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The Rights of the People

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    ARTICLE XIV

    “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 in which 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.”ROP 267.1

    Before this amendment was adopted there was, primarily, no such thing as citizenship of the United States. Citizenship of the United States came, except to aliens, only as a consequence of citizenship of a State. The reason of this peculiar fact was that the thirteen States were all here as sovereign independencies before the United States Government was formed; and the people, being citizens of these States to begin with, when these very persons formed the national government they became, by that very process, citizens of the United States. And as there was no provision in the Constitution touching the subject with respect to any but aliens, the situation still remained the same-citizens of a State first, and, as a consequence of that, citizens of the United States. As stated by an authority in the time when the matter stood thus, it is as follows:-ROP 267.2

    “Citizenship, as we understand it, may be acquired in either of two ways,-by birth or by adoption, called, when applied lo aliens, naturalization. After the Declaration of Independence, and before the adoption of the Constitution of the United States, the power of conferring citizenship by naturalization or otherwise, like all other sovereign powers, was in the several States. And as the power vested in Congress by that instrument applies to aliens only, and as all powers not delegated to Congress by the Constitution, nor prohibited to the States, are expressly reserved to the States respectively or to the people, the power of conferring citizenship on all persons not aliens, necessarily remains in the several States both as to persons born on their soil, and as to those born in other parts of the Union; and any person upon whom such rights are conferred becomes a citizen of the State conferring them. And every citizen of a State is, ipso facto, a citizen of the United States.”-Law Reporter, June, 1857, p. 14.ROP 267.3

    As more fully stated by authority since it was changed, it is as follows:-ROP 268.1

    “Before the adoption of this amendment, citizenship of the United States was inferred from citizenship of some one of the States, for there was nothing in the Constitution defining or even implying national citizenship as distinct from its origination in, or derivation from, a State. It was declared in Article IV, section 2, of the Federal Constitution, that citizens of each State shall be entitled to all the privileges and immunities of citizens of the several States; but nothing was better known than that this provision was a dead letter from its very origin. A colored man who was a citizen of a northern State was certain to be placed under the surveillance of the police if he ventured south of the Potomac or the Ohio, destined probably to be sold into slavery under State law, or permitted as a special favor to return at once to his home. A foreign-born citizen, with his certificate of naturalization in his possession, had, prior to the war, no guarantee or protection against any form of discrimination, or indignity, or even persecution, to which State law might subject him, as has been painfully demonstrated at least twice in our history.”ROP 268.2

    At that time any State could have as thorough-going an establishment of religion as might be chosen, and persecute without limit, and yet there was no refuge under the national Constitution, because that document only said that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” The Constitution did not say that no State should do it; and as the powers not delegated to the United States, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States or to the people, it followed that each State might do all this without restraint, at its own will. The fourteenth amendment overturned this. Further we quote:-ROP 268.3

    “But this rank injustice and this hurtful inequality were removed by the fourteenth amendment. Its opening section settled all conflicts and contradictions on this question by a comprehensive declaration which defined national citizenship, and gave to it precedence of the citizenship of a State. ‘All persons born or naturalized in the United States and subject to the jurisdiction thereof are citizens of the United States, and of the States wherein they reside.’ These pregnant words distinctly reversed the origin and character of American citizenship. Instead of a man being a citizen of the United States because he was a citizen of one of the States, he was now made a citizen of any State in which he might choose to reside because he was antecedently a citizen of the United States.”-Blaine Twenty years, Vol. II, pp. 312, 313.ROP 268.4

    Every such person, then, being by the supreme law a citizen of the United States first of all, and this citizenship holding precedence of every other, it follows that all privileges, immunities, and rights secured to him by the national Constitution are likewise his first of all and take precedence of all others. This is as certainly true as it would be if there were no other citizenship known to the Constitution.ROP 269.1

    Now absolute freedom from any sort of an establishment of religion is an immunity, and exemption from every kind of law prohibiting the free exercise of religion is the privilege of every citizen of the United States; for it is written, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” If there were no other citizenship known to the Constitution than citizenship of the United States, the only law-making power that could possibly affect the citizen would be Congress. The only government that could have anything to do with the citizen would be the United States Government, and Congress is forbidden to make any law respecting religion or that would interfere with the free exercise of religion. Therefore, absolute freedom from any such thing is a privilege and immunity of every citizen of the United States, by the Constitution.ROP 269.2

