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The 14th Amendment Explained

The 14th amendment is a constitutional amendment that defines citizenship, equal protection and due process for all people in the United States. These rights are given to anyone who lives on American soil, but not necessarily those born on American soil. The 14th amendment was ratified in 1868 as part of the reconstruction era following the civil war. In this article, we will discuss the basics of the 14th Amendment.

What Is The 14th Amendment?

The 14th amendment to the United States Constitution was approved on July 9, 1868, as one of the reconstruction amendments to address citizenship rights and equal protection under the law for former slaves following the civil war. 

There are five sections to the 14th amendment, the first represents who citizens in America are, and it reads, “ All persons born or naturalized in the United States and subject to the jurisdiction thereof are citizens of the United States and of the state wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.”

What Is The 14th Amendment

How Does It Protect Citizens of the United States?

The 14th amendment is worded quite similarly to the 5th amendment and offers the same protections. However, the difference is the procedure for due process. Due process in the 14th amendment is a given right to limit the power of the government to interfere with the person’s affairs, such as freedom of speech or the ownership of property unless their actions are illegal. 

You can think of the 14th amendment as a shield against state governments and the 5th amendment against the federal government. Before the state government can take away someone’s life, liberty, or property, that state government must also provide due process of law just like the federal government. Because of the 14th amendment’s due process clause, a state government must provide individuals with a fair and just trial in front of a jury before sentencing them to prison. 

Why Was It Created in 1868?

The 14th amendment was passed following the civil war, while the 13th amendment abolished slavery, and that law was passed when Abraham Lincoln was still alive. Furthermore, when the radical republicans took over the next congress by 1868, the 14th amendment was used for the southern states to enter the union. Therefore the 14th amendment is written in the constitution, and it deals with the issue that the supreme court dredged up under Dred Scott. 

In 1857 before the civil war, the supreme court solved slavery by determining that all African Americans or Africans transported to America were not American citizens. Years before that, congress during sectionalism had tried to solve it with popular sovereignty, but since the supreme court had decided that African Americans were not citizens, this issue raised concerns and started the civil war. Then the 14th amendment was designed to correct that supreme court decision. 

Why Was It Created in 1868

What Other Amendments Were Passed Around This Time?

Around that time, in the aftermath of the American Civil War, other amendments were passed to protect the rights of formerly enslaved African Americans. Some of these amendments were the:

  • 13th amendment –  The 13th amendment to the US Constitution abolished slavery in the United States, and the Senate passed the 13th amendment on April 8, 1864, which was a full year before the end of the civil war. After the amendment passed the senate and house of representatives in 1865, Abraham Lincoln signed an order to send the amendment to the states for ratification. Hence the 13th amendment was ratified on December 6, 1865. 
  • 15th amendment – The 15th amendment granted African American men the right to vote, and as this amendment says, the right to vote “Shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of race, color or previous condition servitude.” Women then later had the right to vote in 1920. 

Constitutional Amendments

Who Are Some Famous People who Benefited From the 14th Amendment?

Some persons benefited from the 14th amendment like the:

  • Mapp v Ohio – The police forcefully entered Mapp’s house without a warrant looking for a suspect, and she took the warrant and stuffed it under her blouse until eventually, they got it back. The police handcuffed Mapp and started searching through her house, and they found evidence of a pistol, illegal gambling, and a small collection of sexually explicit materials.  Eventually, she goes to court and said that the police didn’t have a warrant and declares the 4th amendment was broken and also the 14th amendment because her state is denying her due process. 


  • Miranda v Arizona – This case occurred in Phoenix, Arizona, where an 18-year-old girl was kidnapped and raped. She gave a clear description of the individual, and Miranda had matched that description. The police arrested him and put him into a line-up, and he was interrogated for two hours. Eventually, he admitted to committing the crime, and he was forced to give a written confession, and he signed it. Later, the argument from Miranda was that the 14th amendment had to be introduced. This gives the federal government and the supreme court the power to selectively incorporate the lower bill of rights that says no state shall deny its citizens life, liberty or property without due process. 


  • Gideon v Wainwright – In 1961, Clarence Earl Gideon from Florida was charged with breaking and theft. A witness reported him to the police, and he was later arrested and brought to trial. Eventually, the argument was that the 14th amendment was broken because, according to the 14th amendment clause, ‘’no state shall deny citizens the right to due process and equal protection’’. 


People who Benefited From the 14th Amendment


This article contains general legal information but does not constitute professional legal advice for your particular situation. The Law Dictionary is not a law firm, and this page does not create an attorney-client or legal adviser relationship. If you have specific questions, please consult a qualified attorney licensed in your jurisdiction.