Teaching With Documents, Volume 2

Contents:

Reconstruction, the Fourteenth Amendment, and Personal Liberties

Following the Civil War, Congress submitted to r the states three amendments as part of its Reconstruction program to guarantee equal civil and legal rights to black citizens. On June 16, 1866, the House Joint Resolution proposing the 14th Amendment to the Constitution (the first featured document) was submitted to the states. On July 28, 1868, the 14th Amendment was declared ratified and became part of the supreme law of the land.

Congressman John A. Bingham of Ohio, the primary author of the first section of the 14th Amendment, intended that the amendment also nationalize the federal Bill of Rights by making it binding upon the states. Senator Jacob Howard of Michigan; introducing the amendment, specifically stated that the privileges and immunities clause would extend to the states "the personal rights guaranteed and secured by the first eight amendments." He was, however, alone in this assertion. Most senators argued that the privileges and immunities clause did not bind the states to the federal Bill of Rights.

Not only did the 14th Amendment fail to extend the Bill of Rights to the states, it also failed to protect the rights of black citizens. One legacy of Reconstruction was the determined struggle of black and white citizens to make the promise of the 14th Amendment a reality. Citizens petitioned and initiated court cases, Congress enacted legislation, and the executive branch attempted to enforce measures that would guard all citizens’ rights. While these citizens did not succeed in empowering the 14th Amendment during Reconstruction, they effectively articulated arguments and offered dissenting opinions that would be the basis for change in the 20th century.

The first case to test the impact of the 14th Amendment on the Bill of Rights began in 1870 when the Butchers Benevolent Association of New Orleans filed a lawsuit against a monopoly granted by the Louisiana legislature to the Crescent City Livestock Landing and Slaughter House Company. The butchers claimed that the state had interfered with "life, liberty, [and] the pursuit of Honorable and just means for promoting happiness and obtaining comfort," in violation of the 14th Amendment’s guarantee of privileges and immunities of U.S. citizens. On April 14, 1873, in a five to four decision, the Supreme Court ruled that the privileges and immunities clause of the 14th Amendment was not binding and that. protection of ordinary civil liberties was a power reserved to the states. It was not until Glitlow v New York in 1925 that, through the due process clause of the 14th Amendment, the Bill of Rights would begin to be nationalized.

The second featured document is the articulate plea of the "colored citizens of Cleveland & vicinity, Tenn.," petitioning Congress to pass legislation to enforce the 14th Amendment more effectively. On January 19, 1874, the petition was referred to the House Committee of the Judiciary where it languished. State legislation had already begun to construct the system of segregation that would remain legal until 1954.

The House Joint Resolution proposing the 14th Amendment to the Constitution, June 16,1866, isfound in the General Records of the U.S. Government, Record Group 11. The petition for the enforcement of the 14th Amendment, January 19, 1874, is found in the Records of the U.S. House of Representatives, Record Group 233.


Click the image to view a larger version


Click the image to view a larger version

TEACHING ACTIVITIES

Ask students to review what their textbooks say about the Civil War amendments and share with them the background information on the 14th Amendment from the note to the teacher. Ask the class to "brainstorm" on what they consider to be their privileges and immunities as U.S. citizens. List their ideas on the chalkboard.

2. Duplicate a set of the two documents and prepare a worksheet for each student from the questions below. Direct students to study the documents and the U.S. Constitution and complete the worksheet as homework.

3. When the students have completed the worksheet, discuss questions they may have. Then ask the class to consider the two documents together and to discuss the following questions: a. What privileges and immunities of citizens were of paramount interest to the creators of these documents more than 100 years ago? How are they similar or different from the list brainstormed by the class? b. Ours is a nation of laws that people may disagree with and work to change, but may not disobey with impunity. What do these documents reveal about the legal avenues available to people of the Reconstruction era for pursuing an extension of the privileges and immunities of citizens? What do these documents reveal about the methods of those who opposed the extension of such privileges? c. It is sometimes said that we stand on the shoulders of those who have gone before us. Citizens of the Reconstruction era failed in their efforts to extend Bill of Rights protections against state acts. Were their efforts futile, or did later personal liberties advocates or civil rights movements benefit from the efforts of these earlier citizens?

4. Use one or both of the activities below for further research: Assign one or two good students to find out what political parties have said about citizens’ rights in their party platforms in a particular election and report their findings to the class. For example, they may wish to locate the black civil rights planks of the 1872 Republican and Democratic platforms alluded to in the Cleveland, TN, petition. Most major library systems should have the two-volume National Party Platforms: 1840-1984, and may have recent Republican Party official convention proceedings. Democratic state committees have the party’s most recent platforms. Or, students may wish to contact the Democratic National Committee’s research office or the Republican National Committee’s archives office in Washington, DC.

b. Assign a student to check the current constitution of your state to see what rights are guaranteed to citizens of the state and to share the information with the class. In the report, the student should compare and contrast state privileges and immunities with those of U.S. citizens and compare and contrast the protection provided in the state by the class in activity one.

This lesson has been adapted from an exercise included in The Bill of Rights: Evolution of Personal Liberties developed and published by the National Archives and Records Administration.


Click the image to view a larger version


Click the image to view a larger version


Click the image to see a printable, full-page version of this teaching activity

Contents:

Download Options


Title: Teaching With Documents, Volume 2

Select an option:

*Note: A download may not start for up to 60 seconds.

Email Options


Title: Teaching With Documents, Volume 2

Select an option:

Email addres:

*Note: It may take up to 60 seconds for for the email to be generated.

Chicago: "Reconstruction, the Fourteenth Amendment, and Personal Liberties," Teaching With Documents, Volume 2 in Teaching With Documents: Using Primary Sources from the National Archives, ed. Wynell B. Schamel (Washington, D.C.: National Archives Trust Fund Board for the National Archives and Records Administration and National Council for the Social Studies, 1998), 43–47. Original Sources, accessed December 9, 2019, http://originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=QMTNQNK8C1KFYZ3.

MLA: . "Reconstruction, the Fourteenth Amendment, and Personal Liberties." Teaching With Documents, Volume 2, in Teaching With Documents: Using Primary Sources from the National Archives, edited by Wynell B. Schamel, Vol. 2, Washington, D.C., National Archives Trust Fund Board for the National Archives and Records Administration and National Council for the Social Studies, 1998, pp. 43–47. Original Sources. 9 Dec. 2019. originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=QMTNQNK8C1KFYZ3.

Harvard: , 'Reconstruction, the Fourteenth Amendment, and Personal Liberties' in Teaching With Documents, Volume 2. cited in 1998, Teaching With Documents: Using Primary Sources from the National Archives, ed. , National Archives Trust Fund Board for the National Archives and Records Administration and National Council for the Social Studies, Washington, D.C., pp.43–47. Original Sources, retrieved 9 December 2019, from http://originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=QMTNQNK8C1KFYZ3.