In the now-famous 1830s chronicle of a visit to America, Alexis de Tocqueville wrote that in America every political issue is ultimately a legal issue in the courts. For Americans who lived through the antislavery and abolitionist era as well as the crisis of the war of 1861-1865, the military victory of the Union forces on the field of battle still left open large political issues. These issues were attempted to be resolved through the political process that produced a legal solution: a constitutional amendment that we currently identify as the Fourteenth Amendment. The meaning of the Amendment was ultimately determined by the courts.
That Amendment, first proposed in 1866 and declared ratified in 1868, plays a monumental role in the politics and law of modern America. Justice Brennan suggested that more cases were litigated under the Fourteenth Amendment than under any other provision of the United States Constitution. James Bond has likened the Amendment to a “Second Constitution.” As one would expect of an important charter that demarcates boundaries between the rights of individuals, citizens, states and the federal government, the Fourteenth Amendment continues to be a vital and contested part of our legal life with which society and the courts must struggle.
Aynes, Richard L.
"The Continuing Importance of Congressman John A. Bingham and the Fourteenth Amendment,"
Akron Law Review: Vol. 36
, Article 1.
Available at: http://ideaexchange.uakron.edu/akronlawreview/vol36/iss4/1