The Joint Committee on Reconstruction was a joint committee of the United States Congress that played a major role in Reconstruction. Led by Radical Republicans it was created to "inquire into the condition of the States which formed the so-called Confederate States of America, and report whether they, or any of them, are entitled to be represented in either house of Congress."
The committee was established on December 13, 1865, after both houses reached agreement on an amended version of a House concurrent resolution introduced by Representative Thaddeus Stevens of Pennsylvania to establish a joint committee of 15 members. Senator William P. Fessenden of Maine served as chairman. The joint committee divided into four subcommittees to hear testimony and gather evidence regarding the situation in each of four military districts in the South - the First Military District, Second Military District, Third Military District, and Fourth Military District.
In all, 144 witnesses were called to testify. Existing records in the National Archives contain part of the committee report, as well as a few petitions concerning restoration of the former Confederate states to representation in Congress. The petitions are from Iowa, Kansas, Ohio, and Pennsylvania. There is also a resolution of the New York Legislature regarding this issue and advocating equality of suffrage in the District of Columbia for all adult males.
The Joint Committee on Reconstruction was not revived in the next Congress. The House of Representatives, however, established its own Select Committee on Reconstruction on July 3, 1867. National Archives records of the House select committee include the resolution instructing the committee to investigate Ku Klux Klan activities. There are also letters, petitions, and a memorial from Tennessee detailing the situation in that state. They indicate that, under the new constitution, former rebels were regaining control of the government and intimidating or attacking supporters of the Union and blacks. Also among the records are the printed proceedings of a convention at Nashville on February 16, 1870, aimed at revitalizing and reorganizing the Republican Party in Tennessee.
Concern about Ku Klux Klan activities led to establishment of another Joint Committee to Inquire into the Condition of the Late Insurrectionary States on April 17, 1871. A portion of the committee's minute book, covering the period from February 10, 1872 to February 19, 1872, is among the records of the National Archives.
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