Enforcement Act of 1870

Enforcement Act of 1869
Long title An Act to enforce the Right of Citizens of the United States to vote in the several States of the Union, and for other Purposes.
Nicknames Civil Rights Act of 1870, Enforcement Act, First Ku Klux Klan Act, Force Act
Enacted by the 41st United States Congress
Statutes at Large 16 Stat. 140-146
Legislative history
  • Introduced in the House as H.R. 1293 by Rep. John Bingham (R-OH) on February 21, 1870
  • Committee consideration by House Judiciary
  • Passed the House on May 16, 1870 (131–43)
  • Passed the Senate on May 20, 1870 (43–8)
  • Agreed to by the Senate on May 25, 1870 (48–11) and by the House on  (133–39)
  • Signed into law by President Ulysses S. Grant on May 31, 1870
United States Supreme Court cases
United States v. Reese (1876)
United States v. Cruikshank (1876)
United States v. Allen Crosby
United States v. Robert Hayes Mitchell

The Enforcement Act of 1869, also known as the Civil Rights Act of 1870 or First Ku Klux Klan Act, or Force Act was a United States federal law written to empower the President with the legal authority to enforce the first section of the Fifteenth Amendment throughout the United States. The act was the first of three Enforcement Acts passed by the United States Congress from 1870 to 1871 during the Reconstruction Era to combat attacks on the suffrage rights of African Americans from state officials or violent groups like the Ku Klux Klan.[1]

The bill H.R. 1293 was first introduced into the House by Republican John Bingham from Ohio on February 21, 1870, but not discussed until May 16, 1870.[2] Unlike the House bill, the Senate bill S. 810 grew from several different bills from various Senators. The first proposed bill was submitted to the Senate in February 1870 by Sen. George F. Edmunds from Vermont followed by Sen. Oliver P. Morton from Indiana, Sen. Charles Sumner from Massachusetts, and Sen. William Stewart from Nevada. After three months of rewriting in the Committee on the Judiciary, the final version of the bill was introduced onto the Senate floor on April 19, 1870.[3] The act was passed by Congress in May 1870 and signed into law by President Ulysses S. Grant on May 31, 1870.

The Enforcement Act of 1870 prohibited discrimination by state officials in voter registration on the basis of race, color, or previous condition of servitude. It established penalties for interfering with a person's right to vote and gave federal courts the power to enforce the act. The act also authorized the President to employ the use of the army to uphold the act and the use of federal marshals to bring charges against offenders for election fraud, the bribery or intimidation of voters, and conspiracies to prevent citizens from exercising their constitutional rights.

See also

U.S. Attorneys General during Reconstruction

U.S. Secretary of War during Reconstruction


  1. Foner, Eric (1997). Reconstruction: America's Unfinished Revolution, 1863-1877. New York: Harper & Row, Publishers. p. 454. ISBN 9780060937164.
  2. Wang, Xi (1997). The Trial of Democracy: Black Suffrage & Northern Republicans, 1860-1910. Athens, Ohio: University of Georgia Press. p. 58. ISBN 9780820318370.
  3. Wang, Xi (1997). The Trial of Democracy: Black Suffrage & Northern Republicans, 1860-1910. Athens, Ohio: University of Georgia Press. p. 59. ISBN 9780820318370.

Further reading

  • Cresswell, Stephen (1987). "Enforcing the Enforcement Acts: The Department of Justice in Northern Mississippi, 1870–1890". Journal of Southern History. 53 (3): 421–40. JSTOR 2209362. 
  • Rable, George (2007). But There Was No Peace: The Role of Violence in the Politics of Reconstruction. 2nd ed. Athens: University of Georgia Press. ISBN 9780820330112. 
  • Swinney, Everette (1962). "Enforcing the Fifteenth Amendment, 1870–1877". Journal of Southern History. 28 (2): 202–18. JSTOR 2205188. 
  • Trelease, Allen W. (1999). White Terror: The Ku Klux Klan Conspiracy and Southern Reconstruction. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press. ISBN 9780313211683. 
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