1. The Second Founding Amendments

2. Speeches and Documents of the Second Founding

3. Scholarship and Commentary

The Second Founding Amendments

Thirteenth Amendment Fourteenth Amendment Fifteenth Amendment

The Thirteenth Amendment

The Thirteenth Amendment bans slavery and forced labor. (Resources)

Section 1.

Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.

Section 2.

Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.

The Fourteenth Amendment

The Fourteenth Amendment contains a host of constitutional guarantees.  It grants U.S. citizenship to everyone born on American soil.  It protects individual rights such as free speech from state abuses.  And it promises equality for everyone—whether black or white, woman or man, gay or heterosexual. (Resources)

Section 1.

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 wherein 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.

Section 2.

Representatives shall be apportioned among the several states according to their respective numbers, counting the whole number of persons in each state, excluding Indians not taxed. But when the right to vote at any election for the choice of electors for President and Vice President of the United States, Representatives in Congress, the executive and judicial officers of a state, or the members of the legislature thereof, is denied to any of the male inhabitants of such state, being twenty-one years of age, and citizens of the United States, or in any way abridged, except for participation in rebellion, or other crime, the basis of representation therein shall be reduced in the proportion which the number of such male citizens shall bear to the whole number of male citizens twenty-one years of age in such state.

Section 3.

No person shall be a Senator or Representative in Congress, or elector of President and Vice President, or hold any office, civil or military, under the United States, or under any state, who, having previously taken an oath, as a member of Congress, or as an officer of the United States, or as a member of any state legislature, or as an executive or judicial officer of any state, to support the Constitution of the United States, shall have engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the same, or given aid or comfort to the enemies thereof. But Congress may by a vote of two-thirds of each House, remove such disability.

Section 4.

The validity of the public debt of the United States, authorized by law, including debts incurred for payment of pensions and bounties for services in suppressing insurrection or rebellion, shall not be questioned. But neither the United States nor any state shall assume or pay any debt or obligation incurred in aid of insurrection or rebellion against the United States, or any claim for the loss or emancipation of any slave; but all such debts, obligations and claims shall be held illegal and void.

Section 5.

The Congress shall have power to enforce, by appropriate legislation, the provisions of this article.


The Fifteenth Amendment

The Fifteenth Amendment guarantees the right to vote free of racial discrimination. (TextResources)

Section 1.

The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude.

Section 2.

The Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.

Speeches and Documents of the Second Founding

Emancipation Proclamation, January 1, 1863, declaring that all people held as slaves in the Confederacy “are, and henceforth shall be free.” (Resources)

Draft of the Gettysburg Address, (Bliss Copy, 1, 2, 3) November 1863, delivered at the dedication of the Soldiers’ National Cemetery in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.  President Lincoln emphasized the principles of equality enshrined in the Declaration of Independence and promised our Nation “a new birth of freedom.” (Resources)

Lincoln’s State of the Union Message to Congress, December 1864, urging passage of the 13th Amendment.  President Lincoln reiterated his commitment to the eradication of slavery, and urged Congress to enshrine its prohibition in the Constitution.

Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address, March 4, 1865, in which President Lincoln spoke of slavery as the main cause of the Civil War and spoke of our Nation’s uncertain future.

Proclamation of the Secretary of State Regarding Ratification of the Thirteenth Amendment, December 18, 1865, issued by William H. Seward confirming the ratification of the Thirteenth Amendment. (Resources)

Scholarship and Commentary

NarrativesCommittee strip

Perfecting the Declaration: The Text and History of the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. This narrative tells the story of how the American people, after the Civil War, re-wrote the Constitution to guarantee equality to all persons, bringing the Constitution back in line with the principle of equality laid out in the Declaration of Independence. (David Gans, 2011)

The Gem of the Constitution. This narrative tells the sad story of the Privileges or Immunities Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, which was supposed to be the centerpiece of the Fourteenth Amendment and the critical constitutional language that guarantees the fundamental rights of all Americans. Instead, the Supreme Court wrote it out of the Constitution in 1873 and it has lain dormant ever since. The report argues for a reconsideration of the Clause and its critical role of protecting fundamental rights and liberties. (David Gans and Doug Kendall, 2011)

The Shield of National Protection: The Text & History of Section 5 of the Fourteenth Amendment. The Shield tells how the framers of the Fourteenth Amendment gave Congress the lead role in enforcing the Constitution’s new guarantees of liberty and equality, only to have this explicit grant of power decimated by a hostile Supreme Court. The modern Supreme Court has made matters even worse, treating these older cases as super-precedents while inventing new restrictions on Congress’ ability to ensure state officials obey Fourteenth Amendment rights. (David Gans and Doug Kendall, 2011) 

The Second Founding Today Today CC images

Born Under the Constitution: Why Recent Attacks on Birthright Citizenship are Unfounded (Elizabeth Wydra)

The Meaning of Equal: Does the Constitution Prohibit Discrimination on the Basis of Gender and Sexual Orientation? (Constitutional Accountability Center)

Enforcing Civil Rights: Will the Supreme Court Strike Down the Voting Rights Act and Other Landmark Civil Rights Legislation? (Elizabeth Wydra)


Photo Credits: Wikimedia Commons, Flickr user VoxEfx