There was a mayoral campaign going on featuring Abram Hewitt (who would become as the father of the New York Subway System), tax reformer Henry George and a young police commissioner named Theodore Roosevelt. (More would be heard from him later!) The newspapers gave the latest information on the trial of the anarchists in Illinois accused of bombing that took place at the labor unrest known as the Haymarket Bombing. A gift from the people of France was unveiled in New York Harbor. The Statue of Liberty was celebrated with nautical salutes, A speech by President Grocer Cleveland and a poem written for the occasion by the ageing John Greenleaf Whittier.

 

But below the fold there was another important story. There was a strike at a bakery in Brooklyn. The bakery workers were striking for better wages and working conditions. The owner locked them out. The workers were picketing the bakery. Police came and arrested all of the picketers. They were charged with conspiracy in violation of the 14th amendment right of the bakery owner. The 14th Amendment clearly stated, "nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property without due process of the law...." The courts found that the workers were conspiring to deprive the bakery owner of his property, namely his money, against his will when he had committed no crime.

 

The 14th Amendment is the basis of virtually all civil rights legislation. A person may not be discriminated against due to race, religion, gender, sexual orientation or national origin. Property has been interpreted to include the opportunity to acquire property. People cannot be deprived of opportunity. Hence there can be no discrimination in education. "Separate" but equal embodied an inherent difference between children. Separate might be the case but separate was not equal.

 

The 14th amendment is also the reason for the apparent failure of the Equal Rights Amendment (proposed 1971-72). Aside from debating practicalities like the military draft system opponents of the amendment pointed out that gender discrimination is already prohibited under the 14th Amendment. What was needed was the political will to enforce the law not redundant verbiage.

 

We would be shocked today if peaceful picketers were arrested for conspiracy. What has happened? Our view of the constitution has changed. Peaceful picketing is looked upon as an exercise of free speech rights guaranteed by the 1st Amendment rather than as a violation of the 14th Amendment. Same action: different legal view. It might be important to remember that until 1865 slavery was both constitutional and legal. It is not always a question of adding new parts to the Constitution as our view of how the document works changes over time.