Fourteenth Amendment a Disgrace to Free Government
David Lawrence, editor of the US News and World Report, argued in late September 1957 that the Fourteenth Amendment to the US Constitution was never ratified by the requisite number of States, and is therefore null and void. This amendment has been used since 1865 as the basis for federal intervention into the constitutionally-specified authority of the individual States, both North and South.
Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com
The Fourteenth Amendment a Disgrace to Free Government
“A mistaken belief — that there is a valid article in the Constitution known as the “Fourteenth Amendment” — is responsible for the Supreme Court decision of 1954 and the ensuing controversy over desegregation in the public schools of America
No such amendment was ever legally ratified by three-fourths of the States of the union as required by the Constitution itself. The so-called “Fourteenth Amendment” was dubiously proclaimed by the Secretary of State on July 20, 1868. The President shared that doubt. There were 37 States in the union at that time, so ratification by at least 28 was necessary to make the amendment an integral part of the Constitution. Actually, only 21 States legally ratified it.
So it failed ratification. The undisputed record, attested by official journals and the unanimous writings of historians, establishes these events as occurring in 1867 and 1868:
- Outside the South, six States — New Jersey, Ohio, Kentucky, California, Delaware and Maryland — failed to ratify the proposed amendment.
- In the South, ten States — Texas, Arkansas, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Florida, Mississippi and Louisiana — by formal action of their legislatures, rejected it under the normal processes of civil law.
- A total of 16 legislatures out of 37 failed legally to ratify the “Fourteenth Amendment”.
- Congress — which had deprived the Southern States of their seats in the Senate—did not lawfully pass the resolution of submission in the first instance.
- The Southern States which had rejected the amendment were coerced by a federal statute passed in 1867 that took away the right to vote or hold office from all citizens who had served in the Confederate army. Military governors were appointed and instructed to prepare a roll of voters. All this happened in spite of the presidential proclamation of amnesty previously issued by the president. New legislatures were thereupon chosen and forced to “ratify” under penalty of continued exile from the union. In Louisiana, a General sent down from the north presided over the State legislature.
- Abraham Lincoln had declared many times that the union was “inseparable” and “indivisible”. After his death and when the war was over, the ratification by the Southern States of the 13th Amendment abolishing slavery had been accepted as legal. But Congress in the 1867 law imposed the specific conditions under which the Southern States would be “entitled to representation in Congress.”
- Congress, in passing the 1867 law that declared the Southern States could not have their seats in either the Senate or House in the next session unless they ratified the “Fourteenth Amendment”, took an unprecedented step. No such right — to compel a State by an act of Congress to ratify a constitutional amendment — is to be found anywhere in the Constitution. Nor has this procedure ever been sanctioned by the Supreme Court of the United States.
- President Andrew Johnson publicly denounced this law as unconstitutional. But it was passed over his veto.
- Secretary of State [William] Seward was on the spot in July 1868 when the various “ratifications” of a spurious nature were placed before him. The legislatures of Ohio and New Jersey had notified him that they rescinded their earlier action of ratification. He said in his official proclamation that he was not authorized as Secretary of State “to determine and decide doubtful questions as to the authenticity of the organization of State legislatures or as to the power of State legislatures to recall a previous act or resolution of ratification”.
He added that the amendment was valid “if the resolutions of the legislatures of Ohio and New Jersey, ratifying the aforesaid amendment, are to be deemed as remaining of full force and effect, notwithstanding the subsequent resolutions of the legislatures of these States.”
This was a very big “if.” It will be noted that the real issue therefore is not only whether the forced “ratification” by the ten Southern States was lawful, but whether the withdrawal by the legislatures of Ohio and New Jersey — two northern States — was legal.
The right of a State, by action of its legislature to change its mind at any time before the final proclamation of ratification is issued by the Secretary of State has been confirmed with other constitutional amendments.
- The Oregon Legislature in October 1868 — three months after the Secretary’s proclamation was issued—passed a rescinding resolution, which argued that the “Fourteenth Amendment” had not been ratified by three-fourths of the States and that the “ratifications” in the Southern States “were usurpations, unconstitutional, revolutionary and void” and that “until such ratification is completed, any State has a right to withdraw its assent to any proposed amendment.”
This is the tragic history of the so-called “Fourteenth Amendment” — a record that is a disgrace to free government and a “government of law.” Isn’t the use of military force to override local government what we deplored in Hungary?
It is never too late to correct an injustice. The people of America should have an opportunity to pass on an amendment to the Constitution that sets forth the right of the federal Government to control education and regulate attendance at public schools either with federal power alone or concurrently with the States.
That’s the honest way, the just way to deal with the problem of segregation or integration in the schools. Until such an amendment is adopted, the “Fourteenth Amendment” should be considered null and void. There is only one supreme tribunal — it is the people themselves.
Their sovereign will is expressed through the procedures set forth in the Constitution itself.”
(There Is No Fourteenth Amendment” David Lawrence, Editor, US News & World Report, September 27, 1957, inside rear cover)