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Reconstruction

Early Congressional Legislation

An outraged Northern public believed that the fruits of victory were being lost by Johnson's lenient policy. When Congress convened (Dec. 4, 1865) it refused to seat the Southern representatives. Johnson responded by publicly attacking Republican leaders and vetoing their Reconstruction measures. His tactics drove the moderates into the radical camp. The Civil Rights Act (Apr. 9, 1866), designed to protect African Americans from legislation such as the black codes, and the Freedmen's Bureau Bill (July 16), extending the life of that organization (see Freedmen's Bureau), were both passed over Johnson's veto. Doubts as to the constitutionality of the Civil Rights Act led the radicals to incorporate (June, 1866) most of its provisions in the Fourteenth Amendment (ratified 1868).

The newly created Joint Committee on Reconstruction reported (Apr. 28, 1866) that the ex-Confederate states were in a state of civil disorder, and hence, had not held valid elections. It also maintained that Reconstruction was a congressional, not an executive, function. The radicals solidified their position by winning the elections of 1866. When every Southern state (except Tennessee) refused to ratify the Fourteenth Amendment and protect the rights of its black citizens, the stage was set for more severe measures.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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