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By William H. Benson

The Parallel Lives

Of The NOBLE AMERICAN RELIGIOUS THINKERS AND BELIEVERS:

Roger Williams VS. Cotton Mathers

NEW ARTICLES

4th Amendment: Sections 2 and 3

Last time in these pages I looked at Section 1 of the 14th Amendment. Today I continue.

The last phrase in Section 1 of the 14th Amendment declares that no state can “deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the law.” All races are equal under the law.

Section 2  begins: “Representatives shall be apportioned among the several States according to their respective numbers.” By these words the committee eliminated the 3/5’s rule.

Section 2 continues: “But when the right to vote at any election . . . is in any way abridged, except for participation in rebellion, or other crime, the basis of representation therein shall be reduced in the proportion which the number of such male citizens shall bear to the whole number of male citizens twenty-one years of age in such State.”

What do these words mean? The authors of Section 2 created a mathematical equation and said that if a state refuses to allow most men of age to vote, then that state will suffer a reduction of its representatives to Congress and also within the Electoral College.

Eric Foner, a Reconstruction historian at Columbia University, says that “Section 2 has never been enforced.” No state has suffered a loss of representatives because of restrictive voting rules.

The states knew that without a federal bureaucracy—officials to count the numbers who were denied the right to vote—the Federal government would find Section 2 difficult to enforce.

Akhil Reed Amar, legal scholar at Yale University, points out that Section 2 does introduce into the Constitution the most important words, “the right to vote.” Citizens have a right to vote.

Section 3 says: “No person shall be a Senator or Representative in Congress, or Elector of President and Vice-President, or hold any office, civil or military, under the United States, who . . . shall have engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the same.”

The intent of Section 3, when drafted in 1866, was to push out of Congress ex-Confederates. Again, this Section proved difficult to enforce at first.

In recent days certain people have dusted off Section 3 and applied it to January 6, 2021.

Per the case “Donald J. Trump v. Norma Anderson” that appeared before the U.S. Supreme Court weeks ago, “A group of Colorado voters wanted Secretary of State Jena Griswold to exclude former President Trump from the Republican primary ballot in the State.”

“The Colorado Supreme Court agreed with that contention.”

On March 4, 2024, the U.S. Supreme Court reversed that decision, by pointing to Section 5, of the 14th Amendment, a single sentence that reads: “Congress shall have power to enforce, by appropriate legislation, the provisions of this article.”

The justices reasoned that it is Congress’s duty to determine who has participated in a rebellion, not the individual states. They wrote: “Congress’s Section 5 power is critical when it comes to Section 3.” “States have no power under the Constitution to enforce Section 3.”

The justices dug into the history behind Section 3 and pointed out:

“Indeed, during a debate on enforcement legislation less than a year after the 14th Amendment’s ratification, Senator Lyman Trumbull of Illinois noted that ‘notwithstanding [Section 3] . . . hundreds of men [were] holding office’ in violation of its terms.”

The justices said: “The enforcement mechanism that Trumbull championed was later enacted as part of the Enforcement Act of 1870.” Federal prosecutors then had the power to remove ex-Confederates from their respective offices within the Federal government.

Whereas Section 2 was never enforced, Section 3 was, but not until 1870.

Next time in these pages I will look at certain details within Sections 4 and 5.

Bill Benson, of Sterling, is a dedicated historian.

14th Amendment, Section 1

In early 1866, the Joint Committee of Fifteen on Reconstruction in the 39th Congress wrestled with the idea that they must write a 14th Amendment to address certain issues: Who is a citizen? How does the country’s laws apply to former slaves and slave owners? Will...

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Black History Month: Reconstruction, 1865-1866

In December of 1863, in the midst of the Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln suggested a plan to reinstate the seceded states back into the Union, his “Ten Percent Plan.”

He would permit each Confederate state to form a new state government after ten percent of the voters in a state took loyalty oaths to the Union and recognized the former slaves’ freedom.

Following Lincoln’s assassination on April 9, 1865, his successor, former Vice-President Andrew Johnson, decided to run with Lincoln’s Ten Percent Plan.

Throughout the summer and fall of 1866, the Southern states

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Black History Month: Phillis Wheatley and Billy Lee

Two African-American slaves from the eighteenth century: Phillis Wheatley and William “Billy” Lee. The first a woman, the second a man. The first a poet, the second a valet. The two received their freedom from their respective owners, and they each knew George...

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National Freedom Day and Black History Month

On Feb. 7, 1926, Carter G. Woodson, a professor of history, announced that he would celebrate and highlight for the first time ever a single week devoted to African-American history, and he called it “Negro History Week.”

He selected the second week in February because of its proximity to Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass’s birthdays, Lincoln on Feb. 12, and Douglass on a day in February.

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Frederick Douglass’ “Slaveholder’s Sermon”

On May 11, 2017, the newly-elected U.S. President, Donald Trump, issued an executive order to form a Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity. He appointed Vice-President Mike Pence as chair, and Kansas State’s Secretary of State Kris Kobach as vice-chair.

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Assertion is not evidence

On May 11, 2017, the newly-elected U.S. President, Donald Trump, issued an executive order to form a Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity. He appointed Vice-President Mike Pence as chair, and Kansas State’s Secretary of State Kris Kobach as vice-chair.

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Older Posts

Unique words in history

Unique words in history

December 16 marked the 250th anniversary of the Boston Tea Party, when colonial Bostonians dressed as Mohawk Indians boarded three ships—Dartmouth, Eleanor, and Beaver—split open 340 chests filled with tea, and dumped their contents into Boston’s harbor.

