Fourteenth and fifteenth amendments essay

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Fourteenthand fifteenth amendments

The14thand the 15thamendments were constitutional reforms that were enacted with theobjective of ensuring that justice was administered to all peopleafter the Civil War. The 14 amendment, which was ratified in 1868,was formulated to advance four principles. The first principle was toreaffirm the federal as well as the state citizenships. This meansthat people who were born in the U.S. or gained citizenship throughnaturalization were entitled to all legal rights, irrespective ofrace (Roark 17). Secondly, the amendment denied states the right tobridge immunities and privileges given to all citizens. Third, thegovernments were prohibited from depriving citizens of the life,property, and liberty without following the due processes provided bythe law. Fourth, the 14thamendment held that no citizen could be deprived of the right toequal protection of the national or the state laws.

Thefirst section of the 15thamendment prohibited the states from denying citizens theirdemocratic voting rights on the basis of their previous condition ofservitude, race, or color (Roark 18). The second section gaveCongress the powers to make the necessary legislations in order toenforce the amendment. The two amendments (14thand 15th)were made to ensure that civil rights could be enjoyed by all peopleirrespective of the social as well as demographic characteristics.For example, the 14thamendment was made out of fear that the Southern States could denyAfrican Americans the right and liberty, which was given to them atthe end of the Civil War. Similarly, the 15thamendment overturned the black codes that were used to restrict thevoting rights to the white men. This allowed all citizens to enjoythe voting rights. Therefore, the two amendments ensured that allcitizens could enjoy the rights guaranteed by the constitution.

Theslaughterhouse cases

Thesecases included a set of three lawsuits that were made by three firmsthat were engaged in the meat packing business in Louisiana. Thesefirms challenged Louisiana’s state law that allowed one firm toslaughter and package meat while other companies were denied thisright by being required to pay a fee (Roark 41). Although the SupremeCourt did not overturn the 14thand the 15thamendments in its decision, it undermined some principles of the twoamendments by reducing their scope. For example, the court held thatthe Congress had no legal right to punish any state that couldviolate the civil rights granted earlier to African Americans.Therefore, immunities and liberties stated in the 14thamendment were guaranteed to the national and not the state citizens.This implies that states were at liberty to discriminate againstdifferent classes of citizens. The Congress did not have the powersto punish states for denying certain classes of citizens the right tovote as stated in the 15thamendment. Therefore, the plain meaning of the amendments wastrivialized by the Supreme Court’s ruling.

Implicationof the case to people

Althoughthe slaughterhouse litigation focused on the discrimination made bythe state against business enterprises, the case had someimplications for the people due to the nature of the ruling made bythe Supreme Court. For example, the court made a distinction betweenthe state and the national citizens, which implies that the Congress,which is a national government agency, could not regulate howindividual states treated their citizens (Roark 42). The SupremeCourt set the precedence since its ruling could be used by othercourts to justify the discrimination against people by individualstates.

Protectionof civil rights for African Americans after the court’s decision

Thedecision made by the Supreme Court was a significant drawback for theAfrican Americans and their struggle for equal consideration of thecivil rights. The southern states had the largest number of AfricanAmericans since their economy was based on agriculture. AfricanAmericas worked in the agricultural firms as slaves. The AfricanAmericans remained poor and were discriminated against, even afterslave trade was abolished. For example, the need for the nationalgovernment to deploy military officers to protect the AfricanAmericans in the southern states during the reconstruction periodsuggest that the former slaves were free, but they were discriminatedagainst in different aspects of life. Therefore, any action (such asthe Supreme Court’s decision) that could limit the role of thenational government in protecting the state citizens could only makediscrimination worse.


Thelegal provisions made in the 14thand the 15thamendments were sufficient to guarantee equal protection of allcitizens. However, the outcome of slaughterhouse case watered-downthe achievements that the U.S. had made in term of protecting thecivil rights of all citizens. The amendments reaffirmed thecitizenship and the right to vote, regardless of the demographic andsocial background of individual citizens. The outcome of theslaughterhouse case limited the capacity of the national governmentto offer protection to minority groups. The African Americans,especially those who lived in the southern states, were discriminatedthe most since the former slave owners had a perception that freedomand equal treatment of the blacks could disadvantage the populationof the white Americans.


Roark,L., Johnson, M., Cohen, P., Stage, S. and Hartman, M. TheAmerican promise: A history of the United States (4thEd.).Boston: Bedford, 2009.