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Fourteenth Amendment

The Fourteenth Amendment is the longest amendment to the Constitution. It was ratified in 1868 in order to protect the civil rights of freed slaves after the Civil War. It has proven to be an important and controversial amendment addressing such issues as the rights of citizens, equal protection under the law, due process, and the requirements of the states.

From the Constitution

The 14th Amendment is the longest amendment to the Constitution in number of words. We will describe each section below, but won't list the entire amendment. If you want to read the text of the amendment, go here.

Definition of Citizenship

The Fourteenth Amendment gives an important definition of a citizen of the United States. It says that anyone born in the United States is a citizen and has the rights of a citizen. This was important because it ensured that the freed slaves were officially U.S. citizens and were awarded the rights given to U.S. citizens by the Constitution.

The amendment also said that once a person becomes a U.S. citizen, their citizenship cannot be taken away. The exception to this is if that person lied in order to become a citizen.

Requirements of the States

Before the Fourteenth Amendment was passed, the Supreme Court said that the Bill of Rights only applied to the federal government, not the state governments. The Fourteenth Amendment makes it clear that the Bill of Rights also applies to the state governments.

Privileges and Immunities

The amendment guarantees that the states cannot take away the "privileges or immunities" of citizens that are given them by the Constitution. This means that there are some rights that the state governments cannot touch.

Due Process

The amendment guarantees "due process" of law by the state governments. This is very similar to the due process mentioned in the Fifth Amendment, but here it applies to the state governments rather than the federal government.

Equal Protection

The amendment also guarantees "equal protection of the laws." This is an important clause within the amendment. It was put there to make sure that every person (regardless of age, race, religion, etc.) would be treated the same by the government. This clause has been used in several civil rights cases including the landmark case of Brown v. Board of Education.

House of Representatives

Section 2 of the amendment describes how the state population would be counted in order to determine how many members of the House of Representatives each state would have. Prior to the amendment former slaves were counted as three-fifths a person. The amendment says that all people will be counted as a "whole number."


Section 3 says that people who have participated in a rebellion against the government cannot hold a state or federal office.

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Works Cited

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