The 14th Amendment

Ratified on July 9, 1868, the 14th Amendment elucidates important rights, including due process, equal protection under the law, and suffrage and hence is widely cited in a variety of important human rights cases.

In addition, the amendment’s fourth section declares that “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.” That phrase, which was reminiscent of Article 6’s firm declaration that the government would repay its debts from the Revolution, bolstered confidence in the government’s bonds. It was used by several participants in the debt ceiling debate of 2011 to argue that it would be unconstitutional for the federal government to purposefully default on its obligations.

The rest of Section 4 also bolstered investor confidence by barring the federal and state governments from paying the bonds or other obligations of the Confederate governments and from reimbursing slaveholders for the loss of their human chattel. Two huge additional potential burdens on the federal Treasury were thereby disavowed.