Joint Committee on Reconstruction

Author:William M. Wiecek

Page 1436

In December 1865, Congress by CONCURRENT RESOLUTION created the Joint Committee of Fifteen on Reconstruction to provide a deliberative body for consideration of RECONSTRUCTION policy, because Republicans refused to accept President ANDREW JOHNSON'S "Restoration" as an accomplished fact. All legislation directly affecting Reconstruction was referred to it.

The majority report of the Joint Committee (1866), prepared by Senator WILLIAM P. FESSENDEN (Republican, Maine), rejected punitive theories of Reconstruction as "profitless abstractions" and repudiated the lenient policies of President Johnson and congressional Democrats. The Committee's Republican majority insisted that only Congress had final power to regularize the constitutional status of the seceded states. The Democratic minority report countered that the states were entitled to immediate readmission and self-government. The Joint Committee fashioned the FOURTEENTH AMENDMENT as a compendium of Republican Reconstruction objectives as of the summer of 1866: freedmen's CITIZENSHIP and voting, equality before the law and assurance of DUE PROCESS for freedmen, Confederate disfranchisement, repudiation of the Confederate war debt, denial of compensation for slaves, and confirmation of the Union debt. When the inadequacy of the Fourteenth Amendment as a comprehensive Reconstruction measure became apparent, Republican committee members...

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