Portrait of Thaddeus Stevens

On December 4, 1865, Pennsylvania Congressman Thaddeus Stevens proposed establishing a joint congressional committee to oversee the reconstruction of the United States after the Civil War. Comprising fifteen members the committee met for the first time on January 6, 1866. [Wikimedia Commons]

Joint Committee on Reconstruction Facts

1865 - 1867

Key facts about the Joint Committee on Reconstruction.

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  • When the Thirty-ninth Congress reconvened on December 4, 1865, Pennsylvania Representative Thaddeus Stevens proposed forming a Joint Committee on Reconstruction.
  • On December 13, 1865 U.S Senate and House of Representatives agreed to form the Joint Committee on Reconstruction.
  • The Joint Committee on Reconstruction consisted of six Senators (five Republicans and one Democrat) and nine Representatives (seven Republicans and two Democrats).
  • The Senate members of the Joint Committee on Reconstruction were William P. Fessenden (R) of Maine, James W. Grimes (R) of Iowa, Ira Harris (R) of New York, Jacob M. Howard (R) of Michigan, Reverdy Johnson (D) of Maryland, and George H. Williams (R) of Oregon
  • The Senate members of the Joint Committee on Reconstruction were John A. Bingham (R) of Ohio, George S. Boutwell (R) of Massachusetts, Henry T. Blow (R) of Missouri, Roscoe Conkling (R) of New York, Henry Grider (D) of Kentucky, Justin S. Morrill (R) of Vermont, Andrew J. Rogers (D) of New Jersey, Thaddeus Stevens (R) of Pennsylvania, Elihu B. Washburne (R) of Illinois.
  • Chairman William P. Fessenden called the Joint Committee on Reconstruction together for the first time on January 6, 1866.
  • At a meeting of the Joint Committee on Reconstruction on January 10, 1866, Thaddeus Stevens proposed a constitutional amendment to nullify the Three-fifths Compromise regarding apportionment (Article 1, Section 2, Paragraph 3 of the Constitution). An amended version of his proposal eventually formed the basis of Section Two of the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution.
  • At a meeting of the Joint Committee on Reconstruction on January 12, 1866, John A. Bingham introduced a proposal that the Constitution be amended to establish that “The Congress shall have the power to make all laws necessary and proper to secure to all persons in every state within this Union equal protection in their rights of life, liberty and property.” Bingham’s proposal subsequently became the basis for the Section One of the Fourteenth Amendment.
  • The Joint Committee on Reconstruction testimony from 144 witnesses over the course of its existence.
  • At a meeting of the Joint Committee on Reconstruction on February 3, 1866, Jacob M. Howard proposed a constitutional amendment to prevent the payment of Confederate debts from the Civil War. An amended version of Howard’s proposal later became Section 4 of the Fourteenth Amendment.
  • In its final report to the first session of the Thirty-ninth Congress, on June 6, 1866, the Joint Committee on Reconstruction recommended a measure that eventually became the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution.
  • In its final report to the first session of the Thirty-ninth Congress, on June 6, 1866, the Joint Committee on Reconstruction recommended requirement for readmitting Southern states to the Union.
  • In its final report to the first session of the Thirty-ninth Congress, on June 6, 1866, the Joint Committee on Reconstruction recommended a bill “declaring certain persons ineligible to office under the Government of the United States.” Those persons included:
  • On December 5, 1866, the second session of the Thirty-ninth Congress agreed to reappoint the Joint Committee on Reconstruction.
  • During the second session of the Thirty-ninth Congress, membership on the Joint Committee on Reconstruction from the Senate remained intact.
  • During the second session of the Thirty-ninth Congress, Republican Representative John F. Farnsworth of Illinois replaced Elihu B. Washburne, and Democratic Representative Elijah Hise replaced Henry Grider on the Joint Committee on Reconstruction.
  • The Joint Committee on Reconstruction held its first meeting of the second session of the Thirty-ninth Congress on February 2, 1867.
  • On February 6, 1867 the Joint Committee on Reconstruction began consideration of proposed legislation that was eventually enacted as the Military Reconstruction Act of 1867.
  • The Joint Committee on Reconstruction met for the last time on February 9, 1867.
  • The Fortieth Congress, which convened on March 4, 1867, did not reestablish the Joint Committee on Reconstruction.
  • Although the committee existed for only slightly less than fifteen months, it markedly altered the course Reconstruction.
  • By reversing Andrew Johnson’s lenient Presidential Reconstruction policies, the committee paved the way for constitutionally guaranteed civil and political rights for African Americans.
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Citation Information

The following information is provided for citations.

  • Article Title Joint Committee on Reconstruction Facts
  • Coverage 1865 - 1867
  • Author
  • Keywords joint committee on reconstruction
  • Website Name American History Central
  • Access Date July 27, 2021
  • Publisher R.Squared Communications, LLC
  • Original Published Date
  • Date of Last Update February 17, 2021
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