Force Acts

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.

Jefferson's Embargo

The first time a force act was used was in 1807, when Congress forced "Jefferson's Embargo" to be repealed.Fact|date=February 2007

Andrew Jackson's tariff enforcement

In 1833, a Force Act was passed by Congress at Andrew Jackson's request, as part of the Nullification Crisis. [cite web
title = Nullification Proclamation
work =Primary Documents in American History
publisher =Library of Congress
date =2006-03-07
url =
accessdate =2007-02-24
] [cite web
title =Statutes at Large, 22nd Congress, 2nd Session, page 632
work =A Century of Lawmaking for a New Nation: U.S. Congressional Documents and Debates, 1774 - 1875
publisher =Library of Congress
date =1833-03-02
url =
accessdate =2007-02-24

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.

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 Ku Klux Klan. Through the acts, actions to influence voters, prevent them from voting, or conspire 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. 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 began 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 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 (which came in effect in 1871) was an act that ended most of the Ku Klux Klan. In this act, the government banned the use of terror, force or bribery to prevent someone from voting because of their race. Other laws banned the KKK entirely. Hundreds of KKK members were tried and thousands of Klansmen were arrested. The first Klan was almost eradicated within a year of federal prosecution.


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