Freedmen, the Fourteenth Amendment, and the Right to Bear Arms, 1866-1876

By Stephen P. Halbrook | Go to book overview

3
The Southern State
Constitutional Conventions

In 1867 Congress required by law that the constitutions of the reconstructed states conform to the U.S. Constitution, including the Fourteenth Amendment, even though it was not yet fully ratified.1 Ten Southern states held conventions in 1867–68 that drafted new state constitutions, and eventually these states won Congressional approval to reenter the Union. Maryland, a border state, held a convention in 1867 but was not obliged to make its constitution conform to the Fourteenth Amendment. In 1870 Tennessee, the only ex-Confederate state not included in the statute, adopted a constitution consistent with the Fourteenth Amendment. The antebellum constitutions and common law of most of these states guaranteed the right to keep and bear arms to “the people,” “citizens,” or “free white men.” Blacks, not considered to be encompassed in these classifications, were denied this right. This chapter analyzes the impact of the Fourteenth Amendment upon these constitutions and, thus, the extent to which that amendment was perceived as incorporating the Second Amendment. It concludes with a summary of the status of the right to keep and bear arms under the constitutions of all the states during Reconstruction.

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