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Lincoln's Proclamation of Amnesty and
Reconstruction - December 8, 1863
by Gil Wilson
First public notice of the December 8, 1863 Presidential proclamation offering amnesty to citizens of
the Confederacy, providing they take an oath that they "will abide by and faithfully support all
proclamations of the President made during the existing rebellion having reference to slaves" (i.e.
the Emancipation Proclamation).

The issue was how how to restore the states that were separated from the union.  "The crisis which
threatened to divide the friends of the Union is past",announced Lincoln. Who would be in charge:
Congress or the President? In his message to Congress on December 8, 1863, Lincoln declared
reconstruction of the South a wholly executive responsibility and offered full pardon with restoration
of all rights of property, except as to slaves, to all rebels who would take an oath of future loyalty to
the Constitution and pledge to obey acts of Congress and presidential proclamations relating to
slavery. Those excluded from taking the oath were the highest ranking members of the Confederacy
government officials, judges, military and naval officers above the rank of army colonel or navy
lieutenant, former congressmen, and all who have engaged in treating colored persons or white
persons otherwise than lawfully as prisoners of war.

Lincoln encouraged the Southern states to make provisions in relation to the freed people of such
State, which shall recognize and declare their permanent freedom, 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.

Copies were reprinted throughout southern areas under union control including copies made in
February 15, 1864 at Union Army headquarters in St. Augustine, Florida, where Major Hays was
authorized to administer the oath “to such persons of that vicinity. A public meeting had been
held in St. Augustine on December 18, 1864.
Major Hay was Lincoln's former secretary and the
future Secretary of State under and
William McKinley and Theodore Roosevelt.

Proclamation of Amnesty and Reconstruction

BY THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA:

A PROCLAMATION.

"Whereas, in and by the Constitution of the United States, it is provided that the President "shall
have power to grant reprieves and pardons for offenses against the United States, except in cases
of impeachment;" and

"Whereas a rebellion now exists whereby the loyal State governments of several States have for a
long time been subverted, and many persons have committed and are now guilty of treason against
the United States; and Whereas, with reference to said rebellion and treason, laws have been
enacted by Congress declaring forfeitures and confiscation of property and liberation of slaves, all
upon terms and conditions therein stated, and also declaring 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, with reference to said
rebellion, the President of the United States has issued several proclamations, with provisions in
regard to the liberation of slaves; and Whereas it is now desired by some persons heretofore
engaged in said rebellion to resume their allegiance to the United States, and to reinaugurate 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 by implication, participated in the existing rebellion, except as
hereinafter excepted, that a full pardon is hereby granted to them and each of them, with restoration
of all rights of property, 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 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, 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 acts of Congress passed during the
existing rebellion with reference to slaves, so long and so far as not repealed, modified or held void
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 made 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 benefits of the foregoing provisions are all who are, or shall have
been, civil or diplomatic officers or agents of the so-called confederate government; all who have left
judicial stations under the United States to aid the rebellion; all who are, or shall have been, military
or naval officers of said so-called confederate government above the rank of colonel in the army, or
of lieutenant in the navy; all who left seats in the United States Congress to aid the rebellion; all who
resigned commissions in the army or 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 have been found in the
United States service, as soldiers, seamen, or in any other capacity."

"And I do further proclaim, declare, and make known, that whenever, in any of the States of
Arkansas, Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Tennessee, Alabama, Georgia, Florida, South Carolina,
and North Carolina, a number of persons, not less than one-tenth in number of the votes cast in
such State at the Presidential election of the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty,
each having taken the oath aforesaid and not having since violated it, and being a qualified voter by
the election law of the State existing immediately before the so-called act of secession, and
excluding all others, shall re-establish a State government which shall be republican, and in no wise
contravening said oath, such 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 guaranty to every State in this union a republican form of government, and shall protect
each of them against invasion; and, on application of the legislature, or the executive, (when the
legislature cannot be convened,) against domestic violence."

"And 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 recognize and
declare their permanent freedom, 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
constructing a loyal State government in any State, the name of the State, the boundary, the
subdivisions, the constitution, and the general code of laws, as before the rebellion, be maintained,
subject only to the modifications made necessary by the conditions hereinbefore stated, and such
others, if any, not contravening said conditions, and which 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 shall be admitted to seats, constitutionally rests exclusively with the
respective Houses, and not to any extent with the Executive. And still further, that this proclamation
is intended to present the people of the States wherein the national authority has been suspended,
and loyal State governments have been subverted, a mode in and by which the national authority
and loyal State governments may be re-established within said 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 no other possible mode would be acceptable."

"Given under my hand at the city, of Washington, the 8th. day of December, A.D. one thousand
eight hundred and sixty-three, and of the independence of the United States of America the eighty-
eighth."

ABRAHAM LINCOLN

By the President:

WILLIAM H. SEWARD, Secretary of State

                             *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *

Prior to Lincoln's Amnesty Oath various oaths were administered. This is the oath and pass for the
4th New Hampshire for St. Augustine:

The oath for the 4th New Hampshire stated: I ______ born in ____________________ aged _____
years, do solemnly swear that I will bear true allegiance to the United States of America; that I will in
no manner aid the enemies of the United States, and particularly that I will oppose in every manner,
any force acting in opposition to the authority of the United States. So help me God.

Sworn to before me this ______ day of  _______1862.

Pass
St. Augustine, Fla., ___________ 1862
I _______________________________ born in __________________________ aged _____
years, do solemnly swear that I will bear true allegiance to the United States of America; that I will in
no manner aid the enemies of the United States, and particularly that I will oppose in every manner,
may force acting in opposition to the authority of the United States. So Help me God.

Sworn to before me this _____ day of ________1862.

Notes: For more information about loyality oaths see the following:

Pass through the lines July 1, 1861

Loyality Oath Montgomery County - October 11, 1864

Loyality Oath of Samuel Dunlap - August 12, 1865

Loyality Oath of John Henry - August 22, 1865

Amnesty Oath of David Raney - October 18, 1865

The Federal government had a wide range of loyalty oaths see
Railroad
Loyalty oath for a 1862 version
Picture of Abraham Lincoln in 1864
Library of Congress
Picture of John Hay
Library of Congress
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