May 29, 1865: Amnesty Proclamation

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Johnsonfinal

 

Eventually President Andrew Johnson and the Radical Republicans in Congress would come to bitter blows over the issue of amnesty for former Confederates.  However, for now they were in agreement, and the Presidential Proclamation of May 29, 1865 outlined the oath to be taken by former Confederates and the classes of individuals excluded from taking the oath:

Amnesty Proclamation

 

Whereas the President of the United States, on the 8th day of December, A.D. eighteen hundred and sixty-three, and on the 26 day of March, A.D. eighteen hundred and sixty-four, did, with the object to suppress the existing rebellion, to induce all persons to return to their loyalty, and to restore the authority of the United States, issue proclamations offering amnesty and pardon to certain persons who had directly or by implication participated in the said rebellion; and whereas many persons who had so engaged in said rebellion have, since the issuance of said proclamations, failed or neglected to take the benefits offered thereby; and whereas many persons who have been justly deprived of all claim to amnesty and pardon thereunder, by reason of their participation directly or by implication in said rebellion, and continued hostility to the government of the United States since the date of said proclamation, now desire to apply for and obtain amnesty and pardon:

To the end, therefore, that the authority of the government of the United States may be restored, and that peace, order, and freedom may be established, I, ANDREW JOHNSON, President of the United States, do proclaim and declare that I hereby grant to all persons who have, directly or indirectly, participated in the existing rebellion, except as hereinafter excepted, amnesty and pardon, with restoration of all rights of property, except as to slaves, and except in cases where legal proceedings, under the laws of the United States providing for the confiscation of property of persons engaged in rebellion, have been instituted; but upon the condition, nevertheless, that every such person shall take and subscribe the following oath, (or affirmation,) and thenceforward keep and maintain said oath inviolate; and which oath shall be registered for permanent preservation, and shall be of the tenor and effect following, to wit:

I, _______ _______, do solemnly swear, (or affirm,) in presence of Almighty God, that I will henceforth faithfully support, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States, and the union of the States thereunder; and that I will, in like manner, abide by, and faithfully support all laws and proclamations which have been made during the existing rebellion with reference to the emancipation of slaves. So help me God.

The following classes of persons are excepted from the benefits of this proclamation: 1st, all who are or shall have been pretended civil or diplomatic officers or otherwise domestic or foreign agents of the pretended Confederate government; 2nd, all who left judicial stations under the United States to aid the rebellion; 3d, all who shall have been military or naval officers of said pretended Confederate government above the rank of colonel in the army or lieutenant in the navy; 4th, all who left seats in the Congress of the United States to aid the rebellion; 5th, all who resigned or tendered resignations of their commissions in the army or navy of the United States to evade duty in resisting the rebellion; 6th, all who have engaged in any way in treating otherwise than lawfully as prisoners of war persons found in the United States service, as officers, soldiers, seamen, or in other capacities; 7th, all persons who have been, or are absentees from the United States for the purpose of aiding the rebellion; 8th, all military and naval officers in the rebel service, who were educated by the government in the Military Academy at West Point or the United States Naval Academy; 9th, all persons who held the pretended offices of governors of States in insurrection against the United States; 10th, all persons who left their homes within the jurisdiction and protection of the United States, and passed beyond the Federal military lines into the pretended Confederate States for the purpose of aiding the rebellion; 11th, all persons who have been engaged in the destruction of the commerce of the United States upon the high seas, and all persons who have made raids into the United States from Canada, or been engaged in destroying the commerce of the United States upon the lakes and rivers that separate the British Provinces from the United States; 12th, all persons who, at the time when they seek to obtain the benefits hereof by taking the oath herein prescribed, are in military, naval, or civil confinement, or custody, or under bonds of the civil, military, or naval authorities, or agents of the United States as prisoners of war, or persons detained for offenses of any kind, either before or after conviction; 13th, all persons who have voluntarily participated in said rebellion, and the estimated value of whose taxable property is over twenty thousand dollars; 14th, all persons who have taken the oath of amnesty as prescribed in the President’s proclamation of December 8th, A.D. 1863, or an oath of allegiance to the government of the United States since the date of said proclamation, and who have not thenceforward kept and maintained the same inviolate.

Provided, That special application may be made to the President for pardon by any person belonging to the excepted classes; and such clemency will be liberally extended as may be consistent with the facts of the case and the peace and dignity of the United States.

The Secretary of State will establish rules and regulations for administering and recording the said amnesty oath, so as to insure its benefit to the people, and guard the government against fraud.

In testimony whereof, I have hereunto set my hand, and caused the seal of the United States to be affixed.

Done at the City of Washington, the twenty-ninth day of May, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-five, and of the Independence of the United States the eighty-ninth.

ANDREW JOHNSON

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

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14 Comments

  1. It’s always struck me as odd that you would “preserve a union” by killing those with whom you wish to be united and destroying their homes, cities, and livelihoods.

  2. It has always struck me as odd that the unionists were willing to shred the constitution in order to preserve the union.

