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Andrew Johnson, Civil Rights Bill Veto Message, March 27, 1866

"The Veto," Andrew Johnson, April 1866, Thomas Nast cartoon
Congress had passed the Civil Rights Bill by overwhelming margins two weeks before after protracted and heated debate. President Johnson returned the measure to the Capitol with a lengthy veto message on March 27, 1866. The overall sentiment of this message was that the bill intruded in a fundamentally unconstitutional way on the rights of states to make laws and state courts to enforce them. He countered aspects of the bill specifically, challenging the concept that the Thirteenth Amendment made all former slaves citizens automatically by birth within the United States. Loyal and patriotic immigrants had to wait five years before enjoying the rights of citizenship and often, Johnson felt, were more properly prepared for participation in civic affairs. Continuing the racial theme, the message also warned that the edict that all persons born in the United States would therefore include Chinese, certain Indians, and "people called Gipsies" as full citizens. The message went on to outline the conflicts that would erupt between state and federal courts and outlined the "dangerous" concentration of power in federal hands. Johnson's earlier veto of the Freedmens' Bureau Act and his manifest hostility toward Republican opposition had united the party and whereas Congress failed narrowly to overturn that first veto, this rejection would be over-ridden, for the first time in American history, and the Civil Right Act became law on April 9, 1866. (By John Osborne)


How to Cite This Page: "Andrew Johnson, Civil Rights Bill Veto Message, March 27, 1866," House Divided: The Civil War Research Engine at Dickinson College,