Lincoln’s Proclamation on Amnesty and Reconstruction
In early December 1863, President Abraham Lincoln announced his Proclamation of Amnesty and Reconstruction, an early document aimed at speeding reconciliation and reconstruction of areas recaptured from the Confederacy by this point in the Civil War. At this time in the conflict, Lincoln’s armies had recovered large parts of the South and with the reclaimed territories came a pressing need to rebuild and reorganize them. Lincoln’s document, in an annual message to Congress, sought to permit a full pardon and restoration of property rights to all who had rebelled against the government — save ranking Confederate commanders and leaders. It also called for permitting a new government to be formed when 10 percent of eligible voters had sworn allegiance to the United States and to resolve questions involving freed slaves. Several Northern newspapers immediately supported the plan. “The President’s plan of restoring our Federal system to its normal operation ... finds us already thoroughly committed to it .... What is the problem to be solved? It is — How to restore truly and safely the part of the Union which revolted,” The New York Times said on Dec. 11, 1863.