But ours is not the first era in which America's government, or one or another part of it, has governed as if parts of the rights-related amendments to the Constitution (chiefly I through VIII, XIII, XIV, XV, XIX, XXIV, XXVI) had never been ratified. One significant example is reconstruction after the Civil War, when not just one but many courts effectively refused to give the federal government the power to compel the state governments to extend the rights amendments to citizens of each state, resulting in a patchwork application, state-by-state, of rights granted and rights denied. In practical terms, the nation's newest citizens at the time... freed slaves... often found themselves back where they started as their citizens' rights were simply refused them. It was, in our perspective at least, a nightmarish time. But it was not the last such denial, and our own time has a "bad dream" quality about it when it comes to citizens' rights.
The Amendment that Refused to Die: Equality and Justice Deferred: A History of the Fourteenth Amendment, by Howard N. Meyer (1973, 1978, 2000). (I picked up this book used or remaindered, probably a decade ago, intending to read it when I retired. Guess what: I did in fact live long enough to do that.) The book offers a passionate recounting of the history of abolition, then, almost skipping the war itself, hastens onward to the national dysfunction during reconstruction.
|A Fool's Errand - cover|