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H.R. 127, Joint Resolution proposing an amendment to the Constitution of the United States, May 10, 1866

The Joint Committee on Reconstruction proposed a constitutional amendment to address issues in Southern states. It guaranteed all citizens—including freedmen—equal rights and protections under state and federal law and set conditions for readmission of former Confederate states to representation in the Union. Approved by Congress, it was ratified by three-fourths of the states and became the Fourteenth Amendment in 1868.

Records of the U.S. Senate, National Archives and Records Administration

H.R. 127, Joint Resolution proposing an amendment to the Constitution of the United States, May 10, 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 and establish conditions for seceded states to regain their congressional representation—strongly disagreed with President Andrew Johnson’s preference for quick readmission. After a yearlong study, the fifteen-member committee outlined qualifications for readmission, including ratification of the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution.