The U.S. Department of Justice has been fodder for suspense and conspiracy theory novelists for years as well as sparking the ire of politicians on both sides of the aisle. More recently, it been the subject of many a dinnertime debate between average citizens as unrest and division is revealed from within the behemoth organization.
Despite periodic controversies and bad press, the D.O.J. has been a force for good on innumerable occasions since its inception on this day in 1870. So how did the D.O.J. come into being?
On June 22 in 1870, President Ulysses S Grant signed a bill forging the path for the formation of the United States Department of Justice. A Justice Department, however, was not a new concept. In fact, right before the start of the so-called “War Between the States,” the Confederated States of America formed one that was apparently quite effective. It took a shocking half-century of amendments of the 1870 D.O.J. to bring it up to the level of competency of the earlier department.
While the head of the D.O.J. is of course, the U.S. Attorney General, that role was firmly established long before (in 1789) the agency we know today was formed during the Grant administration. In its infancy, the job of Attorney General was conceived as simply a legal advisor for the president and Congress, but it quickly morphed into much more.
This leadership position requires nomination by the sitting president and subsequent Senate confirmation. Today, the United States Department of Justice is comprised of a voluminous host of agencies, offices and programs under its “umbrella” and all under the direction of a very busy United States Attorney General who answers to the president.
In its early years, the D.O.J. spent the majority of its time, resources and considerable energy in the “vigorous prosecution” of Ku Klux Klan members for their heinous crimes against minorities. President Grant was said the be a true force with which to be reckoned in this crucial fight against the gravest of injustices that led to a dramatic drop in violent crime especially in the south, perhaps his greatest contribution to the Reconstruction effort.
A civil society will always need “good guys” in constant pursuit of the bad. Man is fallen, true justice is blind. And so it shall ever be.