Read in light of this story, the Fourteenth Amendment’s sections make sense. Section 1 sets out a standard of one uniform national citizenship, and of fair and lawful treatment for all persons in the U.S., regardless of race, and regardless of whether the person is an immigrant or a citizen. Section 2 tried to take the “five-fifths” windfall away from former slave states, by depriving them of House and electoral-college power for citizens to whom they denied the ability to vote. Section 3 disabled the leadership of the Confederacy from holding power in the postwar Republic. Section 4 guaranteed that the North’s war debts would be repaid, but that the South could not claim “compensation” for the liberation of its slaves. Section 5 put Congress, not the president or the (hitherto) pro-slavery Supreme Court, in charge of enforcing the new democratic rules.
The amendment’s unified aim was, as one of its supporters proclaimed
, “a Union based upon universal liberty, impartial justice, and equal rights … a Union of truly democratic states.”
In the years after the Civil War, though, the idealism of the abolition crusade all but disappeared. Bit by bit, the “Slave Power” reassembled itself, with Southern elites using vote suppression, legal discrimination, and extralegal terror to maintain control over closed political systems, and using their members of Congress and their electoral votes to maintain disproportionate power in Washington.
The system was rigged again. The battle over that rigging is the heart of most post-Civil War American history.