The then-reconvened Congress found functioning governments in ten of the eleven former Confederate states. All but two of the ten contributed to the eventual ratification of the Thirteenth Amendment, although the Republican-controlled Congress refused to nominate representatives from any of these states. Their governments were filled with former Confederate officials, and presidential pardons allowed former plantation owners to reclaim nearly all of their land that had been confiscated or abandoned during the war. Nowhere were former slaves allowed to vote, and the new Black Codes enforced strict racial subservience which—although it varied from state to state—denied African Americans in general the right to bear arms, assemble after sunset, and practice certain trades, often imprisoning them or doing forced labor. if they were idle or unemployed.

What followed was a battle between Congress and President Johnson. Congress passed two civil rights bills over his veto and proposed a Fourteenth Amendment that would enshrine those rights in the United States.Constitution. But it was not until 1867, nearly two years after hostilities ended, that Congress instituted a new Reconstruction policy that would actually enforce these rights. All state governments recognized by Johnson were dissolved except Tennessee, which was rewarded by ratification.Fourteenth Amendment. The remainder of the former Confederacy was divided into five military districts. The vote was taken from the former Confederates and given to South African Americans. New governments were formed under military supervision, and only after the new governments ratified the proposed Fourteenth Amendment did Congress promise to restore them to their former status within the Union.

Under Congressional (or Radical) Reconstruction, a growing Southern Republican party united underprivileged former slaves with Southern whites who were either poor or former Unionists and idealistic Northerners who moved south to help modernize the region and to help the freed. This Republican coalition initially dominated most of the rebuilt state governments. African Americans held many elected offices throughout the former Confederacy. Not only were they two U.S. Senators, they were also a majority in one house of the South Carolina Legislature. But nowhere did blacks hold office in proportion to their numbers, although in three states they made up a majority of voters. New state constitutions eliminated archaic and undemocratic features, and several states revised their penal codes to make them less barbaric. These governments also initiated spending on internal improvements, public education, and other social services such as orphanages, insane asylums, and asylums for the poor. When Ulysses Grant was elected president in 1868, seven southern states had already completed the terms of Congressional Reconstruction and were readmitted to the Union. Ratification of the Fourteenth Amendment officially made it part of the Constitution.

Radical Republicans in Congress now had enough momentum to pursue a goal they could not add to the Fourteenth Amendment: making permanent, statewide suffrage for African Americans. The proposedFifteenth AmendmentThe wording of prohibited any denial or restriction of the right to vote "by the United States or any other state on the basis of race, color, or prior conditions of servitude." The Republican majority in Congress then offered a deal to the three remaining southern states. This would allow former Confederate officials from those jurisdictions to vote and hold office if the states ratify the proposed amendment. Virginia, Mississippi and Texas accepted the terms. While theFifteenth AmendmentIn March 1870 it became official, these last states regained their representation in Congress.

But opposition from white southerners to what they denounced as Black Reconstruction turned violent. OKu Klux Klanwas already active in the 1868 presidential election. The resulting atrocities—including torture, murder, rape, arson, and beatings—not only against African Americans, but at times against white pro-Republican Southerners, denounced as “Scalawags,” and resettled Northerners as well. , nicknamed “Carpetbaggers”. too known and extensive to tell. The Grant administration enacted three consecutive acts of violence, each giving Union military commanders more power to quell the violence. These measures achieved temporary success against the Klan, which formally disbanded in 1869, but other paramilitary and vigilante groups soon took their place.

Northerners eventually grew weary of the expense and frustration of what some self-proclaimed liberal republicans now openly acknowledge as "bayonet rule". The Amnesty Act of 1872 restored political rights to all but a few former Confederates. In the same year theCabinet of the Freedmen, which had been created by the War Department shortly before the end of the war to become the first major federal relief organization to help former slaves, was dissolved. The national government had effectively turned its back on white Southerners engaged in a process euphemistically called Redemption. Persistent physical intimidation—coupled with economic pressures—kept blacks from the polls, drove whites from Republican ranks, and drove former northerners back north. The Redeemers overthrew the republican government in state after state, imposing a regime of government cuts, austerity and partial debt rejection.

