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Civil rights bill,

An important measure introduced in the United States Senate on Jan. 29, 1866; adopted there Feb. 2 by a vote of 33 to 12, and passed in the House on March 13 by a vote of 111 to 38. The bill was vetoed March 27 by President Johnson, but was passed over the veto, in the Senate on April 6, and in the House on April 9. While the bill was passing through these stages a number of amendments were proposed for the purpose of nullifying the decision in the Dred Scot case; and on April 30 Thaddeus Stevens, of Pennsylvania, in the House, reported from a joint committee the measure that became the 14th Amendment to the Constitution of the United States (q. v.)

The original civil rights bill comprised in brief the following provisions:

1. All persons born in the United States and not subject to any foreign power, excluding Indians not taxed, were therein declared to be citizens of the United States, having the same rights as white citizens in every State and Territory to sue and to be sued, make and enforce contracts, take and convey property, and enjoy all civil rights whatever. 2. Any person who, under color of any State law, deprived any such citizen of any civil rights secured by this act was made guilty of a misdemeanor. 3. Cognizance of offences against the act was entirely taken away from State courts and given to federal courts. 4. Officers of the United States Courts or of the Freedmen's Bureau, and special executive agents, were charged with the execution of the act. 5. If such officers refused to execute the act, they were made subject to fine. 6. Resistance to the officers subjected the offender to fine and imprisonment. 7. This section related to fees. 8. The President was empowered to send officers to any district where offences against the act were likely to be committed. 9. The President was authorized to use the services of special agents, of the army and navy, or of the militia, to enforce the act. 10. An appeal was permitted to the Supreme Court.

Charles Sumner, the distinguished Senator from Massachusetts, was exceedingly anxious to secure the adoption of an amendment to the original bill, which, among other things, should prevent common carriers, inn-keepers, theatre-managers, and officers or teachers of schools from distinguishing blacks from whites; should prevent the exclusion of negroes from juries; and should give federal courts exclusive cognizance of offences against it. In 1872 he offered a bill covering these grounds as an amendment to the amnesty act, but it failed of passage by a single vote. Later in the same year it was introduced in the House. On April 30, 1874, the measure was adopted in the Senate, but rejected in the House, and in February, 1875, it was adopted in both Houses, becoming a law March 1. On Oct. 25, 1883, the Supreme Court of the United States, through Justice Bradley, decided that the supplementary civil rights bill (Sumner's) was unconstitutional. [161]

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