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The Third Reconstruction Act clarified the language and “true intent” of the First and Second Reconstruction Acts. These acts divided the former Confederate states into five military districts, required new state constitutions that recognized voting rights of black men, and demanded state ratification of the 14th Amendment—which guaranteed civil rights for all citizens—before readmission to the Union.

Records of the U.S. House of Representatives, National Archives and Records Administration

The Third Reconstruction Act clarified the language and “true intent” of the First and Second Reconstruction Acts. These acts divided the former Confederate states into five military districts, required new state constitutions that recognized voting rights of black men, and demanded state ratification of the 14th Amendment—which guaranteed civil rights for all citizens—before readmission to the Union.

Reconstructing the Union

After the Civil War, Radical Republicans in Congress and President Andrew Johnson disagreed over the terms and conditions for readmitting the seceded states to the Union. President Johnson viewed Reconstruction as an executive responsibility and blocked congressional initiatives. Congress sought to curb the power of the presidency, which had expanded in wartime, and took a less conciliatory stance toward the former Confederate states on issues of loyalty, governance, and the rights of black citizens. In 1867 and 1868 Congress passed four Reconstruction Acts over Johnson’s vetoes.