Visit Your Local PBS Station PBS Home PBS Home Programs A-Z TV Schedules Watch Video Donate Shop PBS Search PBS
Freedom: A History of US.
HOME
Webisode Menu Tools & Activities For Teachers About the Series Search This Site
Webisode 7: What is Freedom?
Introduction Segment 1 Segment 2 Segment 3 Segment 4 Segment 5 Segment 6 Segment 7

See it Now - click the image and explore
The Constitutional Amendment!
Segment 2
Page 3

The next thing Republicans in Congress did was to write the Fourteenth Amendment See It Now - The Fourteenth Amendment. It was a powerful amendment meant to change the Constitution as it was. It said: "No State shall 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 Check The Source - The Fourteenth Amendment."

It says that the states must provide equal protection of the law to all their citizens. But suppose they don't? The South had fought for states' rights. Many Southerners thought each state should be free to make its own decisions. If a state wanted an aristocratic society with layers of privilege and unfairness—well, if that was what the majority of its people wanted, why shouldn't they have it? This was what one famous judge—Oliver Wendell Holmes See It Now - Oliver Wendell Holmes—had to say about that: Hear It Now - Oliver Holmes "The history of most countries has been that of majorities—mounted majorities, clad in iron, armed with death—treading down the tenfold more numerous minorities."

The Constitution makers had realized that majorities are sometimes tyrannical. The Bill of Rights was meant to protect minorities from abuses by the majority. But it only covered federal laws. The Fourteenth Amendment protected citizens from tyranny by the states. If states pass unfair laws then Congress can override them. That's what the Fourteenth Amendment said. It took power from the states and gave power to the federal government. Andrew Johnson didn't like it a bit.


Icon Key
See it Now Hear it Now Check the Source
Timeline
Glossary
Quiz
Image Browser
Additional Resources
Did You Know?
Congress sent northern troops south to maintain order and protect the rights of the freed persons. Soldier rule is called martial law.


Did you know that Freedom is adapted from the award-winning Oxford University Press multi-volume book series, A History of US by Joy Hakim?



Previous Continue to: Segment 3. Page 1
Email to a friend
Print this page