At the end of Grant's term, only South Carolina, Florida, and Louisiana remained in Republican hands. Redemption also contributed to the national resurgence of the Democratic Party, which strengthened the alliance between the South and the urban immigrants of the North. This led to the controversial presidential election of 1876. Republican candidate Rutherford B. Hayes was also hit by an economic downturn and his party's notorious political scandals during the Grant era. Democratic candidate Samuel J. Tilden thus won a majority of the popular vote. But electoral votes in the three unredeemed Southern states were contested, along with an electoral vote from Oregon — and the Democrats only needed one of them to put Tilden in the White House. The country faced an all-out election crisis, with Democrats darkly hinting at armed resistance to what they said would become a Republican military coup. But complicated behind-the-scenes maneuvers that lasted until two days before the inauguration brought all contested voters to the Republicans. In return, Hays agreed to withdraw the last of the Federal troops from the South and support generous government subsidies to the Southern railroads, in what became known as the Compromise of 1877.[1].

That wasn't the end of the story, however. Although the Redeemers manipulated the vote through intimidation, election taxes – and later the Australian or secret ballot – African Americans in the South still successfully voted in large numbers. In most southern states, the only way todiscriminationprivate facilities are required by law and applied to passenger trains. Social segregation was widespread, of course, and public schools were racially segregated, but that was true even during Congressional Reconstruction, except for a brief period in New Orleans. It wasn't until 1900, more than a decade after the controversial election, that most of the infamous Jim Crow laws, which mandated segregation in train stations, streetcars, workplaces, hotels and other public facilities, became widespread. The first southern state to deprive most African Americans was Mississippi in 1890 with a literacy test. Louisiana didn't do so until 1898, and then North Carolina, Alabama, Virginia and Georgia followed, most recently Texas in 1908. Now that the public schools first created during Congressional Reconstruction are being conquered by government forces white, spending has been steadily decreasing for black students compared to white students[2].

Why this new wave of racist measures? One factor was that proponents of the country's latest statist reform movement, progressivism, with its frequentembrace eugenia, generally supported these changes. A notable outpouring of progressive support for Jim Crow was whenWoodrow Wilson, shortly after his election to the presidency in 1912, segregated the federal workforce and introduced federal employment discrimination. The Spanish-American War of 1898 was another source of rising racism. At thePlessy v. fergusonIn the 1896 case, the Supreme Court, with only one dissent, upheld a Louisiana law that required segregation as long as the institutions were "separate but equal". Southern Democrats were also alarmed by the growing alliance between Southern populists and Republicans, which threatened to produce a coalition of blacks and poor whites similar to that seen during early congressional reconstruction. The new voting restrictions also disenfranchised many poor whites, thus creating the solidly democratic South that would rule for the next half century.[3].

But despite these political setbacks, Southern blacks still made great economic gains. One should not underestimate the immense benefits of emancipation itself. The combined value of all slaves in 1860 is estimated at $2.7 to $3.7 billion, making it one of the largest capital investments in the United States at the time. Emancipation returned all this human capital from slave owners to freed slaves. Despite facing serious legal and social deficiencies, former slaves occupied more free time. Women and children left the fields and the elderly no longer needed to work, while men gained more control over their labor force. The economic wealth of former slaves was tied to a region that remained the poorest in the country, but their real income was increasing. By 1879, the average farm income of South African Americans had increased by at least 45%, or even more if you put a dollar value on extra leisure time. Despite Reconstruction's failure to redistribute large plantations to former slaves, African Americans purchased 10% of the South's farmland at a time when many white planters were losing their titles due to high state taxes imposed by Reconstruction regimes. Of course, blacks in the South remained relatively poor, with per capita income lower than that of the white population in the region. But African Americans not only accumulated real estate and other forms of wealth, their real incomes were growing at a rate of 2.7% a year - faster than whites' incomes - and there was more than doubled by the time of Jim Crow.[4].

final notes

[1]This overview of Reconstruction is now pretty standard in most general accounts for the period. Kenneth M. Stampp is still reliableThe Age of Reconstruction: 1865-1877(New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1965) was one of the first works to refute the old interpretation of the "Dunning School", which irritated the state governments that came to power during Congressional Reconstruction and asserted that a triumvirate of illiterates, rascals and rascals reveled in an orgy of extravagance and corruption. A later and more comprehensive survey that also covers contemporary events in the North is that of Eric FonerRebuilding: America's Unfinished Revolution, 1863–1877(New York: Harper & Row, 1988), an updated edition of which was published in 2014. Many other fine works are available, some detailing certain aspects of the reconstruction, but none significantly changed the interpretation of this period.

