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Andrew Johnson puts his seal on North Carolina and Florida’s ratification of the 14th Amendment (Equal Protection).
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ANDREW JOHNSON. Document Signed as President. July 11, 1868. Ordering Secretary of State to Affix the Seal of the United States to Johnson’s Proclamation announcing ratification of the Fourteenth Amendment by North Carolina and Florida. 1 p.

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Complete Transcript

I hereby authorize and direct the Secretary of State to affix the Seal of the United States to a Proclamation announcing the ratification of the 14th Amendment to the Constitution by the legislature of North Carolina, and proceedings in Florida in same regard; which proclamation is dated this day, and signed by me: and for so doing this shall be his warrant.

                                                Andrew Johnson

Washington, July 11, 1868.

Historical Background

The Fourteenth Amendment expanded the definition of citizenship by making freed slaves full and equal citizens. Replacing the Constitution’s infamous counting of “three fifths of all other persons,” the amendment made “the whole number of persons in each State” the basis for representation. It federalized the Bill of Rights by holding the state governments to the same standards of protection of individual citizenship rights as the national government, particularly applying the Fifth Amendment’s guarantees of “due process” to the states. 

In June 1866, Congress had passed the Fourteenth Amendment, and President Johnson forwarded it to the states for ratification. A half dozen states ratified it that year, and fourteen more joined them by the next February. However, the initial rejection by the legislatures of every former Confederate state except Tennessee led the Republican Congress to pass the Reconstruction Acts, placing former Confederate states under military governments, until the states could establish new civil governments. Congress also passed a law on March 2, 1867, requiring each former Confederate state to ratify the Fourteenth Amendment before “said State shall be declared entitled to representation in Congress.”

By the spring of 1868, twenty-four states, including Tennessee, Arkansas, and Florida had ratified the proposed Fourteenth Amendment. Though Ohio had rescinded its ratification that January, and New Jersey followed suit in February, the amendment continued to progress. On July 11, 1868 Johnson issued his proclamation (made official by this document) noting ratification by Florida and North Carolina (which had initially rejected the amendment in December 1866). A week later, on July 18, he issued proclamations announcing the ratifications by Louisiana and South Carolina. On July 20, he issued another regarding the ratification by Alabama, and on July 27, he announced the ratification by Georgia.

With the addition of Florida, North Carolina, Louisiana, and South Carolina, the necessary three-quarters of the states had ratified the proposed amendment. On July 20, 1868, Secretary of State William H. Seward certified that on July 9th the amendment had become part of the Constitution. On July 21, Congress adopted a concurrent resolution declaring the Fourteenth Amendment to be a part of the Constitution and ordering the Secretary of State to issue it as such. Congress included both New Jersey and Ohio as having ratified the amendment, effectively declaring that those states could not rescind a ratification after it had been affirmed. In any case, the ratification by Alabama and Georgia, on July 13 and 21, respectively, removed any doubt. On July 28, Seward issued another proclamation, declaring the Fourteenth Amendment “has become valid to all intents and purposes as a part of the Constitution of the United States.” 

Virginia, Mississippi, and Texas ratified in 1869-1870, but Delaware, Maryland, California, and Kentucky did not ratify the Amendment until the twentieth century. Oregon, which had rescinded its ratification late in 1868, re-ratified the Amendment in 1973. When Ohio and New Jersey re-ratified the Fourteenth Amendment in 2003, all states that existed during Reconstruction had ratified the Amendment.

Text of the Fourteenth Amendment


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.

Text of Johnson’s Proclamation made official by the present document

By the President of the United States of America:

A Proclamation.

Whereas by an act of Congress, entitled “An act to admit the States of North Carolina, South Carolina, Louisiana, Georgia. Alabama, and Florida to representation in Congress,” passed on the twenty-fifth day of June, one thousand eight hundred and sixty-eight, it is declared that it is made the duty of the President, within ten days after receiving official information of the ratification by the Legislature of either of said States of a proposed amendment to the Constitution known as article fourteen, to issue a proclamation announcing that fact;

And whereas the said act seems to be prospective;

