On this date, the House overrode President
of the Civil Rights Bill of 1866 with near unanimous Republican support, 122 to 41, marking the first time Congress legislated upon civil rights. First introduced by Senate Judiciary Chairman of Illinois, the bill mandated that \”all persons born in the United States,\” with the exception of American Indians, were \”hereby declared to be citizens of the United States. \” The legislation granted all citizens the Бfull and equal benefit of all laws and proceedings for the security of person and property. Б To Radical Republicans, who believed the federal government had a role in shaping a multiracial society in the postwar South, the measure seemed the next logical step after the ratification of the 13th Amendment on December 18, 1865 (which abolished slavery).
Representative of New York noted that the legislation was Бone of the most important bills ever presented to this House for its action. Б President Johnson disagreed with the level of federal intervention implied by the legislation, calling it Бanother step, or rather a stride, toward centralization and the concentration of all legislative power in the national GovernmentБ in his veto message.
The Civil Rights Bill of 1866 proved to be the opening salvo of the showdown between the (1865Б1867) and the President over the future of the former Confederacy and African-American civil rights. During Reconstruction, Congress passed several statutes aimed at protecting the rights of the newly freed slaves, many of them over the veto of President Andrew Johnson. One such law was the Civil Rights Act of 1866, which declared that all people born in the United States were U. S. citizens and had certain inalienable rights, including the right to make contracts, to own property, to sue in court, and to enjoy the full protection of federal law.
The act gave the U. S. district courts exclusive jurisdiction over criminal cases related to violations of the act, and concurrent jurisdiction, along with the U. S. circuit courts, of all civil and criminal cases affecting those who were unable to enforce in state court the rights guaranteed by the act. The Civil Rights Act began a gradual transformation of the federal courts into the primary forums for individuals to enforce their constitutional and statutory rights.