Excerpt from the Ruling of the Utah Supreme Court

             Nebraska had been admitted to the Union, and so the Secretary of State in transmitting the proposed amendment announced that ratification by 28 states would be needed before the amendment would become part of the Constitution, since there were at the time 37 states in the Union.  A rejection by 10 states would thus defeat the proposal.

            By March 17, 1867, the proposed amendment had been ratified by 17 states and rejected by 10, with California voting to take no action thereon, which was equivalent to rejection.  Thus the proposal was defeated.

             One of the ratifying states, Oregon, had ratified by a membership wherein two legislators were subsequently held not to be duly elected, and after the contest the duly elected members of the legislature of Oregon rejected the proposed amendment.  However, this rejection came after the amendment was declared passed.

             Despite the fact that the southern states had been functioning peacefully for two years and had been counted to secure ratification of the Thirteenth Amendment, Congress passed the Reconstruction Act, which provided for the military occupation of 10 of the 11 southern states.  It excluded Tennessee from military occupation, and one must suspect it was because Tennessee had ratified the Fourteenth Amendment on July 7, 1866.  The Act further disfranchised practically all white voters and provided that no senator or congressman from the occupied states could be seated in Congress until a new constitution was adopted by each state which would be approved by Congress, and further provided that each of the 10 states must ratify the proposed Fourteenth Amendment, and the Fourteenth Amendment must become a part of the Constitution of the United States before the military occupancy would cease and the states be allowed seats in Congress.

             By the time the Reconstruction Act had been declared to be the law, three more states had ratified the proposed Fourteenth Amendment, and two – Louisiana and Delaware – had rejected it.  Then Maryland withdrew its prior ratification and rejected the proposed Fourteenth Amendment.  Ohio followed suit and withdrew its prior ratification, as also did New Jersey.  California, which earlier had voted not to pass upon the proposal, now voted to reject the amendment.  Thus 16 of the 37 states had rejected the proposed amendment.

             By spurious, nonrepresentative governments seven of the southern states which had theretofore rejected the proposed amendment under the duress of military occupation and of being denied representation in Congress did attempt to ratify the proposed Fourteenth Amendment.  The Secretary of State on July 20, 1868, issued his proclamation wherein he stated that it was his duty under the law to cause amendments to be published and certified as a part of the Constitution when he received official notice that they had been adopted pursuant to the Constitution.  Thereafter his certificate contained the following language:

             And whereas neither the act just quoted from, nor any other law, expressly or by conclusive implication, authorizes the Secretary of State to determine and decide doubtful questions as to the authenticity of the organization of State legislatures, or as to the power of any State legislature to recall a previous act or resolution of ratification of any amendment proposed to the Constitution;

             And whereas it appears from official documents on file in this Department that the amendment to the Constitution of the United States, proposed as aforesaid, has been ratified by the legislatures of the States of [naming 23, including New Jersey, Ohio, and Oregon];

             And whereas it further appears from documents on file in this Department that the amendment to the Constitution of the United States, proposed as aforesaid, has also been ratified by newly constituted and newly established bodies avowing themselves to be and acting as the legislatures, respectively, of the States of Arkansas, Florida, North Carolina, Louisiana, South Carolina, and Alabama;

             And whereas it further appears from official documents on file in this Department that the legislatures of two of the States first above enumerated, to wit, Ohio and New Jersey, have since passed resolutions respectively withdrawing the consent of each of said States to the aforesaid amendment; and whereas it is deemed a matter of doubt and uncertainty whether such resolutions are not irregular, invalid, and therefore ineffectual for withdrawing the consent of the said two States, or of either of them, to the aforesaid amendment;

             And whereas the whole number of States in the United States is thirty-seven, to wit: [naming them];

             And whereas the twenty-three States first hereinbefore named, whose legislatures have ratified the said proposed amendment, and the six States next thereafter named, as having ratified the said proposed amendment by newly constituted and established legislative bodies, together constitute three fourths of the whole number of States in the United States;

             Now, therefore, be it known that I, WILLIAM H. SEWARD, Secretary of State of the United States, by virtue and in pursuant of the second section of the act of Congress, approved the twentieth of April, eighteen hundred and eighteen, hereinbefore cited, do hereby certify that if the resolutions of the legislatures of Ohio and New Jersey ratifying the aforesaid amendment are to be deemed as remaining of full force and effect, notwithstanding the subsequent resolutions of the legislatures of those States, which purport to withdraw the consent of said States from such ratification, then the aforesaid amendment has been ratified in the manner hereinbefore mentioned and so has become valid, to all intents and purposes, as a part of the Constitution  of the United States.

             Congress was not satisfied with the proclamation as issued an on the next day passed a concurrent resolution wherein it was resolved “that said fourteenth article is hereby declared to be a part of the Constitution of the United States, and it shall be duly promulgated as such by the Secretary of State.”  Thereupon, William H. Seward, the Secretary of State, after setting forth the concurrent resolution of both houses of Congress, then certified that the “amendment has become valid to all intents and purposes as a part of the Constitution of the United States.”

            The Constitution of the United States is silent as to who should decide whether a proposed amendment has or has not been passed according to formal provisions of Article V of the Constitution.  The Supreme Court of the United States is the ultimate authority on the meaning of the Constitution and has never hesitated in a proper case to declare an act of Congress unconstitutional – except when the act purported to amend the Constitution.  The duty of the Secretary of State was ministerial, to wit, to count and determine when three fourths of the states had ratified the proposed amendment.  He could not determine that a state once having rejected a proposed amendment could thereafter approve it, nor could he determine that a state once having ratified that proposal could thereafter reject it.  The court and not Congress should determine such matters.  Consistency would seem to require that a vote once cast would be final or would not be final, whether the first vote was for ratification or rejection.

             In order to have 27 states ratify the Fourteenth Amendment, it was necessary to count those states which had first rejected and then under the duress of military occupation had ratified, and then also to count those states which initially ratified but subsequently rejected the proposal.

            To leave such a dishonest counting to a fractional part of Congress is dangerous in the extreme.  What is to prevent any political party having control of both houses of Congress from refusing to seat the opposition and then without more passing a joint resolution to the effect that the Constitution is amended and that it is the duty of the Administrator of the General Services Administration to proclaim the adoption?  Would the Supreme Court of the United States still say the problem was political and refuse to determine whether constitutional standards had been met?

             How can it be conceived in the minds of anyone that a combination of powerful states can by force of arms deny another state a right to have representation in Congress until it has ratified an amendment which its people oppose?  The Fourteenth Amendment was adopted by means almost as bad as that suggested above.