    And now the second sentence of section I of this fourteenth amendment declares that “no State shall make or enforce any law abridging the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United, States.” That is to say, that no State shall make any law, or enforce any law already made, which abridges, which restricts, which lessens, the privilege or immunity of any citizen of the United States to be absolutely free in things religious. It practically declares that “no State shall make any law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”ROP 269.3

    “Whatever one may claim as of right under the Constitution and laws of the United States by virtue of his citizenship, is a privilege of a citizen of the United States. Whatever the Constitution and laws of the United States entitle him to exemption from, he may claim an exemption in respect to. And such a right or privilege is abridged whenever the State law interferes with any legitimate operation of federal authority which concerns his interest, whether it be an authority actively exerted, or resting only in the express or implied command or assurance of the Federal Constitution or law.”-Cooley, Principles, p. 247; Quoted by Bryce, American Commonwealth, chapter 36, par. 22, note.ROP 270.1

    Accordingly, this provision of the fourteenth amendment annihilates the force of every Sunday law, or other religious law, or law abridging the free exercise of religion, in every State in the Union. This is as plain a consequence as ever came or could come from any provision of law. It prohibits the persecution of any Seventh-day Adventist, Seventh-day Baptist, Jew, Protestant, Catholic, or anybody else, by any State law which interferes with the free exercise of his religion. This is the effect of the provision as it is in its plain reading. This is certain. And it is no less certain that the intent of those who made it was that this should be its effect. James G. Blaine was one of the leading spirits in the framing of this amendment, and, after remarking of the first provision of this section, that it “establishes American citizenship upon a permanent foundation, gives to the humblest man in the republic ample protection against any abridgment of his privileges and immunities by State law,” and that “the first section of the constitutional amendment, which includes these invaluable provisions, is in fact a new charter of liberty to the citizens of the United States,” with the matter before quoted, he continues:-ROP 270.2

    “The consequences that flowed from the radical change in the basis of citizenship were numerous and weighty. Nor were these consequences left subject to construction or speculation. They were incorporated in the same section of the amendment. The abuses which were formerly heaped on the citizens of one State by the legislative and judicial authority of another State were rendered thenceforth impossible. The language of the fourteenth amendment is authoritative and mandatory: ‘No State shall make or enforce any law abridging 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.ROP 272.1

    “Under the force of these weighty inhibition, the citizen of foreign birth cannot be persecuted by discriminating statutes, nor can the citizen of dark complexion be deprived of a single privilege or immunity which belongs to the white man. Nor can the Catholic, or the Protestant, or the Jew, be placed under ban or subjected to any deprivation of personal or religious right.ROP 272.2

    “The provision is comprehensive and absolute, and sweeps away at once every form of oppression and every denial of justice. It abolishes caste and enlarges the scope of human freedom. It increases the power of the republic to do equal and exact justice to all its citizens, and curtails the power of the State to shelter the wrongdoer, or to authorize crime by a statute. To Congress is committed the authority to enforce every provision of the fourteenth amendment, and the humblest man who is denied the equal protection of the laws of the State can have his wrongs redressed before the supreme judiciary of the nation.”-Twenty Years of Congress, Vol. II, pp. 313, 314.ROP 272.3

    Such is the statement, the pledge, and the security, of religious right in the States, according to the “weighty,” “authoritative, and mandatory” provisions of the national Constitution.ROP 272.4

    It is true that each State constitution contains strong guaranties of the perfect freedom of religious right, yet the Legislatures have ignored them, and the State Supreme Courts have interpreted them away. It is true that the national Constitution guarantees exemption from interference on the part of the government or any State, with the religious right of citizens of the United States; yet the supreme judiciary of the nation has interpreted into that Constitution “the establishment of the Christian religion” as the “meaning” thereof; Congress in its Sunday legislation has put in the national law the very religious idea that has been set up by the States; and the executive has approved it. Thus, so far, the national power, instead of maintaining the high dignity which the people had given it forever to protect the privileges and immunities of citizenship of the United States from invasion by the States, has abandoned its high station, and has gone down and actually joined the States in the invasion. Nevertheless,ROP 272.5

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