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

The Joint Committee on Reconstruction studied two major issues: how the former Confederate States would rejoin the Union and be represented in Congress; and the federal government’s responsibilities toward formerly enslaved African Americans. President Andrew Johnson, previously a senator from Tennessee, wanted a lenient policy toward the South. The committee, dominated by Radical Republicans, favored measures that protected freedmen, expanded voting rights, and were more punitive.

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

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

Congress Overrides President Andrew Johnson

The Joint Committee on Reconstruction, created by Congress in 1865, investigated conditions in Southern states after the Civil War. Six senators and nine representatives took testimony from military officers, former Confederate leaders, and freedmen. The committee’s final report influenced Reconstruction-era legislation, including the Civil Rights Act of 1866 and three Reconstruction Acts. The investigation’s findings increased tensions between Congress and President Andrew Johnson over Reconstruction policies. In 1868, the House impeached President Johnson; the Senate voted to acquit him.

Through all the past struggle these [formerly enslaved people] had remained true and loyal, and had, in large numbers, fought on the side of the Union. It was impossible to abandon them, without securing them their rights as free men and citizens.

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