Today in History

Today in History: July 28

The Fourteenth Amendment

On July 28, 1868, Secretary of State William Seward issued a proclamation certifying without reservation that the Fourteenth Amendment was a part of the United States Constitution. The required number of states had ratified the Fourteenth Amendment a few weeks earlier on July 9, 1868. Known as one of the "Reconstruction Amendments" along with the Thirteenth and Fifteenth Amendments, the Fourteenth Amendment forbids any state to deny to any person "life, liberty or property, without due process of law" or to "deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws." With its broadly phrased language, the Fourteenth Amendment continues to provide a basis for civil rights claims in the United States.

U.S. Supreme Court
U.S. Supreme Court (detail), Washington, D.C.,
Theodor Horydczak, photographer,
circa 1920-1950,
Washington as It Was: Photographs by Theodor Horydczak, 1923-1959

Soon after ratification, the Slaughterhouse Case tested the scope of the Fourteenth Amendment. Brought before the U.S. Supreme Court in 1873, the suit argued that the monopoly the Louisiana legislature granted to a New Orleans slaughtering company abridged other businessmen's privileges as American citizens and deprived them of property without due process of the law. The court ruled against the slaughterhouses, narrowly interpreting "the privileges and immunities" of citizens and stating that the amendment did not extend to the property rights of businessmen. In their dissenting opinion, Justices Field, Bradley, and Swayne wrote that, in considering the Fourteenth Amendment,

the right to pursue any lawful trade or avocation, without other restraint than such as equally affects all persons, is one of the privileges of citizens of the United States which can not be abridged by state legislation.

Stephen Johnson Field, Joseph P. Bradley, and Noah Haynes Swayne,
The Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution Considered…,
1873.
African American Perspectives: Pamphlets from the Daniel A. P. Murray Collection, 1818-1907

Women tried to use the new amendment to affirm their right to vote. In 1871, Sara J. Spencer and Sarah E. Webster each brought cases before the District of Columbia court arguing that they were enfranchised by the Fourteenth Amendment. Their lawyers argued that while District law specified that "male residents" could vote, passage of the Fourteenth Amendment nullified that requirement.

…in the presence of the first section of the Fourteenth Amendment, which confers the elective franchise upon "all persons," this word "male" is as if unwritten, and, [therefore], the statute, constitutionally, reads, "That all citizens shall be entitled to vote."

Albert Gallatin Riddle,
Suffrage Conferred by the Fourteenth Amendment...,
1871.
Votes for Women: Selections from the National American Women Suffrage Association Collection, 1848-1921

Riddle further argued on the women's behalf that "the right to vote is a natural right," central to the notion of citizenship. Today, the right to vote is considered a fundamental civil right of all United States citizens. But, in nineteenth-century America, political rights, including enfranchisement, were viewed as distinct from civil rights.

George E.C. Hayes, Thurgood Marshall, and James Nabrit
George E. C. Hayes, Thurgood Marshall, and James Nabrit,
Following the Supreme Court Decision, 1954,
New York World-Telegram and Sun Photograph Collection,
Courtesy of AP/Wide World Photos.
African American Odyssey

On May 18, 1896, the Supreme Court ruled in the case of Plessy v. Ferguson that "separate but equal" facilities were considered sufficient to satisfy the Fourteenth Amendment. This decision established a pattern in American society, until May 17, 1954 when the Court reversed the Plessy decision. In the case of Brown v. the Board of Education of Topeka (argued for Brown by Thurgood Marshall), the Court held that segregation of public schools is a denial of equal protection under the law.

Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy Onassis

Official Portrait Jackie Kennedy
First official White House photograph of Mrs. John F. Kennedy,
Mark Shaw, photographer,
1961.
By Popular Demand: Portraits of the Presidents and First Ladies, 1789-Present

One of America's most prominent first ladies, Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy Onassis was born on July 28, 1929. Educated at Miss Porter's School, Vassar College, and the Sorbonne, she earned a bachelor's degree from George Washington University. After college, Onassis worked as the Washington Times-Herald's "inquiring photographer."

In 1952, she met the Democratic senator from Massachusetts, John Fitzgerald Kennedy, and a year later the two were married. The Kennedys had two children who grew to adulthood, Caroline, born in 1957, and John Jr., born shortly after his father's 1960 election as president.