[2]The classic work that first drew attention to the late origins of Jim Crow legislation, the first edition of which was published in 1955, is that of C. Vann WoodwardThe Strange Career of Jim Crow, 3rd edition (New York: Oxford University Press, 1974). Two articles dealing with restrictions on voting rights are by Morgan KousserShaping Southern Politics: Suffrage Restrictions and the Establishment of a One-Party South(New Haven: Yale University Press, 1974) e Michael PerlmansChampionship struggle: disenfranchisement in the south, 1888–1908(Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2001).

[3]For the role of progressives, see David W. SouthernThe Malicious Legacy: Yankee Progressives and the Negro Question, 1901–1914(Chicago: Loyola University Press, 1968); Süd.The Progressive Era and Race: Reform and Reaction, 1900–1917(Nova York: Harlan Davidson, 2005); e William L. Anderson e David Kiriazis „Rents and Race: Legacies of Progressive Policies“,Independent Verification, 18 (2013): 115–133.

[4]"The Value of Freedom" by Kenneth Ng and Nancy VirtsEconomic History Magazine, 49 (Dec 1989): 938-965; Roger L. Ransom and Richard SutchA Kind of Freedom: The Economic Consequences of Emancipation(Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1977), S. 3–7; Richard Vedder, Lowell Gallaway and David C. Klingmans „Black Exploitation and White Benefits: The Civil War Income Revolution“ inThe Wealth of Races: The Present Value of the Benefits of Past Injustices, Hrsg. von Richard F. America (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1990): 125-137; Robert HiggsCompetition and Coercion: Blacks in American Business, 18651914(Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1977); "Accumulation of Property by Southern Negroes Before World War I" by HiggsAmerican Economic Review, 72 (September 1982), pp. 725–35; and Robert A. Margos „Accumulation of Property by Southern Blacks Before World War I: Further Comments and Evidence“ibid., 74 (September 1984), 777–781.

Author Biographies

Jeffrey Rogers Hummelis a retired Professor Emeritus in the Department of Economics at San Jose State University and has taught history and economics. He is the author ofslave emancipation,Enslavement of Free Men: A History of the American Civil War(2013). His articles and reviews have appeared inEconomic History Magazine,Econ Journal Watch, to dieTexas Law Revision, to dieIndependent Verification, to dieinternational philosophical quarterly, to dieRevision of the Chapman Act, and popular publications like this oneWall Street Journal,Forbes.com,Investor's Business Diary, Ethe free man. No Liberty FundBusiness and Freedom Library, he published several articles, including “U.S. Slavery and Economic Thought” and “Benefits of the American Revolution: An Examination of Positive Externalities”. He has also contributed to volumes such asBanks boom and bust(David Beckworth, ed.),American government and economy(Price Fishback, Hrsg.), morrerEncyclopedia of American Business History and Biography,Reassessment of the Presidency(John V. Denson, ed.) eWeapons, politics and economics(Robert Higgs, Sr.).

Orville Vernon Burtonis a Matthew J. Perry Distinguished Chair of History judge and professor of Global Black Studies, Sociology and Anthropology, and Computer Science at Clemson University. Burton taught for 34 years at the University of Illinois, where he is University Distinguished Teacher/Scholar Emeritus and Professor of History, African American Studies and Sociology. His research and teaching interests are American history with a particular focus on race relations and community. He was president of the Southern Historical Association and the Agricultural History Society. Burton is a prolific, award-winning author and scholar (over twenty books and nearly three hundred articles).the age of lincoln(2007) won theChicago TribuneHeartland Literary Award for Nonfiction and was shortlisted for Book of the Month Club, History Book Club, and Military Book Club. One critic proclaimed, "If the American Civil War era was the 'Iliad,' then historian Orville Vernon Burton is our last Homer."Justice Deferred: Race and the Supreme Court(2021) was rated "authoritative and easy to read" by reviewer Randall Kennedy of Harvard University Law SchoolDie Nation. In 2022, he was appointed to the South Carolina Commission on African American Heritage, was inducted into the Martin Luther King Jr. Collegium of Scholars at Morehouse College and received the John Hope Franklin Lifetime Achievement Award from the Southern Historical Association.

