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I question the intelligence of people who think only smart people can vote.
Stupid people can vote. Your intelligence is a subjective measurement anyway; who is to say what the standard is for being smart? I’ve never lost an election, so a solid argument can be made that a bunch of stupid people voted for me.
But what is your intelligence based on? Is it your IQ? How about people who have zero understanding of how IQs are scored and what a good score is?1 Are you stupid for reading what another stupid person writes about United States History?2
All of us are stupid. If you voted for President Donald Trump, I’m going to call you stupid. It might hurt your feelings, and it’s probably not very charitable, but you can call me stupid for ranking Alabama higher than South Carolina, as my brother-in-law did.3
When the Framers created the country, they ensured only a small portion of the population could control it. Only white dudes who owned property could vote and hold office. I guess they thought that being born into a particular race and affording land wasn’t enough because once we began expanding suffrage, being smart became a rallying cry.
This brings us to the Fifteenth Amendment. The last of the Reconstruction Amendments and the first to be ranked in OKH Constitution Ranking, legalized the right to vote for newly emancipated black males while having an opening so large stupid people figured out a way to run straight through it.
Don’t be stupid. If you are not a subscriber, go ahead and subscribe to Okay History, a reader-supported newsletter. Thanks!
Let’s dive in and try not to get stupid.
14: Amendment XXV
Its purpose: Neither the federal government nor the states can deny or abridge the right to vote on the condition of race, color, or previous condition of servitude.
Year proposed: 1869
Year Ratified: 1870
The expansion of voting rights is always a good thing. On the heels of the end of the Civil War, we abolished slavery, passed another complicated amendment, and then the party in charge of Congress, the Republicans, seized on the opportunity to expand the rights of recently freed enslaved black men.
Despite President Andrew Johnson's veto, they passed the Civil Rights Act of 1866, which protected all persons in the United States their Civil Rights and liberties. This included all black people born or brought into the country.
It’s funny that a law needed to be passed that expressed this idea, and a few Republicans tried to add a provision to outlaw racial discrimination in the courtroom or at the ballot box. This addition didn’t pass, and an Amendment needed to be pushed through to make it happen.
Presidents Lincoln and Johnson agreed that black suffrage was a good thing – so long as those blacks were intelligent. Neither came up with ideas on why or how to measure such a standard, but it’s a stupid stipulation.
The idea of extending voting rights to black men was about as far as some legislators would go, regardless of being smart. However, to some, expansion could mean including Chinese-Americans, which a senator from Oregon denounced because “they are a people who do not or will not learn our language.”
Where have we heard this stupid stuff before?
The amendment doesn’t go far enough in scope. Litmus tests could still be used, and the exclusion of women, especially women who fought for abolition, is particularly disappointing. It would be another fifty years before they secured the vote, and you can see why I haven’t ranked that amendment yet.
The former Confederate states kept throwing hissy fits about protecting states' rights and white supremacy. The Democratic Party even called out the GOP for using this issue to secure their partisan domination.4
There was a lot of discussion around the protection of holding office regardless of race, and many supporters concluded correctly that voting and holding office should go hand in hand. Still, the provision to include office holding was stupidly left off when the final vote came to the floor.
Who proposed it?
The 40th Congress. The final text came through House and Senate conference committees, which are vehicles larger assemblies use to hash out stuff they somehow can’t manage to do in the larger bodies.
It barely passed in 1870. Border states rejected it, while California and Oregon did as well because of the Chinese-American slippery slope issue. Texas, Virginia, Mississippi, and Georgia all passed the amendment as a condition of having their statehood reinstated. It’s not stupid to think they would have felt differently had that provision not been hanging over them.
It wasn’t easy to get this done because people were being stupid.
Why did I rank it here?
I’m a massive fan of the three Reconstruction Amendments (13th, 14th, and 15th). I have yet to rank the first two, but the last one shows the limits of what the country could accomplish.
So, the Fifteen Amendment is tucked inside the top 15.
Okay, let me know what you think of my ranking.
Do you think the Fifteenth Amendment could have gone further? I ask this question in the context of the time it was passed. Did we miss a chance to include women?
Labor Day is Monday. In the spirit of celebrating labor, I will be taking the following Monday off. So, no Maundy Monday Newsletter.
We have a lot going on over the next three days. But I will be squeezing in some work on a few ideas that I want to share and need to produce an Even More Okay edition. So be on the lookout for that on Wednesday. There are a few other things I need to get started for this site, and hopefully, the long weekend can afford me the time.
Finally, Anonymous and I had to take Blue to the emergency vet last night. We were watching the Florida Gators football team play Utah, and Utah’s first play resulted in a touchdown. Blue immediately began throwing up repeatedly5, so we missed the rest of the game. He was a good boy during the entire visit, which featured an X-ray and sonogram. The vet pumped him full of drugs, and he will need a special diet over the next few days. He should be okay.
Okay, Blue and I remain grateful for your support! Thank you all very much.
I hope you all have a restful and relaxing holiday weekend. Don’t be stupid.
People like me.
Of course not.
PV technically didn’t call me stupid, but I’m sure he thought it.
The GOP wasn’t stupid in this case.
I was right there with you, buddy. It made me sick.