Cyclopædia of Political Science, Political Economy, and the Political History of the United States

Edited by: Lalor, John J.
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New York: Maynard, Merrill, and Co.
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Includes articles by Frédéric Bastiat, Gustave de Molinari, Henry George, J. B. Say, Francis A. Walker, and more.
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CIVIL RIGHTS BILL, The (IN U.S. HISTORY), was introduced in the senate Jan. 29, 1866, and passed Feb. 2, by a vote of 33 to 12. In the house it was passed March 13, by a vote of 111 to 38. An abstract of its several sections is as follows: 1. All persons born in the United States and not subject to any foreign power, excluding Indians not taxed, were hereby declared to be citizens of the United States, having the same right as white citizens in every state and territory to sue and be sued, make and enforce contracts, take and convey property, and enjoy all civil rights whatever. 2. Any person who, under color of any state law, deprived any such citizen of any civil rights secured by this act was made guilty of a misdemeanor. 3. Cognizance of offenses against the act was entirely taken away from state courts and given to federal courts. 4. Officers of the United States courts or of the freedmen's bureau, and special executive agents, were charged with the execution of the act. 5. If such officers refused to execute the act, they were made subject to fine. 6. Resistance to the officers subjected the offender to fine and imprisonment. 7. This section related to fees. 8. The president was empowered to send officers to any district where offenses against the act were likely to be committed. 9. The president was authorized to use the services of special agents, of the army and navy, or of the militia, to enforce the act. 10. An appeal was permitted to the supreme court.


—There is a curious likeness, mutatis mutandis, between some of the sections of the bill and the fugitive slave law of 1850.


—The bill was vetoed March 27, and again passed, over the veto, in the senate April 6, and in the house April 9. The constitutional objection to the bill was that the power to pass it could be found nowhere in the constitution except in the 13th amendment (prohibiting slavery), and that this in no way involved the assumption by congress of the duty of protecting the civil rights of citizens, which had always belonged to the states; and, further, that, while the decision in the Dred Scott case stood unimpeached, Negroes might be freed but could not become citizens. Various amendments were proposed in February and March, 1866, for the purpose of overturning the Dred Scott decision. April 30, after the conflict between congress and the president had become flagrant, Thaddeus Stevens, of Pennsylvania, in the house, reported from a joint committee that which was afterward modified into the 14th amendment. Its first section contained the gist of the resolutions above referred to. It was passed in the senate June 8, by a vote of 33 to 11, and in the house June 13, by a vote of 138 to 36. (See CONSTITUTION, IV.; RECONSTRUCTION)


—Senator Charles Sumner, of Massachusetts, was the special champion of an amendment to the preceding act which should prevent common carriers, inn-keepers, theatre-managers, and officers or teachers of schools, from distinguishing blacks from whites; should prevent the exclusion of Negroes from juries; and should give federal courts exclusive congnizance of offenses against it. A bill to this effect was offered by him as an amendment to the amnesty act in 1872 (see AMNESTY), but failed by a single vote, 29 to 30. The same bill was introduced in the house Dec. 9, 1872, and referred. April 30, 1874, shortly after Mr. Sumner's death, it passed the senate, but failed in the house. In February, 1875, the bill finally passed both houses, and became a law March 1. (See RECONSTRUCTION, FORCE BILL.)


—See 14 Stat. At Large, 27; 16 Wall., 36; 92 U. S., 542; 1 Hughes 536; 92 U. S., 90; 100 U. S., 310, 345.


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