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Vocabulary in Civil Rights Act of 1866

Vocabulary Examples in Civil Rights Act of 1866:

Text of the Act

🔒 8

"posse comitatus..."   (Text of the Act)

The phrase “posse comitatus” refers to the group of local, able-bodied persons a sheriff can quickly assemble for law enforcement purposes. Though it originates in English law, the phrase can be directly translated from Latin as “possible companions.” It is the source of the colloquial word “posse,” as popularly used in the Western United States. In this context, the phrase is used to empower local law enforcement to gather civilian forces and local militias in order to enforce the Civil Rights Act.

"habeas corpus..."   (Text of the Act)

The legal term “habeas corpus” is Latin for “thou shalt have the body.” It pertains to court cases in which the judge asks to see the defendant in person, requiring his or her physical presence in the courtroom.

"under color of any law..."   (Text of the Act)

In legal settings, the word “color” refers to “apparent authority” and has negative connotations, suggesting a pretense for illegal behavior. Thus the phrase “under color of any law” intends to identify those who would use local laws and customs to infringe on the rights of American citizens, including former slaves.

"warrants..."   (Text of the Act)

In legal and administrative contexts, a “warrant” is a document issued by an authoritative body that sanctions a specific action for a law enforcement official. Common warrants include orders that empower officials to make arrests, seizures, or searches, as well as execute judicial sentences or perform other acts relating to administering justice.

"marshals..."   (Text of the Act)

The noun “marshal” has varied definitions, but in this context, it refers to a government official whose responsibilities are administrative and judicial, such as serving writs, levying and collecting fines, as well as other aspects of federal law enforcement.

"cognizance..."   (Text of the Act)

The noun “cognizance” has two applicable definitions in this passage. First, it refers to having knowledge, understanding, or familiarity as obtained by observation, information, or perception. Second, in legal contexts, “cognizance” refers to the action of hearing and trying legal cases. Congress’s inclusion of this word then emphasizes the need for district courts to not only be informed of any violations of the Civil Rights Act but also to reserve the right to take judicial action against transgressions.

"a misdemeanor..."   (Text of the Act)

In legal contexts, a “misdemeanor” differs from other crimes—such as a felony, which is more serious—in that the punishment for the offence does not involve the forfeiture of property. This is why section 2 clarifies that the fine for a misdemeanor is not more than one-thousand dollars or a limited time—one year—in prison.

"and furnish the Means of their Vindication..."   (Text of the Act)

The first line of the Civil Rights Act of 1866 clearly states its purpose: to not only protect all Americans in their civil rights, but also to offer all of the ways (to “furnish”) in which this protection will be enforced (“the means of their vindication”). With the Emancipation Proclamation, the Thirteenth Amendment, and the end of the Civil War, African Americans found themselves no longer in bondage. However, the institution of slavery had permeated all aspects of social life, and the former Confederate states instituted discriminatory and oppressive “black codes.” To address such policies, the Republican Congress actively sought ways to provide support for African Americans. This act serves as one of them.

"ex post facto law..."   (Presidential Veto)

The legal phrase ex post facto is Latin for “after the fact,” and refers to laws which operate retrospectively. Johnson mentions the prohibition of ex post facto laws as one of the many federal regulations set on states.

"Attest:..."   (Veto Override)

The verb “to attest” means to affirm the truth, or certify the veracity of a claim. Similarly, the noun form means evidence, testimony, or witness. In the context of the veto override, “Attest” means that J. W. Forney has certified the Senate Override by formally signing the document and bearing witness to the vote in the Senate.

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