To the role of First Lady, Mrs. Kennedy brought her interest in history and her appreciation of the fine and decorative arts. She focused on restoring the White House rather than merely redecorating her new home. Mrs. Kennedy established a White House Fine Arts Commission, hired a curator, and published the first historic guide to the Executive Mansion. She used her position and influence to acquire significant antiques for the residence. In 1962, the First Lady welcomed the public into the residence by hosting the first televised tour of the White House.

Mrs. Kennedy carried out the more traditional duties of presidential hostess with grace and style. In addition to presiding over state functions at home, she was a successful ambassador to foreign shores. On trips abroad, she proved nearly as popular as the president. Well educated, fashionably dressed, and fluent in their language, she was embraced by the French on a 1961 trip. His wife was so admired there, that President Kennedy quipped at a state dinner, "I do not think it altogether inappropriate to introduce myself…I am the man who accompanied Jacqueline Kennedy to Paris, and I have enjoyed it." She was also warmly welcomed on a solo goodwill tour to India and Pakistan the following year.

Mrs. Kennedy at the Taj Mahal
Jaqueline Bouvier Kennedy at the Taj Mahal, Agra, India, 1962. (external link)
The John F. Kennedy Library and Museum (external link)

Following President Kennedy's assassination, Jacqueline Kennedy's image was seared into the minds of the American public who, via television, saw her return, blood-stained, to the capital. Mrs. Kennedy's remarkable composure in the days that followed, and her quiet determination to see the slain president buried in an appropriate manner facilitated the collective mourning of the American people.

Arlington National Cemetery. Azalea garden in Arlington National Cemetery.
Azalea garden in Arlington National Cemetery,
Arlington, Virginia,
Theodor Horydczak, photographer,
circa 1920-1950.
Washington As It Was: Photographs by Theodor Horydczak, 1923-1959

In 1968, Mrs. Kennedy married Greek shipping magnate Aristotle Onassis. After his death in 1975, she embarked on a successful career as an editor in the publishing industry. Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy Onassis died in 1994 and is buried beside her first husband in Arlington National Cemetery.

Search the following American Memory collections for more information:

The "Bonus Army"

A parade of veterans carrying American flags file by the U.S. Capitol.
Veterans stage bonus demonstration as Congress struggles with deficit,
Underwood & Underwood,
Photographic print, April 8, 1932.
Prints & Photographs Online Catalog

On July 28, 1932, protesters known as the "Bonus Army," or "Bonus Expeditionary Forces (B.E.F.)," who had gathered in the nation's capital to demand an immediate lump-sum payment of pension funds (benefits) for their military service during World War I, were confronted by Federal troops (cavalry, machine-gunners, and infantry) following President Herbert Hoover's orders to evacuate. (While Congress had approved the payment in 1924, the bonus was not payable until 1945.) The presence of the Bonus Army was a continuing embarrassment and source of difficulty for Hoover. He sent in troops under the command of Brigadier Perry L. Miles and General Douglas MacArthur. The veterans faced tear-gas bombs, bayonets, and tanks. Riots erupted and the veterans eventually disbanded.

Suffering from the economic devastation of the Great Depression, veterans began assembling nationwide in March for their journey to the nation's capital. Estimates for the B.E.F. range widely—from a low of 20,000 persons to a high of 65,000 persons (including their families) by the summer of 1932. The veterans made their presence known to Congress—lobbying for payment and marching up and down Pennsylvania Avenue. They camped out in shacks and tents along the Anacostia River and health officials worried about the threat of disease.

Bonus veterans at the U.S. Capitol
Bonus veterans. B.E.F. at the U.S. Capitol,
Washington, D.C.,
Theodor Horydczak, photographer, circa 1920-1950.
Washington as It Was: Photographs by Theodor Horydczak, 1923-1959

A second Bonus Army came to Washington in May 1933 to appeal to the new administration of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt. This time they were greeted by First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt. Although the bonus pay legislation was again defeated in Congress, the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) authorized jobs for 25,000 veterans. Congress eventually passed a bill authorizing early payment of the veterans' benefits in 1936 over Roosevelt's third veto. The Bonus Army paved the way for the G.I. Bill of Rights.

Kid from York, Pennsylvania. Bonus veterans
Bonus veterans. Kid from York, Pennsylvania,
Washington, D.C.,
Theodor Horydczak, photographer, circa 1920-1950.
Washington as It Was: Photographs by Theodor Horydczak, 1923-1959