ch16_a2_d1 - President Johnsons Veto of the Civil Rights...

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President Johnson’s Veto of the Civil Rights Act, 1866 The Civil Rights Act was the first major piece of legislation to become law over a president’s veto. Johnson’s veto message helped make the estrangement between Congress and the President irreparable. Johnson’s constitutional arguments induced Congress to enact the Fourteenth Amendment, which forbade individual states to deprive citizens of the “equal protection of the laws.” SOURCE: Richardson, ed., Messages and Papers, Vol. VI, p. 405ff. W ASHINGTON , D.C., March 27, 1866. To the Senate of the United States: I regret that the bill, which has passed both Houses of Congress, entitled “An act to protect all persons in the United States in their civil rights and furnish the means of their vindica- tion,” contains provisions which I can not approve consistently with my sense of duty to the whole people and my obligations to the Constitution of the United States. I am therefore constrained to return it to the Senate, the House in which it originated, with my objections to its becoming a law. By the first section of the bill all persons born in the United States and not subject to any foreign power, excluding Indians not taxed, are declared to be citizens of the United States.… It does not purport to give these classes of persons any status as citizens of States, except that which may result from their status as citizens of the United States. The power to confer the right of State citi- zenship is just as exclusively with the several States as the power to confer the right of Federal citizenship is with Congress. The right of Federal citizenship thus to be conferred on the several excepted races before mentioned is now for the first time proposed to be given by law. If, as is claimed by many, all persons who are native born already are, by virtue of the Constitution, cit- izens of the United States, the passage of the pending bill can not be necessary to make them such. If, on the other hand, such per- sons are not citizens, as may be assumed from the proposed legis- lation to make them such, the grave question presents itself whether, when eleven of the thirty-six States are unrepresented in Congress at the present time, it is sound policy to make our entire colored population and all other excepted classes citizens of the United States. Four millions of them have just emerged from slav- ery into freedom.…It may also be asked whether it is necessary that they should be declared citizens in order that they may be secured in the enjoyment of the civil rights proposed to be con- ferred by the bill. Those rights are, by Federal as well as State laws, secured to all domiciled aliens and foreigners, even before
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ch16_a2_d1 - President Johnsons Veto of the Civil Rights...

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