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The Enforcement Act of 1870, 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]

Enforcement Act of 1870
Great Seal of the United States
Long titleAn Act to enforce the Right of Citizens of the United States to vote in the several States of the Union, and for other Purposes.
NicknamesCivil Rights Act of 1870, Enforcement Act, First Ku Klux Klan Act, Force Act
Enacted bythe 41st United States Congress
Statutes at Large16 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 act would develop from separate legislative actions in the House and Senate. H.R. 1293 was introduced by House Republican John Bingham from Ohio on February 21, 1870, and discussed on May 16, 1870.[2] S. 810 grew from several bills from several Senators. Senator George F. Edmunds from Vermont submitted the first bill, followed by Sen. Oliver P. Morton from Indiana, Sen. Charles Sumner from Massachusetts, and Sen. William Stewart from Nevada. After three months of debate in the Committee on the Judiciary, the final Senate version of the bill was introduced to the Senate 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 alsoEdit

U.S. Attorneys General during ReconstructionEdit

U.S. Secretary of War during ReconstructionEdit


  1. ^ Foner, p. 454.
  2. ^ Wang, p. 58.
  3. ^ Wang, p. 59.


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

Further readingEdit

External linksEdit