Penguin Guide to the United States Constitution: A Fully Annotated Declaration of Independence
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.
SECTION 5
    The Congress shall have power to enforce, by appropriate legislation, the provisions of this article.
    Perhaps the most significant and far-reaching amendment to the Constitution, the Fourteenth Amendment is viewed by many scholars and jurists as the provision of the Constitution that has brought the principles enunciated in the preamble of the Declaration of Independence into the realm of constitutional law. The words of the preamble of the Declaration—“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”—are purely exhortatory; they were important rhetorically in defining American purposes as they declared the colonies’ independence from Great Britain, but they do not have the force of law. At the heart of the Fourteenth Amendment is the stipulation that all Americans born or naturalized in the United States, including the newly freed slaves, are citizens of the United States, and that no state may make or enforce any law that shall infringe on the rights of American citizens, including those unalienable rights of “life, liberty or property” without due process of law. The Fourteenth Amendment’s promise that all persons are guaranteed “equal protection of the laws” would prove an important mechanism by which the Supreme Court, in a series of rulings in the twentieth century, would articulate a uniform standard by which many of the rights spelled out in the Bill of Rights would be guaranteed to all citizens in each of the states.
    Section 2 of the Fourteenth Amendment had a more specific intent. It effectively repealed the three-fifths compromise by which slaves were counted as three-fifths of a person in the apportionment of representation and taxation, and stipulates that any state that attempts to deny the right to vote to any male United States citizen over the age of twenty-one will have its representation in Congress and the electoral college reduced proportionally to the number of citizens so disenfranchised. This part of Section 2 was clearly intended by the members of Congress who drafted it as a means of protecting the newly freed slaves’ right to vote. It is notable that the only exception to this protection of the right to vote is in the case of individuals who have participated “in rebellion, or other crime.” This exception not only applied to convicted criminals (who are still denied the right to vote in most states) but also to large numbers of Americans who had participated in the Southern “rebellion” during the Civil War.
    Section 3 of the amendment explicitly excluded former Southern rebels from serving in any federal or state office until Congress, by a two-thirds vote, removed that prohibition. This constitutional device effectively turned over control of the “reconstruction” of the former secessionist states to individuals who had remained loyal to the union during the Civil War.
    Section 4 of the amendment absolved the federal government of any responsibility for the debts incurred by the Southern states or by the Confederacy during the Civil War.
    Finally, Section 5 granted to Congress broad authority to proceed with legislation that would enforce the provisions of the Fourteenth Amendment. In the immediate aftermath of the adoption of the amendment, Congress passed seven statutes aimed at guaranteeing civil rights to freed slaves as well as

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