The New International Encyclopædia/Civil Rights Bill

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CIVIL RIGHTS BILL. In American history, a bill passed by Congress in 1866, as one of the Reconstruction measures of that body, for the purpose of securing an equality of civil rights to all citizens of the United States, and particularly for the purpose of placing the freedmen in the South on an equal political footing with the whites. Its main provision was as follows: “All persons born in the United States and not subject to any foreign power, excluding Indians not taxed, are hereby declared to be citizens of the United States; and such citizens of every race and color, without regard to any previous condition of slavery or involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall have the same right, in every State and Territory of the United States, to make and enforce contracts, to sue, be parties, and give evidence, to inherit, purchase, lease, sell, hold, and convey real and personal property, and to the full and equal benefit of all laws and proceedings for the security of person and property, as is enjoyed by white citizens, and shall be subject to like punishment, pains, and penalties, and to none other, any law, statute, ordinance, regulation, or custom to the contrary notwithstanding.” The other sections of the bill merely provided for the carrying out of this provision and fixed penalties for its infraction. The bill passed the Senate on February 2 by a vote of 33 to 12, and the House on March 13 by a vote of 111 to 38; was vetoed by President Johnson on March 27, and was passed over the veto by the Senate on April 6, and by the House on April 9. It was the subject of an animated debate both in and out of Congress, and the challenging of its constitutionality led to the passage and adoption of the fourteenth Amendment. Another bill, of March 1, 1875, provided further for the rights of the blacks, prescribing that blacks should not be distinguished from whites by inn-keepers, teachers or officers of schools, theatre-managers, and common carriers; that Federal courts should have exclusive jurisdiction over infractions of the bill; and that negroes should not be excluded from juries. See Reconstruction.