On This Day, March 27, 1866 – Andrew Johnson Vetoes Civil Rights for Blacks


1866U.S. President Andrew Johnson vetoed the civil rights bill, which later became the 14th amendment.

A little over a month after becoming president, Johnson began executing his plan for reconstructing the South. Johnson pardoned all rebels except Confederate leaders. He also restored all rebel property except for slaves. Finally, he authorized each rebel state to call a convention of white delegates to draw up a new constitution. Once completed, a new state government could then be formed, and the state could apply for readmission to the Union.

During the summer of 1865, the rebel states held their constitutional conventions, followed by elections to choose state and federal government representatives. None of the new state constitutions allowed the black freedmen to vote. President Johnson himself opposed the idea of ex-slaves voting. “It would breed a war of races,” Johnson said.

When Congress finally met in early December, the Republicans, in control of both the House and Senate, expressed outrage. They saw the same men who had led the rebellion returning to power throughout the South. Worse still, the new Southern governments were passing “black codes,” which made it difficult for freedmen to work in certain jobs, own land, or even quit a white employer. Most troubling to Republicans in Congress was that President Johnson had, on his own authority, established a reconstruction plan for the South. Many Republicans believed this was the job of Congress and Congress alone.

In early February 1866, the Republican Congress passed the Freedmen’s Bureau Bill. It called for the distribution of land to the freedmen, provided schools for their children, and set up military courts in Southern states to protect freedmen’s rights. But to the dismay of Republicans and the joy of most white Southerners, President Johnson vetoed the bill. He called it unconstitutional and too expensive. When Republicans failed to muster enough votes to override his veto, Johnson believed that he had won the battle over Reconstruction.

On Washington’s birthday, a few days after he had vetoed the Freedmen’s Bureau Bill, Johnson spoke to a crowd outside the White House. During the speech, he claimed that “new rebels” in the North were plotting to take over the government. He charged that some members of Congress were as traitorous as Jefferson Davis, the Confederate leader. “Give us the names!” a voice in the crowd shouted. Johnson named three Republican leaders of Congress. Republicans in Congress reacted angrily. The opposition started to solidify against “King Andy,” as some began to call the president.

In March 1866, Congress passed the Civil Rights Bill. It declared ex-slaves to be U.S. citizens and gave them the right to make contracts, sue, be witnesses in court, and own land. Again Johnson used his veto. He stated in his veto message that blacks were not qualified for citizenship and the proposed bill would “operate in favor of the colored and against the white race.” The Republicans, abandoning all hope of working with the Democratic president, overrode his veto by a two-thirds majority in both the House and Senate. For the first time in American history, Congress overturned a presidential veto.

1794 – The U.S. Congress authorized the creation of the U.S. Navy.

1802 – The Treaty of Amiens was signed ending the French Revolutionary War.

1836 – The first Mormon temple was dedicated in Kirtland, OH.

1841 – The first steam fire engine was tested in New York City.

1860 – The corkscrew was patented by M.L. Byrn.

1884 – The first long-distance telephone call was made from Boston to New York.

1899 – The first international radio transmission between England and France was achieved by the Italian inventor G. Marconi.

1900 – The London Parliament passed the War Loan Act that gave 35 million pounds to the Boer War cause in South Africa.

1904 – Mary Jarris “Mother” Jones was ordered by Colorado state authorities to leave the state. She was accused of stirring up striking coal miners.


1912 – The first cherry blossom trees were planted in Washington, DC. The trees were a gift from Japan. The day after Mrs. Taft’s letter of April 7, 1909, Dr. Jokichi Takamine, the Japanese chemist who discovered adrenaline and takadiastase, was in Washington with Mr. Midzuno, Japanese consul in New York. When he was told that Washington was to have Japanese cherry trees planted along the Speedway, he asked whether Mrs. Taft would accept a donation of an additional two thousand trees to fill out the area. Mr. Midzuno thought it was a fine idea and suggested that the trees be given in the name of the City of Tokyo. First Lady Taft agreed to accept a donation of 2,000 cherry trees.

1917 – The Seattle Metropolitans, of the Pacific Coast League of Canada, defeated the Montreal Canadiens and became the first U.S. hockey team to win the Stanley Cup.

1931 – Actor Charlie Chaplin received France’s Legion of Honor decoration.

1933 – About 55,000 people staged a protest against Hitler in New York City.

1941 – Tokeo Yoshikawa arrived in Oahu, HI, and began spying for Japan on the U.S. Fleet at Pearl Harbor.

1942 – The British raided the Nazi submarine base at St. Nazaire, France.

1946 – Four-month long strikes at both General Electric and General Motors ended with a wage increase.

1952 – The U.S. Eighth Army reached the 38th parallel in Korea, the original dividing line between the two Koreas.

1958 – Nikita Khrushchev became the chairman of the Soviet Council of Ministers in addition to First Secretary of the Communist Party.

1958 – The U.S. announced a plan to explore space near the moon.

1976 – Washington, DC, opened its subway system.

1988 – The U.S. Senate ratified the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty.

1997 – Russian workers, nearly 2 million, held a nationwide strike to protest unpaid wages.

1998 – In the U.S., the FDA approved the prescription drug Viagra. It was the first pill for male impotence.

2004 – NASA successfully launched an unpiloted X-43A jet that hit Mach 7 (about 5,000 mph).

2007 – NFL owners voted to make instant replay a permanent officiating tool.


Source: On-This-Day.com; crf-usa.org