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Conclusions, Majority Report of the Joint Committee of the United States Senate and House of Representatives on Reconstruction, June 8, 1866, Washington, D.C.

Legislative Iconic image, U.S. Capitol, 2008

After almost six months of hearing scores of witnesses and after often heated discussion, the Joint Committee of the United States Senate and House of Representatives on Reconstruction, appointed on December 13, 1865, to “inquire into the condition of the States which formed the so-called Confederate States of America, and to report whether they or any of them are entitled to be represented in either House of Congress, with leave to report by bill or otherwise," made its highly anticipated report.  Included below are the closing sections of the majority's report that reiterated their findings on the position of the former rebellious states concerning their rights of representation in the federal legislature.  There had been significant developments in national politics since the formation of the committee and the emerging enmity between the bulk of the United States Congress and the policies of President Andrew Johnson were evident in the majority report.  In clear terms, the conclusions lay out succinctly that the Confederacy was the work of traitors who had abrogated their right to sit in Congress in order to wage war on the United States.  They had retained that aim doggedly until the very last of their armies had been defeated and resistance was impossible. The restoration of representative rights would be a long process, which would include acceptance of the Fourteenth Amendment that the Committee had drafted, and that overall process would rightly be the business of the legislative branch to decide.  Anything else would mean that the executive would have seized power it did not possess under the Constitution. A Minority Report was also submitted, from the Democrats sitting on the Joint Committee. The two documents laid out clearly the battle lines over which the following years of Reconstruction would be fought. (By John Osborne)

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