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"Liberty Matters" is copyright ofFreedom Fund, Inc..This material is published to further the educational objectives of Liberty Fund, Inc. These essays and responses may be quoted and used under the terms of "fair use" for educational and academic purposes. Prior permission from Liberty Fund, Inc. is needed to reprint these essays in the course booklets. Please contact Submissions@libertyfund.org with any questions.


What is the 14th Amendment in the Constitution? ›

Passed by the Senate on June 8, 1866, and ratified two years later, on July 9, 1868, the Fourteenth Amendment granted citizenship to all persons "born or naturalized in the United States," including formerly enslaved people, and provided all citizens with “equal protection under the laws,” extending the provisions of ...

Was the Constitution ratified without a Bill of Rights True or false? ›

The Constitution might never have been ratified if the framers hadn't promised to add a Bill of Rights. The first ten amendments to the Constitution gave citizens more confidence in the new government and contain many of today's Americans' most valued freedoms.

Is the federal government created by the United States Constitution True or false? ›

U.S. Constitution: 1787-1789

The Constitution of the United States is the foundation of our Federal Government. It is often called the supreme law of the land; no law may be passed that contradicts its principles.

Can the Constitution only be changed through rebellion and revolution? ›

Changing the interpretation of the constitution is what makes our constitution weak. The Constitution can be changed only through rebellion and revolution. The Articles of Confederation were written after the Declaration Of Independece.

What is Section 3 of the 14th Amendment insurrection? ›

Section 3 of the Fourteenth Amendment prohibits anyone who has previously taken an oath of office (Senators, Representatives, and other public officials) from holding public office if they have "engaged in insurrection or rebellion" against the United States.

What is the 10th Amendment of the United States? ›

The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.

Did the Bill of Rights go against the Constitution? ›

The absence of a "bill of rights" turned out to be an obstacle to the Constitution's ratification by the states. It would take four more years of intense debate before the new government's form would be resolved. The Federalists opposed including a bill of rights on the ground that it was unnecessary.

Is the Bill of Rights not the Constitution? ›

The Bill of Rights is the first 10 Amendments to the Constitution. It spells out Americans' rights in relation to their government. It guarantees civil rights and liberties to the individual—like freedom of speech, press, and religion.

Why weren t the Bill of Rights in the original Constitution? ›

James Madison and other supporters of the Constitution argued that a bill of rights wasn't necessary because - “the government can only exert the powers specified by the Constitution.” But they agreed to consider adding amendments when ratification was in danger in the key state of Massachusetts.

Did the Founding Fathers create a federal system of government? ›

“Seeking to balance order with liberty, the Founding Fathers chose a federal system of government. Their goal were to avoid tyranny, to allow more participation in politics, and to allow the states to pass their own laws that could test new ideas and programs.

Is the United States a democracy True or false? ›

The United States is a representative democracy. This means that our government is elected by citizens. Here, citizens vote for their government officials.

Did the Founding Fathers create the federal government? ›

To achieve these goals, the Founding Fathers proposed a national government where power was divided between three separate branches of government: the Executive, the Legislative, and the Judiciary. Each branch has its own rules, responsibilities, and powers.

Do the American people have a right to revolution? ›

The American political tradition has generally recognized that the people have a moral right to revolution: when a government becomes tyrannical, the citizenry may, by force of arms, overthrow it and institute a new, more acceptable one.

When the government becomes tyrannical? ›

When the people fear the government, that's tyranny; when the government fears the people, that's freedom.”

Does the Declaration of Independence state we have the right to overthrow the government? ›

But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.--Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; ...

What five civil liberties are guaranteed by the Constitution? ›

The five freedoms it protects: speech, religion, press, assembly, and the right to petition the government. Together, these five guaranteed freedoms make the people of the United States of America the freest in the world.

What does Amendment 3 say citizens do not have to do? ›

No Soldier shall, in time of peace be quartered in any house, without the consent of the Owner, nor in time of war, but in a manner to be prescribed by law.

What is the 9th Amendment? ›

The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.

