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Tuesday, February 09, 2021

John Bingham on Section 3 of the 14th Amendment

Today was my first day back in the office since November. As a result, I was able to access my files on Bingham from my biographical research years ago. And I found two interesting items on Section 3 from him that I did not focus on in drafting my Section Three paper.

First, when Bingham accepted the GOP nomination for another term in the House in August 1866, he gave a speech that described the proposed 14th Amendment. Here is what he said about Section Three:

"[N]o man who broke his official oath with the nation or State, and rendered service in this rebellion shall, except by the grace of the American people, be again permitted to hold a position, either in the National or State Government."

This is clear and very broad with respect to who was covered and from what they were barred.

Second, a week later Bingham gave a speech in Cincinnati in which he said this about Section Three:

“The other provision of this amendment, my fellow-citizens, is that no person who took an oath of office, either Federal or State, to support the Constitution of the United States, and in violation of his oath, voluntarily engaged in the late atrocious rebellion against the Republic, shall ever hereafter, except by the special grace of the American people, for good cause shown to them, and by special enactment, be permitted to hold any office of honor, trust, or profit, either under the Government of the United States or under the government of any State of the Union.”

This is still clear, though instead of "position" Bingham used the phrase "any office of honor, trust, or profit" to describe the disqualification. This could mean that he equated the two phrases, though I'm not sure on that yet.

The bottom line is that Bingham's descriptions of Section Three do not support the argument that the president or the presidency is excluded from Section Three's coverage. 

(BTW, Bingham gave a speech calling for a broad amnesty for ex-Confederates in December 1870 that I overlooked. This is not pertinent to the current debate on Section Three, but his discussion there will be something I'll need to add to the historical discussion in my paper.)



Posted by Gerard Magliocca on February 9, 2021 at 09:12 PM | Permalink


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