The Fourteenth Amendment

The committee eventually decided to prepare an amendment to the

U.S. Constitution in order to protect the rights of blacks forever. The Fourteenth Amendment granted equal rights to former slaves and protected them against discrimination by the states. Although the amendment expanded Johnson's Reconstruction policies to include protection for blacks, it left the state governments that he had formed intact. It also accepted nearly all of the pardons the president had granted to former Confederates. The amendment did not force the Southern states to grant blacks the right to vote. Instead, it allowed voting rights to be determined by the states. But the amendment limited each state's representation in Congress to a percentage of the total number of voters, rather than the total population, in that state. This way, Southern states that did not allow blacks to vote, or imposed restrictions that limited the number of black voters, would not have as much influence in the federal government.

In order to be ratified (approved), the Fourteenth Amendment needed the votes of three-fourths of the state governments. All twenty-five of the states that had supported the Union approved it, as did Tennessee. But the remaining ten Southern states did not. As a result, the amendment failed to be ratified by one vote. Since the Southern state governments that had been set up under President Johnson's Reconstruction plan refused to ratify the amendment and give basic rights to black people, the Republican-controlled U.S. Congress did not readmit these states to the Union. The fail ure to pass the Fourteenth Amendment ended up being a major turning point in the Reconstruction process, because it forced Congress to take more radical action toward the South.

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