Civil War Wiki

Force Acts can refer to several groups of acts passed by the United States Congress. The term usually refers to the events after the American Civil War.

Thomas Jefferson's Embargo (1807)[]

The first time a force act was used was in 1807, when Congress forced "Jefferson's Embargo" to be repealed.[citation needed]

Andrew Jackson's Tariff Enforcement (1833)[]

The Force Bill, 4 Stat. 632 (1833), was passed by Congress at Andrew Jackson's request, as part of the Nullification Crisis.[1][2]

Congress put a heavy tariff on imports and raw materials, an act aimed at promoting domestic manufacturing. South Carolina declared federal protective tariffs void and therefore tried to prohibit duty collection. The Act gave the president the authority to use military power to enforce revenue laws. Fortunately, he never had to; instead, a compromise tariff was proposed by Henry Clay—one which John C. Calhoun and other South Carolinians eventually accepted.

The conflict helped enforce the idea of secession which ultimately led to the American Civil War.[citation needed]

Acts after the Civil War[]

The four Force Acts passed by the Congress of the United States shortly after the American Civil War helped protect the voting rights of African-Americans.

The Force Acts were mainly aimed at limiting the activities of the Ku Klux Klan. Through the acts, actions committed with the intent to influence voters, prevent them from voting, or conspiring to deprive them of civil rights, including life, were made federal offenses. Thus the federal government had the power to prosecute the offenses, including calling federal juries to hear the cases.

The KKK became powerful during early Reconstruction in the 1860s as hatred for African-Americans increased. The Klan was one of several secret vigilante organizations that tried to keep African Americans from using their civil rights and that targeted African American leaders for intimidation and murder.

The KKK was founded in Pulaski, Tennessee, in 1865 as a social club for veteran soldiers. However, it very quickly changed into a force of terror, as insurgents tried to reassert white supremacy. Members dressed in white robes and hoods so no one would recognize them. They rode and attacked usually at night, intimidating blacks with physical attacks, murders and the destruction of their houses and property. White schoolteachers and Republicans were also attacked.

By 1868, The KKK was active in Georgia. It tried to disfranchise blacks or keep them from participating in the government. The Klan became so powerful in the South that Congress passed laws to stop them.

The Force Act of 1870 (41st Congress, Sess. 2, ch. 114, Template:USStat, enacted May 31, 1870, effective 1871) was an act that restricted the first wave of the groups that make up the Ku Klux Klan.[3] In this act, the government banned the use of terror, force or bribery to prevent people from voting because of their race. Other laws banned the KKK entirely. Hundreds of KKK members were arrested and tried as common criminals and terrorists. The first Klan was all but eradicated within a year of federal prosecution.


  1. "Nullification Proclamation". Primary Documents in American History. Library of Congress. 2006-03-07. Retrieved 2007-02-24. 
  2. "Statutes at Large, 22nd Congress, 2nd Session, page 632". A Century of Lawmaking for a New Nation: U.S. Congressional Documents and Debates, 1774 - 1875. Library of Congress. 1833-03-02. Retrieved 2007-02-24. 
  3. The Force Acts of 1870-1871.