The irregular process under which the Fourteenth Amendment was adopted has long been the source of controversy among legal historians. The Thirty-Ninth Congress, which met during the two years directly following the end of the Civil War and the assassination of President Lincoln, amended the Constitution pursuant to its responsibility to “guarantee to every State in [the] Union a Republican Form of Government.” One historian, Bruce Ackerman, argues that the adoption of the Fourteenth Amendment did not conform to the requirements of Article V of the Constitution. Article V, however, is properly read in the context of the Republican Guarantee Clause. Furthermore, as articulated by Akhil Reed Amar, the Republican Guarantee Clause is properly understood against the backdrop of a “geostrategic vision.”
This Article promotes a “republican” reading of Reconstruction, including the Fourteenth Amendment, during the Thirty-Ninth Congress. The reading invokes not only what I call “republicanism on the inside”—equal citizenship, popular sovereignty, and other traditional republican principles—but also what I call “republicanism on the outside”—the structural stability and geostrategic security that flow from republican government. The Reconstruction Congress viewed the Republican Guarantee Clause not solely as a vanguard of individual political rights, but also, and perhaps more importantly, as a guardian of the United States itself. Under the republican reading, Congress did its best to follow the Constitution, not to subvert it.