14th Amendment: Language and Intent

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    This may be an elementary question, and I apologize if that is the case.

    In existing sections of the Constitution (Article I Section 2 Cl. 2; Section 3 Cl. 3; Qualification of Senators/Representatives, et c.) as originally ratified, the language “a citizen of the united States” would appear to me to clearly reflect the proper understanding people had of the structure of governement established. In my mind, there’s no question this simply refers to a free person who is at that time a citizen of any one of the States so united.

    In the opening language of the 14th Amendment, if read and applied verbatim would seem to imply that there is a distinction to be made between being a citizen of a State and also a citizen of the United States. As if the two, while they would often coincide, could conceivably exist separately. (Washington D.C. is an obvious example here, but it is out of context for the question I’m asking) I assume this is the supposed justification for a lot of the “dual sovereignty” arguments litigators seem to enjoy so much. Based on the language itself, I could easily see more designing men attempting to establish the concept of a “United States” government that somehow stands in parity with the State governments that created it. Is there any evidence that this was intended by the actual framers of the amendment, given that the 14th was meant to codify the Civil Rights Act post war?


    My apologies for the delay here; Kevin has been having some difficulties with the forums, but they should be resolved within 24 hours or so.


    The idea of “dual sovereignty” comes from the confused language of ratification-era Federalists, such as Hamilton and Madison in _The Federalist_, about sovereignty. They say at various points that the Federal Government has some sovereignty, that the states retain some sovereignty, that various institutions, have “sovereign power,” etc. I call this “confused” because sovereignty refers to ultimate authority, and — as John Taylor of Caroline pointed out to John Adams in their late-life correspondence — in America, no government is sovereign; it is the peoples of the states who are.

    Yes, state citizenship and American citizenship are discrete.

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