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Lyman Trumbull, Introduction of the Civil Rights Bill, U.S. Senate, January 29, 1866

Lyman Trumbull
Illinois Senator Lyman Trumbull's Civil Rights Bill had passed out of the Senate's Judiciary Committee several weeks before and saw lengthy and heated debate on the floor of the Senate. Trumbull's introduction 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. He went on to outline the difficulties that African-Americans were having, especially in the South, in realizing this and repeated that "the purpose of the bill under consideration is to destroy all these discriminations, and to carry into effect the constitutional amendment." Pointedly, he said that much of the language in the amendment used to protect the rights of former slaves had been borrowed from the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850, in which Southern politicians had succeeded in harnessing federal power to protect their rights as slave-owners. The bill passed through Congress on March 13, 1866 but President Andrew Johnson vetoed the measure. For the first time in American history Congress over-turned a presidential veto and the Civil Rights Act became law on April 9, 1866. (By John Osborne)


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