  3. My only point is that a union that has to be held together by force is not a functioning nation based upon the consent of the governed. At the time of ratification of the constitution several states, including New York and Virginia, specifically reserved the right to rescind their ratifications. I’m not aware that the convention challenged that right. Ironically, the constitution of the confederacy expressly prohibited secession.

    Like the American colonies, the Southern states had every right to be independent, they just didn’t have the power to back it up.

  4. “My only point is that a union that has to be held together by force is not a functioning nation based upon the consent of the governed.”

    The Union was given birth under such circumstances with some 20-30% of the free population supporting the British.

    “At the time of ratification of the constitution several states, including New York and Virginia, specifically reserved the right to rescind their ratifications.”
    Which of course had zero impact on the effect of the Constitution after they ratified the Constitution. The only way after that to change the Constitution was by amendment or armed revolution.

    “Like the American colonies, the Southern states had every right to be independent, they just didn’t have the power to back it up.”

    No, because there was no long train of abuses, in Mr. Jefferson’s phrase, to justify revolution.

  5. While there was significant dissension among the colonists regarding the Revolution, the Revolution did not create a union. It merely established independence.

    Concur that the Constitution can only be changed by amendment or armed revolution.

    Had the South succeeded, the “long train of abuses” would have been just as apparent as those asserted against Britain.

  6. “While there was significant dissension among the colonists regarding the Revolution, the Revolution did not create a union”

    It most certainly did in the Declaration of Independence.

    “Had the South succeeded, the “long train of abuses” would have been just as apparent as those asserted against Britain.”

    Only if slavery were still practiced in the Confederacy.

  7. Declaration of Independence established a nation? Hadn’t heard that one.

    Don’t follow your second point. One of the primary reasons for the economic, cultural, and social division between north and south was admittedly the slave-based economy of the south vs. the industrial north. But that didn’t make those divisions any less real. Even if the south had ultimately been able to exercise the privilege of self-redemption on the issue of slavery (as every other Western nation did), the political and cultural divisions would have remained. The fact is that, as with the colonists and the mother country, the two sides had simply arrived at the point where they just didn’t like each other very much.

  8. “Declaration of Independence established a nation? Hadn’t heard that one.”

    It says so in the text.

    We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States; that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.

    “Even if the south had ultimately been able to exercise the privilege of self-redemption on the issue of slavery (as every other Western nation did), the political and cultural divisions would have remained.”

    Other than South Carolina during the Nullification Crisis of 1832-33, the South never attempted secession except over slavery. The differences between North and South never threatened national unity except over slavery.

  9. “Free and independent states” is perfectly compatible with the mind of the south.

    Succession being about slavery is your belief, but I’m pretty certain that most southerners of the day didn’t think that way. They were quite aware that their “peculiar institution” was on the wrong side of the gospel. Pope Pius IX perceived danger for the church in the north if the 19th century movement towards secularism and attacks on ascribed authority were unchecked. Pius IX saw such intellectual trends as too liberal. Southern Catholics shared the Pope’s view of northern culture as a threat to the continued existence of Catholic Christianity. Slavery was in the mix, but was far from bei9ng the only motivation for secession.

  10. ““Free and independent states” is perfectly compatible with the mind of the south.”

    Virtually none of the Founding Fathers, North or South, believed that they were doing anything other than creating a new nation, the United States of America, as indicated in the Declaration. How this new nation was to be governed was left for another day, but the creation of a new nation, made up of the States, was the whole point of the Revolution.

    “Seccession being about slavery is your belief, but I’m pretty certain that most southerners of the day didn’t think that way.”

    Jefferson Davis in his first address to the Confederate Congress said that secession was undertaken to defend slavery.

    “They were quite aware that their “peculiar institution” was on the wrong side of the gospel.”

    No, most white Southerners by the time of the Civil War viewed slavery as a positive good, and the only way the two races could live together. See the Cornerstone speech of Alexander Stephens, Vice President of the Confederacy.

    “Pope Pius IX perceived danger for the church in the north if the 19th century movement towards secularism and attacks on ascribed authority were unchecked. Pius IX saw such intellectual trends as too liberal.”

    No historical support at all for this contention. Pius IX did hate nineteenth century liberalism and regarded the Confederacy as a foe of liberalism. In this he was confused. But for slavery the Confederacy was the most liberal state in the world, except for the Union.

    “Southern Catholics shared the Pope’s view of northern culture as a threat to the continued existence of Catholic Christianity.”

    No historical support for this at all. Except for Louisiana, the number of Catholics in the Confederacy was quite small, and their political opinions tended to mirror the dominant opinions of the areas in which they settled, which meant throughout most of the South they were pro-Secession and pro-Slavery.

    “Slavery was in the mix, but was far from being the only motivation for secession.”

    No slavery: no secession. The myth that there were other issues that led to secession is a post war creation when few white Southerners were willing to admit, as they had freely at the beginning of the War, that secession was all about slavery.

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