What are the 27 constitutional rights? ›

Amendment Summary: 27 Updates to the U.S. Constitution
1st1791Rights to Religion, Speech, Press, Assembly, Petition
2nd1791Right to Bear Arms
3rd1791Quartering of Soldiers
4th1791Search and Seizure
23 more rows

Who does the 6th Amendment protect? ›

The Sixth Amendment guarantees criminal defendants nine different rights, including the right to a speedy and public trial by an impartial jury consisting of jurors from the state and district in which the crime was alleged to have been committed.

What is an example of a violation of the 10th Amendment? ›

United States, the Supreme Court ruled that the Federal Government could not force states to run background checks on people attempting to buy guns. Such an action was deemed coercive and violated the 10th Amendment.

Can states go against the Bill of Rights? ›

This court cannot so apply them.” So, in 1833, the Supreme Court confirmed what the original Framers of the Constitution had intended – that the Bill of Rights applied only to the federal government and not to any state.

What is my 1st Amendment right? ›

The First Amendment provides that Congress make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting its free exercise. It protects freedom of speech, the press, assembly, and the right to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

What does the 13th Amendment do? ›

Passed by Congress on January 31, 1865, and ratified on December 6, 1865, the 13th Amendment abolished slavery in the United States.

What is the Article 6 of the Constitution? ›

Article VI Supreme Law

All Debts contracted and Engagements entered into, before the Adoption of this Constitution, shall be as valid against the United States under this Constitution, as under the Confederation.

Does federal law supersede state Constitution? ›

Article VI, Paragraph 2 of the U.S. Constitution is commonly referred to as the Supremacy Clause. It establishes that the federal constitution, and federal law generally, take precedence over state laws, and even state constitutions.

What exactly does the Second Amendment say? ›

A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.

Who did the original Bill of Rights not apply to in government? ›

Despite their ratification as formal amendments to the U.S. Constitution, the amendments of the Bill of Rights were initially applied only to the powers of the federal government and not those of the states. This limited application was reaffirmed in the 1833 Supreme Court decision Barron v. Baltimore.

Why didn't they want a Bill of Rights? ›

The authors of The Federalist Papers, including James Madison, argued for ratification of the Constitution without a bill of rights. They thought no list of rights could be complete and that therefore it was best to make no list at all.

What is the right of revolution in the Constitution? ›

Increasingly, as Americans included it in their constitutions, the right of revolution came to be seen as a constitutional principle permitting the people as the sovereign to control government and revise their constitutions without limit.

What are the rights of everyone living in the United States? ›

Every human being has the right to life, liberty and the security of his person. Right to life, liberty and personal security. Article II. All persons are equal before the law and have the rights and duties established in this Declaration, without distinction as to race, sex, language, creed or any other factor.

What happens when a state law contradicts a federal law or the Constitution? ›

When state law and federal law conflict, federal law displaces, or preempts, state law, due to the Supremacy Clause of the Constitution.

What does the 10th Amendment have to do with American federalism? ›

In recent decades, the main place we've seen the 10th Amendment invoked is the anti-commandeering doctrine. This doctrine says the federal government cannot issue commands to the states, for example by requiring them to administer federal laws.

Is the US a democracy or a constitution? ›

The Constitution establishes a federal democratic republic form of government. That is, we have an indivisible union of 50 sovereign States. It is a democracy because people govern themselves.

Is the US run by democracy? ›

The US has American-style democracy, China has Chinese-style democracy, and other countries have their own unique models of democracy that suit their respective national conditions.

What countries are true democracies? ›

  • 3.1 Early Athens.
  • 3.2 Liechtenstein.
  • 3.3 Switzerland.
  • 3.4 United States.
  • 3.5 Direct democracy by country.

What was the United States called before 1776? ›

On September 9, 1776, the Second Continental Congress adopted a new name for what had been called the "United Colonies.” The moniker United States of America has remained since then as a symbol of freedom and independence.

Which government most influenced the Founding Fathers? ›

Along with the Roman model, the democratic model of ancient Greece's system of self-government greatly influenced how the founding fathers set out to construct the new United States government.

Could the American federal system survive without the supremacy clause? ›

There have been challenges to the government, but the federal system perseveres in part because of the National Supremacy Clause. Without it, the federal system would struggle to survive because states could violate national laws, court rulings could be rejected and unity would be difficult to maintain.

