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May 1865

Presidential Reconstruction:
On May 29, 1865, President Andrew Johnson began implementing his Reconstruction Plan while Congress was in recess.  He offered general amnesty to all who would take an oath of future loyalty to the Union and would agree to accept all emancipation laws and proclamations issued during the Civil War.  He appointed temporary governors, authorizing them to call constitutional conventions in their respective states.  The president allowed most of those who had been eligible voters in 1860 (a qualification that excluded blacks) to participate in elections for delegates to state constitutional conventions and, subsequently, for state and federal office-holders.  However, he withheld political rights from high-ranking Confederate officials and men of wealth (worth over $20,000) until they personally petitioned the president for individual pardons. 

November 1865

Black Codes:
Mississippi became the first of the former Confederate states to enact a “Black Code,” which severely limited the rights and liberties of blacks.  Over the next few months, other Southern states passed similar legislation.  The legislation was designed, similar to previous “slave codes,” to keep the newly freed slaves dependent on the plantation system. The Black Codes varied from state to state, but included requiring proof of employment, limiting jobs opportunities, prohibiting property rights in or migration to certain (usually urban) areas, banning the carrying of weapons in public, barring jury duty or court testimony against whites, and withholding voting and office-holding rights. 

December 1865

Thirteenth Amendment Ratified:
On December 6, the Thirteenth Amendment, which abolished slavery, achieved the constitutionally required ratification by three-quarters of the states (27 of 36).  On December 18, Secretary of State William Henry Seward declared it officially ratified and part of the United States Constitution.

Southern Representation in Congress:
On December 2, the House Republican Caucus agreed that Reconstruction was “the exclusive business of Congress,” that President Johnson’s Reconstruction plan was subject to revision, and that Southern congressmen should not be seated.  On December 4, the House clerk refused to seat representatives from the former Confederate states.

Joint Committee on Reconstruction:
On December 4, the first day of the 39th Congress, Republican Congressman Thaddeus Stevens of Pennsylvania introduced a resolution for the creation of a joint congressional committee on Reconstruction composed of six senators and nine representatives.  The proposal was approved on December 13.

Origin of Section One:
On December 6, Republican Congressman John Bingham of Ohio introduced a constitutional amendment to protect civil rights.  It was approved by the Joint Committee on Reconstruction on February 10, 1866, but was then tabled in both the House and Senate.  It later served as the basis for Section One of the Fourteenth Amendment.

Origin of Section Two:
Five resolutions were introduced in December 1865 and January 1866 for a constitutional amendment regarding the apportionment of federal representation.  The resolution submitted by Republican Congressman James Blaine of Maine provided the foundation for a proposed constitutional amendment approved on January 20 by the Joint Committee on Reconstruction.  A revised version passed the House on January 31, but failed to receive the necessary two-thirds majority in the Senate on March 9.  It was soon after incorporated as Section Two of the Fourteenth Amendment.

Origin of Section Three:
In December 1865 and January 1866, several congressional resolutions were introduced that imposed penalties on the former Confederates.  The proposals were referred to the Joint Committee on Reconstruction.  On April 28, the Joint Committee incorporated the proposal of Republican Congressman George Boutwell of Massachusetts as Section Three of the Fourteenth Amendment.  It barred ex-Confederates from holding federal or state office until Congress removed the political disability by a two-thirds majority vote.  A clause disfranchising ex-Confederates was removed before final passage of the Amendment.

Origin of Section Four:
Based on a resolution introduced by Democratic Congressman Samuel J. Randall of Pennsylvania on December 5, the Joint Committee on Reconstruction drafted a proposed constitutional amendment upholding the legitimacy of the federal debt and rejecting Confederate debt.  It passed the House on December 19 with large bipartisan support, but the Senate took no action.  It was later incorporated into the Fourteenth Amendment as Section Four.


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