Radical Republican Congress

Architects of Reconstruction and equality

After the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln and the end of the Civil War, the Radical Republican Congress led the nation through many advances in the First Principles of unalienable rights and equality

Following the Civil War, Congress was dominated by Republicans (often referred to as “Radical Republicans”) strongly committed to the cause of equality and the use of federal power to protect the unalienable rights of freedmen – reacted quickly to protect the freedmen. The Freedman’s Bureau Act (1865) would have authorized federal troops to aid the freedmen and set aside up to forty acres of land for every male citizen freedman or refugee. President Andrew Johnson vetoed the measure.

The Radical Republican Congress would not be denied. Led by Senator Charles Sumner and Representative Thaddeus Stevens, the Radical Republicans won a resounding victory in the midterm elections of 1866, and thereafter passed several groundbreaking civil rights acts. 

The nation also ratified the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution, which guarantees due process and equality under the law from the states.  The Fifteenth Amendment guarantees the right to vote regardless of race.  The Civil Rights Act of 1875 went so far as to mandate equal treatment in public accommodations, such as theatres and hotels.

Such measures provoked heated opposition from the South and President Andrew Johnson, leading to a showdown in which the House of Representatives impeached Johnson – but he escaped conviction in the Senate by one vote.

The efforts of the Radical Republican Congress were large and magnificent steps in the march toward fulfilling the promise of our First Principles and equality, but were cut short when Reconstruction ended.

Lincoln was assassinated on Good Friday, 1864 by Confederate sympathizer John Wilkes Booth.

For more about the Radical Republican Congress, Reconstruction, and their importance to our liberties today, buy a copy of  America’s Survival Guide.

Picture:  From the Biographical Directory of the United States Congress


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