On this day in 1868, the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution “was declared in effect.” Or so says the Times. But what does that mean? The Fourteenth Amendment was ratified on July 9th of 1868. So, does a Constitutional Amendment have to be “declared in effect” in order to be in effect? Alas, my books are thousands of miles away, so I can’t solve this problem myself. I need help.

Regardless, for those of you who thought I was going to tell you something about the Fourteenth Amendment, sorry. As a consolation prize, I offer you the text:

Section 1. All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. 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 the laws.

Section 2. Representatives shall be apportioned among the several States according to their respective numbers, counting the whole number of persons in each State, excluding Indians not taxed. But when the right to vote at any election for the choice of electors for President and Vice President of the United States, Representatives in Congress, the Executive and Judicial officers of a State, or the members of the Legislature thereof, is denied to any of the male inhabitants of such State, being twenty-one years of age, and citizens of the United States, or 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.

Section 3. No one 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, or under any State, who, having previously taken an oath, as a member of Congress, or as an officer of the United States, or as a member of any State legislature, or as an executive or judicial officer of any State, to support the Constitution of the United States, shall have engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the same, or given aid or comfort to the enemies thereof. But Congress may by a vote of two-thirds of each House, remove such disability.

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 obligation 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.

Section 5. The Congress shall have power to enforce, by appropriate legislation, the provisions of this article.

Looking it over, I think the Fourteenth’s probably my favorite Constitutional Amendment. The Equal Protection clause has done a lot of good work through the years. Not to mention the way the whole of Section 1 dispatches the Dred Scott case. Section 2 then obliterates the 3/5 Compromise. And the rest isn’t bad, either.

So what about you? What’s your favorite Amendment? The First? A bit on the nose, if you ask me. The Second? Um, yeah [backs away], sure, that’s a really good one. No offense, but the Third’s a bit anachronistic. Numbers Four through Eight? What are you, some kind of criminal? The Ninth is actually pretty cool. The Tenth is for neo-Confederates. You say you want the Eleventh? Suit yourself, loser. The Twelth? Elitist. The Thirteenth is a safe bet. The Fifteenth, too. The Sixteenth? Seriously? Yeah, that’s what I thought. The Seventeenth has certain charms. But I trust that nobody around here is going to claim the Eighteenth. The Nineteenth is a contender, of course. The Twentieth? Zzzz. Yes, you’re super cool if you said the Twenty-First, Mr. Party-pants. The Twenty-Second? A good one, to be sure. The Twenty-Third isn’t exactly setting the world on fire. We’ve talked before about the Twenty-Fourth. The Twenty-Fifth probably should be invoked more frequently. As for the Twenty-Sixth and Twenty-Seventh, if you know what both of them say, I doff my cap to you. So yeah, I’m sticking with the Fourteenth. But YMMV.