In Section 3 of the 14th Amendment, it seems to me that "enemies thereof" would be the standard "enemies of the United States", but much of the "aid or comfort" disqualification discussion seems to rest on a broader idea. I'm not sure that "enemies of the United States' Constitution" is a concept found elsewhere.


2 Answers 2


William Baude and Michael Stokes Paulsen provide an analysis of the meaning of the clause, and conclude:

Finally, aid or comfort to whom? “[T]he enemies thereof.” We believe that “enemies” as employed in Section Three, embraces enemies both foreign and domestic. That now-familiar phrase (“enemies foreign and domestic”) comes from the “Ironclad Oath,” written into law in 1862, in the midst of the Civil War, and it seems clear from the political context of Section Three, enacted in the wake of a domestic civil war, that domestic enemies are enemies. It is almost unthinkable that Confederate rebels would not have been thought “enemies” in the sense employed by the text. Given the history and context of Section Three “enemies” seems to include the domestic rebels and insurrectionists just described earlier in the sentence.

"The Sweep and Force of Section Three" (forthcoming 2024) 172 U. Pa. L. Rev.

They note that the Prize Cases, 67 U.S. (2 Black) 635 (1863), from just a few years prior to the ratification of the Fourteenth Amendment "held that persons engaged in insurrection or rebellion could be treated as 'enemies' (as well as traitors) for legal purposes." See the Prize Cases at p. 666:

it is not necessary, to constitute war, that both parties should be acknowledged as independent nations or sovereign States.

They also argue that Section 3 should be understood in light of the Second Confiscation Act, which employed nearly identical terminology:

the Second Confiscation Act employed terminology nearly identical to that employed in Section Three of the Fourteenth Amendment. The usage of the terms in this landmark legislation we think helps explicate the meaning, in public legal context, of the language in the amendment. In the context of 1860s public legal usage, engaging in or giving aid or comfort to rebellion and insurrection extended to a broad range of activity advancing or furthering efforts to unlawfully upend the lawful operation of the U.S. constitutional regime. This strongly supports the conclusion that Section Three’s terms can fairly be read quite expansively, as embracing a broad range of conduct directed against the authority of government under the Constitution.


An "enemy" has a legal meaning of a country with which the United States is at war, in law or fact, or a citizen of that country. The background caselaw is explained at another answer on this blog.

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