And whereas a paper purporting to be a resolution of the Legislature of Florida, adopting the amendment of the thirteenth and fourteenth articles of the Constitution of the United States, was received at the Department of State on the 16th of June, 1868, prior to the passage of the act of Congress referred to, which paper is attested by the names of Horatio Jenkins, Jr., as President pro tem. of the Senate, and W. W. Moore as Speaker of the Assembly, and of Wm. L. Apthoop, as secretary of the Senate, and Wm. Forsyth Bynum, as clerk of the Assembly, and which paper was transmitted to the Secretary of State in a letter dated Executive Office, Tallahassee, Florida, June 10, 1868, from Harrison Reed, who therein signs himself Governor;

And whereas on the 6th day of July, 1868, a paper was received by the President, which paper being addressed to the President bears date of the 4th day of July, 1868, and was transmitted by and under the name of W. W. Holden, who therein writes himself Governor of the State of North Carolina, which paper certifies that the said proposed amendment, known as article fourteen, did pass the Senate and House of Representatives of the General Assembly of North Carolina on the second day of July instant, and is attested by the names of John H. Boner, or Bower, as secretary of the House of Representatives, and T. A. Byrnes, as secretary of the Senate; and its ratification on the 4th of July, 1868, is attested by Tod R. Caldwell, as Lieut. Governor, President of the Senate, and Jo. W. Holden, as Speaker House of Representatives:

Now, therefore, be it known that I, Andrew Johnson, President of the United States of America, in compliance with and execution of the act of Congress aforesaid, do issue this proclamation, announcing the fact of the ratification of the said amendment by the Legislature of the State of North Carolina, in the manner hereinbefore set forth.

In testimony whereof I have signed these presents with my hand, and have caused the seal of the United States to be hereto affixed.

Done at the city of Washington, this eleventh day of July, in the year of our Lord, one thousand eight hundred and sixty-eight, and of the Independence of the United States of America the ninety-third.

Andrew Johnson.

By the President:

William H. Seward, Secretary of State.

Additional Historical Background:

President Johnson added ratification of the 13th Amendment, which had abolished slavery nationwide, to the conditions required for Confederate states to be readmitted to the Union.  Even so, Johnson was unwilling to support civil and voting rights for African Americans, and was quite willing to readmit the former Confederate states without any major reform of their governments. Fearing the rise of a de facto form of slavery, Congressional Republicans drafted and passed the 14th Amendment to extend legal protections to the freed people.

Some of the most substantial elements of this complicated and far-reaching amendment are its granting of full citizenship rights to “All persons born or naturalized in the United States,” prohibitions against denying anyone “life, liberty, or property without due process of law,” and guarantees that everyone enjoy “equal protection of the laws.” The 14th Amendment further guaranteed that the census would count the “whole number” of males over 21 years of age to determine Congressional representation, eliminating the notorious “three-fifths clause” of the original Constitution. Other sections prohibited some former Confederates from holding office and prohibited the states from paying Confederate pensions or debts incurred in the rebellion.

The 14th Amendment overturned historic injustices such as the 1857 Dred Scott case that said blacks could not be citizens, and opened new areas of law. The due process clause has extended most of the Bill of Rights to the states, and the equal protection clause has been the foundation for Brown v. Board of Education (1954), which ended racial segregation, and Reed v. Reed (1971), which ended sex discrimination in everything from employment to high school sports.

As in the case of the 13th Amendment, ratification of the 14th Amendment became required for the former Confederate states to be brought back into the Union with full representation. While granting immediate citizenship rights, the amendment did nothing to stop extralegal racial violence against African Americans during and after Reconstruction. Supporters hoped that guarantees of citizenship rights, due process, and equal protection would lead to sustained increases in black voting, but the federal government proved weak-willed when southern states denied blacks the right to vote, even after the 1870 ratification of the 15th Amendment, which explicitly gave freed slaves voting rights. It would take nearly a century for the Reconstruction Amendments to be enforced by the federal government.

One of the responsibilities of the United States Secretary of State is to keep the Great Seal of the United States. Based on a design approved by Congress in 1782, the seal is applied by the Secretary of State to treaty ratifications, international agreements, appointments of ambassadors, and communications from the President to foreign heads of state. Until 1967 the Secretary of State also applied the seal to all presidential proclamations; after that date, it was only required of presidential proclamations of international treaties and agreements. Among the most important such orders sold were those to affix the seal to the Emancipation Proclamation (1863) and a Proclamation of War with Mexico (1846).