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1863 December 19: President Lincoln’s Proclamation of Amnesty and Reconstruction

December 21, 2013

President Abraham Lincoln’s proclamation (number 108) of amnesty and reconstruction appeared in the December 19, 1863, issues of both The Prescott Journal and The Polk County Press.  The headlines, wording, and formatting used below are from The Prescott Journal.  Where the text differs from the official version of the proclamation and the difference is important, the missing word(s) has been added in square brackets [].



The Oath of Allegiance !

WHEREAS, By the Constitution of the United States it is provided that the President shall have power to grant reprieve and pardon for offenses against the United States, except in cases of impeachment ;

And, Whereas, A rebellion now exists, wherein the functions of the Government of the United States have for a long time been suspended, and many persons have committed and are now guilty of treason against the United States ;

And, Whereas, As with reference to said rebellion and treason, laws have been enacted by Congress, enacting [declaring] forfeiture and confiscation of property and liberation of slaves, all upon terms and conditions therein stated, and also declares that the President was thereby authorized at any time thereafter by proclamation to extend to persons who may have participated in the existing rebellion in any State, or part thereof [pardon and amnesty], with such exceptions and at such times and on such conditions as he may deem expedient for the public welfare ;

And, Whereas, The Congressional declaration for limited and conditional pardon accords with well-established judicial exposition of the pardoning power ;

And, Whereas, As with reference to said rebellion, the President of the United States has issued several proclamations with provisions in regard to the liberties of slaves, and inviting persons heretofore engaged in said rebellion to resume their allegiance to the United States, and to re-inaugurate loyal State Governments, within and for their respective States :

THEREFORE, I, Abraham Lincoln, President of the United States, do proclaim, declare, and make known to all persons who have, directly or indirectly participated in the existing rebellion, except as hereinafter named, a full pardon is granted to them and each of them with restoration of all rights,  [except as to slaves and in property cases where rights of third parties shall have intervened, and] upon the condition that every such person shall take and subscribe an oath, and thenceforward keep and mantain [sic] said oath inviolate, and which oath shall be registered for permanent preservation, of the following tenor and effect, to wit :

“I do solemnly swear, in presence of Almighty God, that I will  support, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States, and the Union of the States therein ;  and that I will in like manner uphold and faithfully support all acts of Congress, passed during the existing rebellion, with reference to slaves, so long and so far as not repealed, modified, or vetoed by Congress, or by decision of the Supreme Court ;  and that I will in like manner abide by and faithfully support all Proclamations of the President during the existing rebellion, having reference to slaves, so long and so far as not modified or declared void by decision of the Supreme Court.  So help me God !”

The persons excepted from the foregoing provisions are all who are, or shall have been, military officers or agents of the so-called Confederate Government ;  all who have left official stations under the United States, to aid the Rebellion ;  all who are or shall have been military or naval officers of the rank of colonel in the army, or like rank in the navy ;  all who left seats in the United States Congress to aid the Rebellion ;  all who resigned their commissions in the Army and Navy of the United States, and afterwards aided the Rebellion ;  and all who have engaged in any way in treating colored persons, or white persons in charge of such, otherwise than lawfully as prisoners of war, and which persons may be found in the Confederate service, as soldiers, sergeants, or in any other capacity.

And I do further proclaim, declare, and make known that whenever, in any of the States of Arkansas, Texas, Louisiania [sic], Missouri, Tennessee, Alabama, Georgia, Florida, South Carolina, and North Carolina, a number of persons, not less than one-fourth of the number who voted in such States at the Presidential election in the year of our Lord 1860, having taken the oath, and not having since voted, and being a qualified voters by the election laws of the State, at, or immediately before the act of secession, and excluding all others, shall have established a State Government, in nowise contravening said oath, it shall be recognized as the true government of the State ;  and the State shall receive thereunder the benefits of the constitutional provision which declares that the United States shall guarantee to every State in this Union a Republican form of Government, and shall protect each of them against incursion, and on application of the Legislatures, or the Executive, when the legislature can not be convened, against domestic violence.

Secondly, I do further proclaim, declare, and make known, that any provision which may be adopted by such State Government in relation to the freed people of such State, which shall encourage and declare their permanent freedom, and provide for their education, and which may yet be consistent as a temporary arrangement, with their present condition as a laboring, landless, and homeless class, will not be objected to by the National Executive, and it is suggested as not improper, that in assuming a loyal State Government in any State, the line of the boundary, the subdivisions, the construction, and the Federal code of laws, be maintained as before the Rebellion, subject only to the modifications necessary by the conditions hereinbefore stated, and such others, if any, not contravening said conditions as may be deemed expedient by those framing the new State Government.

To avoid misunderstanding, it may be proper to say that this proclamation, so far as it relates to State Governments, has no reference to States wherein loyal State Governments have all the while been maintained, and for the same reason, it may be proper to further say, that whether members sent to Congress from any State can be admitted to seats, constitutionally, rests conclusively with the House of Representatives, and not to any extent with the Executive ;  and still further, that this Proclamation is intended to present to the people of the States wherein the National authority has been suspended, and loyal State Governments have been supported, a mode by which the National authority over every loyal State Government may be established within such States, or in any of them, and while the mode presented is the best the Executive can suggest with his present impressions, it must not be understood that another practicable mode would not be adopted.

GIVEN UNDER MY HAND, at the City of Washington, the 8th day of December, One Thousand Eight Hundred and Sixty Three, and of the Independence of the United States of America, the Eighty-Eighth.


By the President :
. . .WM. H. SEWARD, Secretary of State.

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