Primary Source: Journal of the US Senate on June 22, 1866

Instructor: David Wilson

David has taught college history and holds an MA in history.

The Fourteenth Amendment was one of the most controversial amendments in American history. It allowed the former Confederate states to rejoin the union, provided that they enfranchise all blacks as citizens and provided them with political rights.

The Fourteenth Amendment

After the conclusion of the Civil War, the question of how to re-purpose the former Confederate states as members of the United States led to an amendment of the Constitution. The Fourteenth Amendment gave citizenship to all persons ''born or naturalized'' in the U.S., primarily referring to blacks who previously had been slaves, while also ensuring that states would no longer disenfranchise blacks or subject them to illegal acts. The Thirteenth Amendment, passed a year prior, had abolished slavery altogether. In 1870, Congress would also pass the Fifteenth Amendment, which gave all Americans the right to vote regardless of race, although women remained unable to vote for another 50 years.

The Fourteenth Amendment was hugely controversial on both sides of the Mason-Dixon line. Southern states hated that they needed to adhere to the federal government's policies in order to be re-admitted to the Union, while Northern states disliked that the South would receive more congressional representatives now that blacks would become full citizens and be given proportional representation. New representation was one of the articles of the amendment, as was an article that stated former Confederate soldiers and politicians would no longer be eligible for military or civil service, barring many Southerners from furthering their careers. Finally, the Fourteenth Amendment stated that the debt of the Confederacy, racked up in the process of fighting an expensive war, would not be repaid by the United States government.

In order to pass, the amendment had to be debated in Congress in both the Senate and the House of Representatives. The text of the Journal of the U.S. Senate reflects this debate, as well as the participation of President Andrew Johnson. Johnson himself was a Southerner, although as former vice-president to Abraham Lincoln, he was clearly not in favor of secession. Nevertheless, he famously had sympathy for the South and did not want them punished as harshly as some Northerners did. Johnson famously squabbled with Congress, and was even impeached in 1868, one of just two presidents (the other being Bill Clinton) to have gone through the impeachment process.

If you'd like more practice in how to analyze and interpret journals as primary sources, please check out our lesson Practice Analyzing and Interpreting a Journal.

Text of the Journal of the U.S. Senate on June 22, 1866


The message was read.

Ordered, That it be referred to the Committee on Foreign Relations and be printed.

The following message was received from the President of the United States, by Mr. Cooper, his secretary:

To the Senate and House of Representatives:

I submit to Congress a report of the Secretary of State, to whom was referred the concurrent resolution of the 18th instant, respecting a submission to the legislatures of the States of an additional article to the Constitution of the United States. It will be seen from this report that the Secretary of State had, on the 16th instant, transmitted to the governors of the several States certified copies of the joint resolution passed on the 13th instant, proposing an amendment to the Constitution.

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