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Andrew Johnson, Freedmen's Bureau Bill veto message, February 19, 1866

Andrew Johnson

President Andrew Johnson unexpectedly vetoed the bill that extended the life and the powers of the Freedmen's Bureau established the year before. Johnson gave no signal of his intention when he had spoken with congressional leaders but he sent the bill back to the Congress, citing its unconstitutionality. He asked why the existing authority was insufficient for its current purpose and decried the planned increase in scope, and costs, of the Bureau, especially where it intruded on local jurisdiction and courts. He also took the opportunity to include in his message a unrelated plea for the early re-admission of congressional delegations from former Confederate states. The Senate attempted, but failed narrowly, to over-ride the veto the following day. This veto, together with that of the Civil Rights Bill the following month, hardened and united Republican opposition to Johnson and later vetoes were easily over-turned. (By John Osborne)


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