THE FOURTEENTH AMENDMENT AND STATES’ RIGHTS

Amendment of the Constitution during the post-Civil War Reconstruction period resulted in a fundamental shift in the relationship between the Federal Government and the states. The Civil War had been fought over issues of states’ rights, particularly the right to control the institution of slavery.1 In the wake of the war, the Congress submitted, and the states ratified the Thirteenth Amendment (making slavery illegal), the Fourteenth Amendment (defining and granting broad rights of national citizenship), and the Fifteenth Amendment (forbidding racial discrimination in elections). The Fourteenth Amendment was the most controversial and far-reaching of these three “Reconstruction Amendments.”

Footnotes

1
“Since the 1950s most professional historians have come to agree with Lincoln’s assertion that slavery ‘was, somehow, the cause of the war.’ ” James M. McPherson, Southern Comfort, THE NEW YORK REVIEW OF BOOKS (Apr. 12, 2001), quoting Lincoln’s second inaugural address. [Back to text]