July 9, 2010


Louisiana and South Carolina voted in favor of the 14th Amendment to the Constitution on this date in 1868, thereby assuring its ratification.  The 14th secured the civil liberties of African-Americans, as well as codifying due process and equal protection for all citizens, which the Constitution had not specified.

Hanging chads. Photo, Ted Herman

“No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.”

Seems pretty straightforward, but the equal protection part seems to come up frequently.  You may recall the case of Bush v. Gore, in which the plaintiff Bush argued that to accept the Florida Supreme Court decision in favor of a recount was a violation of the Equal Protection clause.  Since the legal arguments both for and against serve only to undermine any idea of straightforwardness, we won’t go there.

Of the 37 states in existence when the amendment was ratified in 1868, two, New Jersey and Ohio, had accepted it, then rescinded their agreement, but finally accepted it – in 2003.

* * *

In 1982, Michael Fagan found an open window, wandered through the dim halls, broke an ashtray (and cut his hand), and finally blundered into the Queen’s bedroom, where he sat down on the end of the bed and chatted with the startled sovereign until staff arrived.

The Palace

It was agreed by all that security at Buckingham Palace was not quite what it should have been – Her Majesty actually managed to use her phone twice to call police, but none came.

It  seems that a maid entering and finding Fagan was thus delayed and another staff member came to look for her, so eventually Fagan was removed.

He had previously tripped an alarm, but no one took it seriously, and while the copper posted outside the royal bedroom had left when his shift ended, his replacement was out walking the royal Corgis when Fagan entered.  And so on and so forth, a veritable comedy of errors.  Questions were asked in Parliament and three policemen were suspended from duty.  The public were so outraged that Elizabeth might have shouted ‘Off with their heads,’ and found full support.

Suprisingly, Fagan’s trespass was not actually a crime – he was arrested for theft, i.e., for drinking half a bottle of wine he had found.  He was sent to a psychiatric hospital for six months, then released.  The law was subsequently changed and security substantially improved.


1 Comment »

  1. omg i forgot about the chads…nightmare!! lol! nice queen story 🙂


    Comment by ninachat — July 9, 2010 @ 4:27 pm | Reply

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