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 At this juncture, when Congress was assembling, the situation may be summarized as follows: The Southern legislators, in keeping with Judge Taney's famous Dred Scott decision, very clearly demonstrated that the negro had no rights. True, they had formally adopted the Thirteenth Amendment to the National Constitution, but had followed that action by legislation which vitiated its provisions. The smallest acts annoying to white men were raised to misdemeanors, while vagrancy, poverty, and even enforced idleness were made to constitute a crime to be punished by excessive fines or hard labor under constraint. The labor and vagrancy laws, ostensibly for white and black alike, were so executed as to reach the freedmen only, and indeed to many of them the liberty granted by our amended Constitution was thus to all intents and purposes overborne and crushed by hostile State action. As soon as Congress met, Southern senators and representatives elect from the insurrectionary States were on hand at the doors of each House waiting for admission and recognition. But this thirty-ninth Congress had taken fire. The Executive, so Congressmen alleged, had largely encroached upon its proper province. The members of both Houses were too impatient even to wait for the President's message. Combating resolutions were at once introduced and passed, appointing a joint reconstruction committee of fifteen members to inquire into the condition of the States which claimed to be reconstructed, and to report whether any of them were entitled to representation in Congress, “with leave to report at any time by bill or otherwise.” The contest that here began between that Congress
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