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Congressional mistrust of President Johnson’s power and motives helped mobilize the votes needed to override his veto of the Third Reconstruction Act. In overriding the President, Congress asserted its authority to determine the process of reunification and to protect the rights of freedmen.

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

Message from House of Representatives Overriding President Andrew Johnson’s Veto of the Third Reconstruction Act, July 19, 1867

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.