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Lee-Jackson Camp Resolution

  • Lee-Jackson Camp Resolution, January 31, 1958
This 1958 resolution details the arguments against the Fourteenth Amendment made by the Lee-Jackson Camp of the Sons of Confederate Veterans in Richmond, Virginia.
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    Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, 1868
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Lee-Jackson Camp Resolution, January 31, 1958

This resolution, which the Lee-Jackson Camp of the Sons of Confederate Veterans (SCV) forwarded to Governor J. Lindsay Almond in 1958, proposed that the Fourteenth Amendment should be declared not a legal part of the Constitution on the grounds that it was ratified improperly. After the Civil War, Congress had required the states of the former Confederacy to ratify the amendment before it readmitted senators and representatives into Congress from those states.

The reason for raising the question in the 1950s, ninety years after the amendment was ratified, was that many white Americans disagreed with the opinion of the Supreme Court of the United States in the 1954 case Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas that declared that mandatory racial segregation in public schools denied to African American students the equal protection of the laws that the Fourteenth Amendment guaranteed.

People who opposed desegregation or believed that the Supreme Court had overstepped its legal responsibilities argued that, historically, public education was a state and local responsibility and that therefore the federal government had no legitimate role or interest in dictating educational policy to the states. The Fourteenth Amendment had restricted state's rights by forbidding states from infringing people's rights to due process of law and the equal protection of the laws and by granting Congress authority to provide for the enforcement of the amendment's guarantees. If the amendment had been improperly ratified, as the SCV and others argued, then neither Congress nor the federal courts had any constitutional right or jurisdiction to invalidate any state's laws on public education.

In states where racially segregated public schools were required under state laws and constitutions, opponents of desegregation and of the Supreme Court's reliance on the Fourteenth Amendment to strike down those laws argued that public education was not one of the recognized rights of citizenship when Congress drafted the amendment and that therefore the amendment did not restrict states' rights to operate public schools systems as they desired. Virtually all of the laws requiring racial segregation were adopted at the state and local levels, so the argument about state's rights was far-reaching in its implications and also drew on a long and respectable body of constitutional, legal, and political precedent.

In Virginia, the dominant faction of the Democratic Party, under the leadership of Senator Harry Flood Byrd Sr., organized to block implementation of the Court's desegregation orders. Calling its policy Massive Resistance, opponents of desegregation passed laws to require the governor to close public schools under court orders to desegregate. The term that Byrd and James Jackson Kilpatrick, the influential editor of the Richmond News Leader who helped devise the Massive Resistance strategy, used to describe their plans was "interposition," a term that John C. Calhoun had used in the 1830s when he proposed that the state government in South Carolina "interpose" itself between the state's people and the power of the federal government to protect the people from unconstitutional federal laws.

The SCV was founded in 1896. By the mid-1950s it had camps in many states and communities and included male descendants, not merely sons, of Confederate soldiers. The organization was one of many heritage groups that preserved historic sites and records, commemorated the dead, and encouraged reverence for the past. The defeat of the Confederacy, the abolition of slavery, and the enforcement of the Thirteenth, Fourteenth, and Fifteenth amendments and the Civil Rights laws of the 1860s made so many changes in the culture of the old South that many of the heritage organizations like the SCV reacted with hostility when the Supreme Court relied on the Fourteenth Amendment to strike at the heart of the states' historic right to regulate their domestic affairs, including public education and race relations.

For Educators

Questions

1. Why was this resolution adopted?

2. What are the arguments made against the Fourteenth Amendment?

3. Why was reaction over the Fourteenth Amendment still an issue in 1958?

Further Discussion

1. While Governor Almond played a large role in the school desegregation issue in Virginia, he and other leaders were guided by Senator Harry Byrd. Research Byrd's political career. What were some of the things that he did to create the system of Massive Resistance in Virginia? How did his leadership fuel this struggle over desegregation?

Links

Brown v. Board of Education: Virginia Responds

Suggested Reading

Smith, J. Douglas. Managing White Supremacy: Race, Politics, and Citizenship in Jim Crow Virginia. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2002.

Lassiter, Matthew D., and Andrew B. Lewis, eds. The Moderates' Dilemma: Massive Resistance to School Desegregation in Virginia. Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1998.

LEE-JACKSON CAMP
Sons of Confederate Veterans
RICHMOND, VIRGINIA


Lee-Jackson Camp, Sons of Confederate Veterans, in a regular meeting on January 31, 1958 adopted the following
RESOLUTION

It is the Resolution of the Lee-Jackson Camp, Sons of Confederate Veterans, that the 14th Amendment to the Constitution of the United States was ratified in such a defective manner as to make said ratification ineffective. That the United States Supreme Court has repeatedly refused to rule on the validity thereof, stating it was a political matter; and that said amendment is no part of the Constitution of the United States.

Such being the case, all court decisions and infringements upon the powers of the several States based upon said amendment are not binding; and therefore it is our resolve that the General Assembly of the Commonwealth of Virginia now in session declare that said amendment is not a part of the Constitution and that the Commonwealth of Virginia, the people thereof and it's courts are in no way legally affected by any rulings by the Supreme Court of the United States based upon said amendment; and that it is our further resolve that the General Assembly of the Commonwealth of Virginia by resolution declare that the Commonwealth of Virginia has never been a proper party to the ratification of said amendment and that said amendment is not a part of the United States Constitution, having never been legally ratified according to Article 5 of the Constitution of the United States.

J.H. Cottrell
Commander