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Letter Announcing Virginia’s Readmission to the United States, 1870


This document is a letter from Secretary of State Hamilton Fish to Governor Gilbert Walker. In the letter, dated January 27, 1870, Fish tells Walker that Congress has approved an act that would readmit Virginia into the United States.

Virginia left the Union in the spring of 1861 in order to join the Confederacy. After four years of war and the Confederacy’s defeat in the Civil War, the process of reconstructing the nation slowly began. Four Reconstruction Acts were passed between 1867 and 1868. These Acts described the necessary requirements for a state to rejoin the Union, one of which was the ratification of the 14th Amendment – a document that Virginia had rejected in 1867. It also required that the state approve and ratify a new State Constitution. Virginia fulfilled the Acts’ requirements and also ratified the 15th Amendment by 1869 and was re-admitted back into the Union in 1870. This left only Texas and Georgia still outside the Union. Both remaining states were re-admitted later the same year.

President Andrew Johnson notably opposed the Acts, as he felt that it would hamper the States’ governments and stand in the way of a peaceful reconciliation between the North and South. Despite his vetoes, Congress managed to pass all four Reconciliation Acts.

Citation: Letter from Secretary of State Fish to Governor Walker, January 26, 1870, Accession 40233, Gilbert Walker Executive Papers, The Library of Virginia, Richmond, Virginia.


VS.1, VS.7, VS.8, USI.1, USI.9, USII.1 USII.3, VUS.1, VUS.7

Suggested Questions

Analyze: Do you think that the Reconstruction Acts were necessarily fair and that Johnson's concerns were warranted? Why or why not?

Analyze: What do you think the Acts meant for Virginia's representation in Congress, and how do you think it would have changed life in the Commonwealth?