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Proceedings of the Civil Rights Mass-Meeting held at Lincoln Hall, October 22, 1883. Speeches of Hon. Frederick Douglass and Robert G. Ingersoll.

1883DC-National-Washington_Proceedings (34).pdf

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Current Saved Transcription [history]

"The amendments are different, and the power of Congress under them are different. What Congress has power to do under one of it may not have power to do under the other." That "under the 13th Amendment it has only to do with slavery and its incidents;" but that "under the 14th Amendment it has power to counteract and render nugatory all State laws or proceedings which have the effect to abridge any of the privileges or immunities of the citizens of the United States, or to deprive them of life, liberty or property, without due process of law, or to deny to any of them the equal protection of the laws."

Did not Congress have that power under the 13th Amendment? Could the States, in spite of the 13th Amendment, deprive free men of life or property without due process of law? Does the Supreme Court wish to be understood, that until the 14th Amendment was adopted the States had the right to rob and kill free men? Yet, in its effort to narrow and belittle the 13th Amendment, it has been driven to this absurdity. Did not Congress, under the 13th Amendment, have power to destroy slavery and involuntary servitude? Did not Congress, under that amendment, have the power to protect the lives, liberty and property of free men? And did not Congress have the power "to render nugatory all State laws and proceedings under which free men were to be deprived of life, liberty or property, without due process of law?"

If Congress was not clothed with such power by the 13th Amendment, what was the object of that amendment? Was that amendment a mere opinion, or a prophecy, or the expression of a hope?

Corrective Legislation.

The 14th Amendment provides that: "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 its laws."

We are told by the Supreme Court that Congress has no right to enforce the 14th Amendment by direct legislation, but that the legislation under that amendment can only be of a "corrective" character--such as may be necessary or proper for counteracting and redressing the effect of unconstitutional laws passed by the States. In other words, that Congress has no duty to perform, except to contract the effect of unconstitutional laws by corrective legislation.

The Supreme Court has also decided in the present case, that

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