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Equal Protection: Documents Decoded
Page1(10 of 258)
1 One result of their investigations has been the joint resolution for the amendment of the Constitution1 of the United States now under consideration. After most mature deliberation and discussion, reach- ing through weeks and even months, they came to the conclusion that it was necessary, in order to restore peace and quiet to the coun- try and again to impart vigor and efficiency to the laws, and especially to obtain something in the shape of a security for the future against the recurrence of the enormous evils2 under which the country has labored for the last four years, that the Constitution of the United States ought to be amended and the project which they have now submitted is the result of their deliberations upon that subject. The first section of the amendment they have submitted for the consid- eration of the two Houses relates to the privileges and immunities of citizens of the several States, and to the rights and privileges of all persons, whether citizens or others, under the laws of the United States. It declares that— 1 Senator Howard refers to the Fourteenth Amendment, which would ensure that recently freed slaves are citizens of the country who possess due process and equal protection rights. 2 The Fourteenth Amendment was intro- duced to Congress in 1866. The country had just labored under an exhaustive and deadly civil war with thousands upon thou- sands killed in the process. Furthermore, the abject institute of slavery had been utilized in many parts of the country, particularly the Southern states that had encompassed the Confederacy. Thus, the country was overcoming “enormous evils.” Senator Howard’s Speech Introducing the Fourteenth Amendment to Congress May 23, 1866 I N T R O D U C T I O N Jacob Howard (1805–1871) was a U.S. senator from Michigan and one of the leading mem- bers of the 39th Congress, a group that was dubbed “the Radical Republicans” for their efforts at transforming society during the period of Reconstruction. Howard was instrumental in helping President Abraham Lincoln (1809–1865) pass the Thirteenth Amendment. He is also considered one of the founding fathers of the Four- teenth Amendment, along with colleagues John Bingham (1815–1900), Thaddeus Stevens (1792–1868), and Charles Sumner (1811–1874). In this speech in May 1866, Senator Howard introduces what is now known as the Fourteenth Amendment. The Fourteenth Amendment contained five sections. The most important remains section 1, which contains the equal protection clause.