This defiant act was directed as a protest against Parliament’s insistence that the consignees of the tea in the American colonies pay an import tax, to keep afloat the struggling British East India Company, which brought the tea to the colonists.

The colonists were angry. They paid taxes to their

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Secession and Abraham Lincoln

Secession and Abraham Lincoln

Abraham Lincoln faced an absolute calamity on March 4, 1861, the day when Chief Justice Roger Taney administered the oath of office to Lincoln at his inauguration.

Already seven states from the South had seceded, or withdrawn, from the Union because voters had elected Lincoln President of the United States. Southern voters believed that Lincoln opposed the expansion of slavery into western territories, like Kansas and Nebraska.

South Carolina voted to secede on December 20, 1860, forty-four days…

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Election of 1864

Election of 1864

Throughout the year of 1864, President Abraham Lincoln believed that he would lose the election in November. He admitted in August, “I am going to be beaten, and unless some great change takes place, badly beaten.” The odds were stacked against him.

Plenty of voters in the Union had reason to despise, even hate, Lincoln.

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Tunnels and war coincide

Tunnels and war coincide

People burrow into the subsoil, build tunnels, plus storage rooms, and stockpile food and water, for one reason, and that is to stay alive. Atop the ground, in the open air, in the sunshine, they feel oppressed, insecure, and poised to die or suffer an injury.

On July 4, 1863, thirty-one thousand Confederate soldiers, trapped inside Vicksburg, on the Mississippi River, surrendered to the Union’s commanding officer, Ulysses S. Grant, on the forty-eighth day of Grant’s siege of that town.

During the siege, civilians had dug some five hundred caves into the hillsides, and fitted them out with “rugs, beds, and chairs.” One cave dweller said, “We were in hourly dread of snakes. The vines and thickets were full of them.”

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What can I achieve with Greek mythology?

What can I achieve with Greek mythology?

What is the good that comes from knowing even a little about the ancient Greeks’ religion?

I prefer to learn of actual people who once lived in a historical setting, a time and a place. Greek mythology, instead, is a collection of make-believe fantasy stories I would like to know more of, but I find it hard to gain much traction from them, practical use. I wonder.

Mark Twain disparaged the whole notion. “Classics,” he said, “are the books that everybody wants to claim to have read, but nobody wants to read.”

After all, Greek religion is mythology, a series of stories about the gods and the goddesses whom the Greeks believed resided on or near Mount Olympus.

They included a dozen Olympians: Zeus, Poseidon, Hades, Hestia, Her

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Steve Inskeep’s new book: “Differ We Must”

Steve Inskeep’s new book: “Differ We Must”

Since 2004, radio personality Steve Inskeep has hosted National Public Radio’s “Morning Edition.” During Covid lockdown in 2020, at home with time to spare, Inskeep researched and wrote a book that was published this past week.

Inskeep found its title, “Differ We Must: How Lincoln Succeeded in a Divided America,” in a letter that Abraham Lincoln wrote to his good friend Joshua Speed, dated August 24, 1855.

Last week, Inskeep explained to Amna Nawaz of PBS News Hour, and Scott Simon of NPR, that Speed was from Kentucky, that he was from a rich family that owned more than 50 slaves. Speed approved of slavery. Lincoln also was from Kentucky, but his family was poor, and Lincoln hated slavery.

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William Benson

One of University of Northern Colorado’s 2020 Honored Alumni

William H. Benson

Local has provided scholarships for history students for 15 years

A Sterling resident is among five alumni selected to be recognized this year by the University of Northern Colorado. Bill Benson is one of college’s 2020 Honored Alumni.

Each year UNC honors alumni in recognition for their outstanding contributions to the college, their profession and their community. This year’s honorees were to be recognized at an awards ceremony on March 27, but due to the COVID-19 outbreak that event has been cancelled. Instead UNC will recognize the honorees in the fall during homecoming Oct. 10 and 11……

Newspaper Columns

The Duodecimal System

For centuries, the ancient Romans calculated sums with their clunky numerals: I, V, X, L, C, D, and M; or one, five, ten, 50, 100, 500, and 1,000. They knew nothing better.

The Thirteenth Amendment

On Jan. 1, 1863, President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation, and by it, he declared that “all persons held as slaves” within the rebellious states “are and henceforward shall be free.” Lincoln’s Proclamation freed some 3.1 million slaves within the Confederacy.

The Fourteenth Amendment

After Congress and enough states ratified the thirteenth amendment that terminated slavery, Congress passed the Civil Rights Act of 1866. This law declared that “all people born in the United States are entitled to be citizens, without regard to race, color, or previous condition of slavery or involuntary servitude.” The Act equated birth to citizenship.

The New-York Packet and the Constitution

Jill Lepore, the Harvard historian, published her newest book a month ago, These Truths: A History of the United States. In a short introduction, she describes in detail the Oct. 30, 1787 edition of a semi-weekly newspaper, The New-York Packet.

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Mr. Benson’s writings on the U.S. Constitution are a great addition to the South Platte Sentinel. Its inspiring to see the history of the highest laws of this country passed on to others.

– Richard Hogan

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Mr. Benson, I cannot thank you enough for this scholarship. As a first-generation college student, the prospect of finding a way to afford college is a very daunting one. Thanks to your generous donation, my dream of attending UNC and continuing my success here is far more achievable

Cedric Sage Nixon

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– Extra Times

FUTURE BOOKS

  • Thomas Paine vs. George Whitefield
  • Ralph Waldo Emerson vs. Joseph Smith
  • William James vs. Mary Baker Eddy
  • Mark Twain vs. Billy Graham
  • Henry Louis Mencken vs. Jim Bakker