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An Act to protect all Persons in the United States in their Civil Rights, and to furnish the means for their Vindication, April 9, 1866

Civil Rights Act of 1866, April 9, 1866

Illinois Senator Lyman Trumbull's Civil Rights Bill had passed out of the Senate's Judiciary Committee on January 11, 1866 and saw lengthy and heated debate in both houses of Congress during late January and February. Trumbull's introduction of the measure laid out succinctly that the purpose of the bill was "to give effect" to the Thirteenth Amendment that abolished slavery "and secure to all persons within the United States practical freedom." The bill made explicit that all persons born or naturalized within the country were indeed citizens, with all the civil rights that entailed and outlined measures to make sure that these rights were protected. Democrats railed against the bill, calling it discriminatory towards the South and completely unconstitutional. By the time the bill passed on March 13, 1866, the political atmosphere had changed completely with President Johnson's veto of the Freedmen's Bureau bill and his stated hostility had united previously divided Republican opinion on Reconstruction. Johnson vetoed the Civil Rights bill, too, on March 27, 1866, but the united Republicans over-rode that veto, the first instance of this in American history, and the bill became law on April 9, 1866. (By John Osborne)