… in 1870
There are days in history when nothing much happens.
Nothing that The Legal Genealogist would say is something that was likely to change lives or — more importantly for us as family historians — to create records.
Perfectly ordinary days that we can just brush past.
Um… not this one day.
This one day in 1870.
This was the day, in 1870, when President Grant signed into law an act that finally returned to the Union what had been part of that union before 1861.
This was the day when Texas once again became part of the United States.
The law was called “An Act to admit the State of Texas to Representation in the Congress of the United States,” and it was signed into law on 30 March 1870.1
The statute noted that:
Whereas the people of Texas have framed and adopted a constitution of State government which is republican ; and whereas the legislature of Texas elected under said constitution has ratified the fourteenth and fifteenth amendments to the Constitution of the United States ; and whereas the performance of these several acts in good faith is a condition precedent to the representation of the State in Congress : Therefore … the said State of Texas is entitled to representation in the Congress of the United States…2
Now… there were conditions:
• Nobody was entitled to represent Texas in the Congress without swearing that he’d never sworn to uphold the Constitution of the United States and then supported the rebellion or at least had been relieved from the disabilities of rebellion by an Act of Congress.3
• The Texas constitution was never to be “so amended or changed as to deprive any citizen or class of citizens of the United States of the right to vote who are entitled to vote by the constitution herein recognized.”4
• “That it shall never be lawful for the said State to deprive any citizen of the United States on account of his race, color, or previous condition of servitude, of the right to hold office under the constitution and laws of said State, or upon any such ground to require of him any other qualifications for office than such as are required of all other citizens.”5
“That the constitution of Texas shall never be so amended or changed as to deprive any citizen or class of citizens of the United States of the school rights and privileges secured by the constitution of said State.”6
Oaths of office. Constitutions. Voting rights and voting lists. Records we can use to document our families.
And, sigh, of course, all the records — in Texas and elsewhere — of the persistent efforts to abridge those rights over time. Nothing about the reunification or the expansion of rights went smoothly. Nothing about that time was easy or simple. Not even the ratification of that 15th amendment referenced in the act.
That amendment, we’ll recall, is the one that provides that “The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude.”7 And its ratification was so complicated that even though it was technically ratified in February 1870, the Secretary of State, Hamilton Fish, had to officially declare it to be part of the Constitution, prompting President Grant to send an unusual message to Congress about the ratification.
On this day.8
Just this one day.
The 30th of March.
Cite/link to this post: Judy G. Russell, “Just one day…,” The Legal Genealogist (https://www.legalgenealogist.com/blog : posted 30 Mar 2021).
- “An Act to admit the State of Texas to Representation in the Congress of the United States,” 16 Stat. 80 (30 Mar 1870). ↩
- Ibid., Preamble. ↩
- Ibid., at 80-81. ↩
- Ibid., at 81. ↩
- Ibid. ↩
- Ibid. ↩
- Amendment XV, United States Constitution; “America’s Founding Documents,” U.S. National Archives, Archives.gov (https://www.archives.gov/ : accessed 30 Mar 2021). ↩
- See “March 30, 1870: Announcement of Fifteenth Amendment Ratification,” Presidential Speeches, Miller Center, University of Virginia (https://millercenter.org/ : accessed 30 Mar 2021). ↩