Is the American Revolution a fight for freedom? ›

American Revolution, also called United States War of Independence or American Revolutionary War, (1775–83), insurrection by which 13 of Great Britain's North American colonies won political independence and went on to form the United States of America.

Who is the American Revolution against? ›

The Revolutionary War was an insurrection by American Patriots in the 13 colonies to British rule, resulting in American independence.

Who did America go against in the American Revolution? ›

The American Revolutionary War (April 19, 1775 – September 3, 1783), also known as the Revolutionary War or American War of Independence, was the military conflict of the American Revolution in which American Patriot forces under George Washington's command defeated the British, establishing and securing the ...

What is a famous quote about overthrowing the government? ›

“Whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends [life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness] it is the right of the people to alter or abolish it, and to institute new government...”

What three basic rights do all men have? ›

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed, by their Creator, with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

Why is the Constitution against tyranny? ›

The James Madison quote shows the Constitution protects against tyranny because separate and distinct powers of government/department. The three main ways that the Constitution did protect against tyranny are Checks and Balances, Federalism, and Separation of Powers.

What state voted against the Declaration of Independence? ›

Pennsylvania and South Carolina voted against declaring independence. The New York delegation abstained, lacking permission to vote for independence.

What rights Cannot be taken away in the Declaration of Independence? ›

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

What does the 14th Amendment protect against? ›

Among them was the Fourteenth Amendment, which prohibits the states from depriving “any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law.” When it was adopted, the Clause was understood to mean that the government could deprive a person of rights only according to law applied by a court.

What are the 4 main points of the 14th Amendment? ›

14th Amendment - Citizenship Rights, Equal Protection, Apportionment, Civil War Debt.

What is Amendment 14 simplified in kid terms? ›

It says that anyone born in the United States is a citizen and has the rights of a citizen. This was important because it ensured that the freed slaves were officially U.S. citizens and were awarded the rights given to U.S. citizens by the Constitution.

What is the 14th Amendment Simplified Kid definition? ›

The Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States granted citizenship and equal civil and legal rights to anyone born in the United States or who became a citizen of the country. This included African Americans and slaves who had been freed after the American Civil War.

What is the 17th Amendment? ›

Passed by Congress on May 13, 1912, and ratified on April 8, 1913, the 17th Amendment modified Article I, Section 3, of the Constitution by allowing voters to cast direct votes for U.S. senators. Prior to its passage, senators were chosen by state legislatures.

What are my rights as a US citizen? ›

Right to vote in elections for public officials. Right to apply for federal employment requiring U.S. citizenship. Right to run for elected office. Freedom to pursue “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”

What is the 24th Amendment say? ›

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 ...

What is the 26th Amendment in simple terms? ›

1 Overview of Twenty-Sixth Amendment, Reduction of Voting Age. Twenty-Sixth Amendment. Section 1: The right of citizens of the United States, who are eighteen years of age or older, to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of age.

What does Amendment 21 say? ›


The transportation or importation into any State, Territory, or possession of the United States for delivery or use therein of intoxicating liquors, in violation of the laws thereof, is hereby prohibited.

What does the 27th Amendment say in simple terms? ›

No law, varying the compensation for the services of the Senators and Representatives, shall take effect, until an election of Representatives shall have intervened.

What is the 12th Amendment for dummies? ›

The Twelfth Amendment stipulates that each elector must cast distinct votes for president and vice president, instead of two votes for president.

What is the 5th Amendment in simple terms? ›

The Fifth Amendment breaks down into five rights or protections: the right to a jury trial when you're charged with a crime, protection against double jeopardy, protection against self-incrimination, the right to a fair trial, and protection against the taking of property by the government without compensation.

What is the 10th Amendment in simple terms? ›

The Tenth Amendment says that the Federal Government only has those powers delegated in the Constitution. If it isn't listed, it belongs to the states or to the people.

What is the 19th Amendment in simple terms? ›

Passed by Congress June 4, 1919, and ratified on August 18, 1920, the 19th amendment granted women the right to vote. The 19th amendment legally guarantees American women the right to vote. Achieving this milestone required a lengthy and difficult struggle—victory took decades of agitation and protest.


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