John Bingham Fourteenth Amendment Quotes

by P.A. Madison on January 25th, 2016

I want to mark John A. Bingham’s belated January 21 birthday with some of his most significant quotes from 1866 thru 1875 I have come across over the years from such sources as Congressional Globe, House Reports, public speeches and letters. Some will be an eye opener since they are so contrary to what scholars and courts improperly attribute to him in terms of constitutional changes in late 20th century.

    “The words ‘citizens of the United States,’ and ‘citizens of the States,’ as employed in the fourteenth amendment, did not change or modify the relations of citizens of the State and nation as they existed under the original Constitution.”

    “This guarantee is of the privileges and immunities of citizens of the United States in, not of, the several States.”

    “That all citizens shall be forever equal, subject to like penalties for like crimes and no other.”

    “I ask that South Carolina, and that Ohio as well, shall be bound to respect the rights of the humblest citizen of the remotest State of the Republic when he may hereafter come within her jurisdiction.”

    “It is to secure to the citizens of each State all the privileges and immunities of citizens of the United States in the several States. If the State laws do not interfere, those immunities follow under the Constitution.”

    “The clause of the fourteenth amendment, ‘no State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States,’ does not, in the opinion of the committee, refer to privileges and immunities of citizens of the United States other than those privileges and immunities embraced in the original text of the Constitution, article four, section two.”

    “It had been judicially determined that the first eight articles of amendment of the Constitution were not limitations on the power of the States, and it was apprehended that the same might be held of the provision of the second section, fourth article.”

    “That provision, gentlemen will remember, was a limitation imposed upon the State of Missouri in the very words of the Constitution itself, to wit: that its constitution never should be so construed, and never should be so enforced as to deprive any citizen of the United States of the rights and privileges of a citizen of the United States within the limits of that State. The fourteenth article of the amendments of the Constitution secures this power to the Congress of the United States.”

    “The Magna Charta ‘gave the protection of the laws only to freemen’ while the Fifth Amendment used ‘more comprehensive words, no person shall be deprived of life, liberty or property without due process of law,’ and thus, ‘the people by their Constitution declared the equality of all men, and by the express limitation forbade the Government of the United States from making any discrimination.'”

    “Surely the gentleman (Farnsworth) then supposed the words ‘equal protection of the laws’ were more than a glittering generality; that they were to be enforced to the extent of securing all guarantees of life, liberty, and property as provided by the supreme law of the land, the Constitution of the United States.”

    “Some gentleman still ask what due process of law is, unaware of the centuries old meaning of protection against arbitrary abuse in the taking of life, confinement and confiscation.”

    “As gentlemen well know, we are limited to matters of migration of aliens to territories belonging only to the United States as the States never surrendered their sovereign power over alien migration within their own limits. These States are free to exercise this reserved power to the fullest extent without any question or limits placed on this reserved power from the central government.”

    “I know of no power lodged in the central government to interfere in the domestic affairs of these States or their laws in absence of some positive organic act of a State that places one class of persons at an disadvantageous over another in the protection of life, liberty or property before their courts of justice for an offence made a crime. The fourteenth of amendments most certainly does not confer this power.”

    “Nothing is more vital to the people’s liberty and freedom than that immortal amendment that reads ‘powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.’ I shall declare again the recent (14th and 15th) amendments made no change in this respect.”


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  1. Bill says:

    It’s strange thing that even in law school so few people know the original meaning of the Due Process Clause, the Equal Protection Clause or that the Naturalization Clause is qualified by “subject to the jurisdiction thereof”, let alone who Sen. Bingham was.

    Thanks for some good highlights.

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