Did the 14th amendment limit State citizens' rights?

The Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, Section 1, the Citizenship Clause, states:

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.

Some claim that before the amendment was ratified State citizens were not subject to the federal United States government.

The argument fails straight-away because the clause plainly states that it only applies to subjects of the United States. Anyone affected by the 14th amendment was already subject to the federal government. The federal government was merely dictating something to its subjects as anyone with subjects lawfully could.

The main intent of the amendment was to have the States recognize federal subjects, particularly slaves that were considered property and not citizens in the southern slave States, and to establish equality and full civil rights across the nation.

We should know that the States themselves, and thereby their constituents and properties, e.g. citizens and slaves, have been subject to the federal government since the Constitution was signed in 1788. Article 6, Clause 2 of the Constitution, the Supremacy Clause, reads:

This Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in pursuance thereof; and all treaties made, or which shall be made, under the authority of the United States, shall be the supreme law of the land; and the judges in every state shall be bound thereby, anything in the constitution or laws of any state to the contrary notwithstanding.

Therefore, State citizens may or may not have been federal citizens but were definitely subject to the United States government, at least as far as the United States government could limit the States and their members.

The amendment imposed federal citizenship on State citizens that didn't have it, but did it represent a substantial loss of liberty? It is said in related Congressional documents here or here that subjects should be treated about equal with citizens as far as liberty is concerned. Therefore if a State citizen were indeed not to have US citizenship and (as subjects but not citizens) gained it by the 14th amendment, they would conceivably not suffer much, if any, loss of liberty. They would, however, gain valuable constitutional and federal protection.

I want to say that the 14th amendment Citizenship Clause does not remove any rights or privileges or impose any additional duties upon State citizens that were not previously federal citizens. For the most part this appears true. As federal subjects but not citizens State citizens would seemingly be limited similarly to federal citizens. By swearing allegiance to a State that swore allegiance to the Constitution even without federal citizenship there is a substantial loss of liberty for State citizens to the federal government. Therefore I think it's safe to say that any additional duties imposed by federal citizenship would be minor. Further, the act of forcing subjects to become citizens could not conceivably be viewed as unlawful, as doing what your master says is what being a subject is all about.

* I wonder whether or not all State citizens automatically became federal citizens or if there was ever a sweeping grant or imposition of citizenship at some point before the 14th amendment. There were naturalization acts, people could become US citizens by residing in the US for a period of time and swearing allegiance in court, but how did the first citizens, the signers, etc., get their citizenship? Still working on it. 🙂

Stay vigilant. Keep asking questions. Post a comment.

  • Lord Walker El

    The 14th Ammendment intentionally makes you a Stateless person!!! Or a Corporation. Wheeling Steel Corporation v Fox

    • pseudolaw.com

      No it makes existing state citizens also federal citizens as the article states. The case mentioned is about taxation of state-incorporated corporations. Corporations readily admit jurisdiction by being formed under state law, and that's not at all what the case was about anyway. How is it relevant to rights or jurisdiction of individuals?