Annotation 37 - Fourteenth Amendment

  SECTIONS 3 AND 4. DISQUALIFICATION AND PUBLIC DEBT

The right to remove disabilities imposed by this section was exercised by Congress at different times on behalf of enumerated individuals. 71 In 1872, the disabilities were removed, by a blanket act, from all persons ''except Senators and Representatives of the Thirty-sixth and Thirty-seventh Congresses, officers in the judicial, military and naval service of the United States, heads of departments, and foreign ministers of the United States.'' 72 Twenty-six years later, Congress enacted that ''the disability imposed by section 3 . . . incurred heretofore, is hereby removed.'' 73  

Although Sec. 4 ''was undoubtedly inspired by the desire to put beyond question the obligations of the Government issued during the Civil War, its language indicates a broader connotation. . . . '[T]he validity of the public debt'. . . [embraces] whatever concerns the integrity of the public obligations,'' and applies to government bonds issued after as well as before adoption of the Amendment. 74  

Footnotes

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 obliga tion 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.

[Footnote 71] E.g., and notably, the Private Act of December 14, 1869, ch.1, 16 Stat. 607.

[Footnote 72] Ch. 193, 17 Stat. 142.

[Footnote 73] Act of June 6, 1898, ch. 389, 30 Stat. 432. Legislation by Congress providing for removal was necessary to give effect to the prohibition of Sec. 3, and until removed in pursuance of such legislation persons in office before promulgation of the Fourteenth Amendment continued to exercise their functions lawfully. Griffin's Case, 11 Fed. Cas. 7 (C.C.D.Va. 1869) (No. 5815). Nor were persons who had taken part in the Civil War and had been pardoned by the President before the adoption of this Amendment precluded by this section from again holding office under the United States. 18 Op. Att'y Gen. 149 (1885). On the construction of ''engaged in rebellion,'' see United States v. Powell, 27 Fed. Cas. 605 (C.C.D.N.C. 1871) (No. 16,079).

[Footnote 74] Perry v. United States, 294 U.S. 330, 354 (1935), in which the Court concluded that the Joint Resolution of June 5, 1933, insofar as it attempted to override the gold-clause obligation in a Fourth Liberty Loan Gold Bond ''went beyond the congressional power.'' On a Confederate bond problem, see Branch v. Haas, 16 F. 53 (C.C.M.D. Ala. 1883) (citing Hanauer v. Woodruff, 82 U.S. (15 Wall.) 439 (1873), and Thorington v. Smith, 75 U.S. (8 Wall.) 1 (1869)). See also The Pietro Campanella, 73 F. Supp. 18 (D. Md. 1947).


 

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Annotations p. 37