Designing Suits for Poltergeists: Some Non-Reconstruction Adventures
E xcept for the Freedmen's Bureau, whose duration and jurisdictions were always limited, all other national functional innovations begun during the War and Reconstruction lacked coercive provisions. All, including the Bureau, suffered from inadequate budgets and accepted constraints imposed by traditional constitutionalism.
A clear relationship existed between funds and futility. For example, in 1862 Congress enacted antipolygamy statutes for the territories. But Mormon leaders were unworried. Enforcement consisted only of prosecutions in national courts. Similarly, in 1862 Congress emancipated slaves in the District of Columbia and the territories. But white New Mexicans, many of whom held Indians in slavelike peonage, ignored the law, one resident noting that "It neither provided a penalty for its violations nor a remedy for those desiring to secure its benefits."
The Thirteenth Amendment and the 1866 Civil Rights law created to enforce it worked no better in New Mexico, Republican congressmen learned. In Washington, lawmakers were uncertain even about peonage's technical definition. Nevertheless they enacted a bill, which President Johnson signed on March 2, 1867,