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Handwritten Final Report of the Joint Committee on Reconstruction, ca. 1865–1866

The Joint Committee on Reconstruction, comprising members from the House and Senate, gathered testimony on conditions in the South from 144 witnesses. The committee influenced the drafting and passage of the Fourteenth Amendment, which upheld the citizenship rights of freedmen and prohibited Confederate loyalists from holding government office.

Records of Joint Committees of Congress, National Archives and Records Administration

Handwritten Final Report of the Joint Committee on Reconstruction, ca. 1865–1866 Handwritten Final Report of the Joint Committee on Reconstruction, ca. 1865–1866

Reconstruction of the Union

After the Civil War, Congress and the executive branch struggled over when and how to bring the former Confederate states back into the Union. The Joint Committee on Reconstruction—established by Congress in December 1865 to investigate under what terms the seceded states should regain their congressional representation—strongly disagreed with President Andrew Johnson’s efforts toward quick readmission. After a yearlong study, the fifteen-member committee outlined qualifications for readmission, including ratification of the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution.

The whole fabric of Southern society must be changed and never can it be done if this opportunity is lost. . . . If the South is ever to be made a safe republic, let her lands be cultivated by the toil of the owners, or the free labor of intelligent citizens.

Thaddeus Stevens, “Reconstruction” Speech, September 6, 1865