Reconstruction Acts

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The Reconstruction Acts, or Military Reconstruction Acts, (March 2, 1867, 14 Stat. 428-430, c.153; March 23, 1867, 15 Stat. 2-5, c.6; July 19, 1867, 15 Stat. 14-16, c.30; and March 11, 1868, 15 Stat. 41, c.25) were four statutes passed during the Reconstruction Era by the 40th United States Congress addressing requirement for Southern States to be readmitted to the Union. The actual title of the initial legislation was "An act to provide for the more efficient government of the Rebel States" and it was passed on March 2, 1867. Fulfillment of the requirements of the Acts was necessary for the former Confederate States to be re-admitted to the Union from military and Federal control imposed during and after the American Civil War. The Acts excluded Tennessee,[1] which had already ratified the 14th Amendment and had been readmitted to the Union.

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A key feature of the Acts included the creation of five military districts in the South, each commanded by a general, which would serve as the acting government for the region. In addition, Congress required that each state draft a new state constitution, which would have to be approved by Congress. The states also were required to ratify the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution and grant voting rights to black men. President Andrew Johnson's vetoes of these measures were overridden by Congress.


General George Meade (of the Third Military District) appointed Brig. General Thomas H. Ruger[2] to replace Governor of Georgia Charles J. Jenkins, who had been elected as the only candidate in 1865 to succeed James Johnson, who had been appointed by President Andrew Johnson.


After Ex parte McCardle (1869) came before the United States Supreme Court, Congress feared that the Court might strike the Reconstruction Acts down as unconstitutional. To prevent this, Congress repealed the Habeas Corpus Act 1867, eliminating the Supreme Court's jurisdiction over the case.

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