The topic of discussion for this Constitution Monday comes from Section 4 of the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States: “The validity of the public debt of the United States, authorized by law, including debts incurred for payment of pensions and bounties for services in suppressing insurrection or rebellion, shall not be questioned….” This statement means that anyone with a claim against the United States for expenses incurred fighting the rebellion of the South in the Civil War would receive payment without any questions asked. This was probably because anyone objecting would be considered a rebel himself.
According to Paul Moreno of The Heritage Foundation, this provision was “the least controversial of the sections of the Fourteenth Amendment, at least in the North….
“In applying the section, federal courts held that no contracts involving Confederate bonds could be enforced and that `a court of the United States must hesitate to give them any recognition….
“The issue of the repudiation of the United States debt again emerged when Congress took the United States off the gold standard, and some of the Gold Clause Cases (1935) involved United States bonds. The Supreme Court did hold that Congress had exceeded its power under the Constitution in refusing to repay the bonds in gold, but it concluded that the bondholders had suffered only nominal damages and could not recover. Although Section 4 `was undoubtedly inspired by the desire to put beyond question the obligations of the Government issued during the Civil War, its language indicates a broader connotation [that embraces] whatever concerns the integrity of the public obligations.’ Gold Clause Cases.” (See The Heritage Guide to the Constitution, pp. 406-407.)