Portrait of Andrew Johnson

On March 2, 1867, Congress overrode President Andrew Johnson’s veto to enact the first of four Reconstruction Acts. [Wikimedia Commons]

Reconstruction Acts Facts

March 2, 1867 - March 11, 1868

Key facts about the four Reconstruction Acts enacted by Congress in 1867 - 1868.

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  • On March 2, 1867, Congress overrode President Andrew Johnson’s veto to enact the first of four Reconstruction Acts.
  • The First Reconstruction Act was formally titled “An act to provide for the more efficient government of the Rebel States.”
  • The First Reconstruction Act divided the South into five military districts, each to be governed by a Union general empowered to appoint and remove state officials. Tennessee was excluded because it had already ratified the Fourteenth Amendment.
  • The First Reconstruction Act charged the military commander of each Southern district with registering men willing to take an extended loyalty oath as voters (including freedmen).
  • The First Reconstruction Act required each Southern state to draft a new state constitution providing for black male suffrage.
  • The First Reconstruction Act required each Southern state to ratify the 14th Amendment prior to readmission to Congress.
  • Less than a month after the enactment of the First Reconstruction Act, Congress overrode President Andrew Johnson’s veto to enact the Second Reconstruction Act on March 23, 1867.
  • The Second Reconstruction Act required the military commanders of the five Southern districts created by the First Reconstruction Act to begin registering eligible voters and oversee the election of delegates to state constitutional conventions.
  • On July 19, 1867, Congress passed the Third Reconstruction Act over President Andrew Johnson’s veto.
  • The Third Reconstruction Act established specific categories of Confederate officeholders who were subject to disenfranchisement. The act also authorized voter registration officials to reject the oaths of prospective voters if they suspected fraud or perjury.
  • The adoption of the Third Reconstruction Act paved the way to calling state conventions and drafting constitutions, but it did not ensure ratification. The original act required a majority of registered voters to approve ratification. Southern whites responded by registering in large numbers and then refusing to vote, thus making it difficult, or nearly impossible, for the constitutions to be ratified. Frustrated by Southern obstructionism,
  • On February 27, 1868, Congress passed the Fourth Reconstruction Act. When President Johnson refused to sign the legislation, it became law on March 11.
  • The Fourth Reconstruction Act stipulated that ratification of proposed constitutions in the Southern states would be determined by a majority of people casting ballots, as opposed to a majority of registered voters.
  • The enactment of the Fourth Reconstruction Act produced the results Congress was seeking. By July 21, 1868, seven Southern states (Arkansas, Florida, North Carolina, Louisiana, South Carolina, Alabama, and Georgia) adopted new constitutions, formed new governments, and ratified the Fourteenth Amendment, thus paving the way for readmission to the Union. Virginia complied in October 1869, followed by Mississippi and Texas in 1870.
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Citation Information

The following information is provided for citations.

  • Article Title Reconstruction Acts Facts
  • Coverage March 2, 1867 - March 11, 1868
  • Author
  • Keywords Reconstruction, Andrew Johnson
  • Website Name American History Central
  • Access Date December 5, 2021
  • Publisher R.Squared Communications, LLC
  • Original Published Date
  • Date of Last Update February 17, 2021
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