Andrew Johnson’s Presidential Restoration Plan

May 29, 1865 – President Andrew Johnson issued two proclamations designed to continue former President Abraham Lincoln’s plan to restore the Confederates states to the U.S.

The “Amnesty Proclamation” pardoned anyone involved in the “existing rebellion” if they swore to “henceforth” fully support, protect, and defend the U.S. Constitution, abide by Federal laws, and acknowledge the end of slavery. This generally followed the model Lincoln had established, but while Lincoln had created six classes of southerners ineligible for amnesty, Johnson added eight more. Ineligible southerners included those who:

  • Held civil or diplomatic offices in the Confederacy
  • Resigned from the U.S. Congress or a U.S. judicial post to join the Confederacy
  • Resigned from the U.S. military “to evade duty in resisting the rebellion”
  • Mistreated Federal prisoners of war
  • Served in a rank of colonel or higher in the Confederate army
  • Served in a rank of lieutenant or higher in the Confederate navy
  • Had been educated at a U.S. military academy before joining the Confederacy
  • Served as governors of Confederate states
  • Left their homes in loyal states to live in Confederate states
  • Engaged in destroying Federal commerce
  • Violated prior oaths [1]
17th U.S. President Andrew Johnson | Image Credit: learnnc.org

17th U.S. President Andrew Johnson | Image Credit: learnnc.org

Johnson also excluded every southerner owning more than $20,000 in taxable property. He sought to punish aristocrats—especially wealthy slaveholders—whom he believed had persuaded fellow southerners to support secession. Besides these exclusions, Johnson restored all property to southerners except for slaves. Voting rights would be restored when voters swore loyalty to the U.S. and accepted the end of slavery.[2]

Disqualified southerners were required to personally request a pardon from Johnson and “realize the enormity of their crime,” whereupon “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.”[3]

A second proclamation, drafted by Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton, restored civil government in North Carolina and named William W. Holden as provisional governor. Holden would temporarily rule the state while Federal duties such as tariff collection and mail delivery resumed.[4]

Holden was authorized to organize and schedule an election for delegates to a convention that would draft a new state constitution. The election would take place once 10 percent of the state’s eligible voters (according to the 1860 census) had sworn loyalty to the U.S. Convention delegates would be chosen among the eligible voters. Since blacks had been ineligible to vote in 1860, they were excluded from becoming voters or convention delegates.[5]

The convention delegates were required to:

  • Reject the ordinance of secession
  • Repudiate the Confederate debt
  • Ratify the Thirteenth Amendment abolishing slavery [6]

They also determined requirements for permanent voting and office-holding rights, which had traditionally been state, not Federal, prerogatives. After drafting the new constitution, it would become law when 10 percent of registered voters approved it in a general election. Once the constitution took effect, elections would be held to fill local, state, and Federal offices.[7]

The “North Carolina Proclamation” violated the U.S. Constitution’s guarantee of a republican form of government for each state because Holden was not a popularly elected governor, and 10 percent of the voters would overrule the other 90. Nevertheless, Lincoln had used this plan to restore Louisiana, Tennessee, and Arkansas to the Union, and Johnson also used it to restore the remaining conquered states (South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, and Texas) during the summer of 1865.[8]

Like most events of the post-Civil War era, politics played a major role in shaping these proclamations.

—–

[1] Ferrell, Claudine L., Reconstruction (Greenwood, 2003), p. 18-19; Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971), p. 690-91; Murphy, Richard W., The Nation Reunited: War’s Aftermath (Alexandria, VA: Time-Life Books, 1983), p. 32

[2] CivilWarHome.com/presidentalreconstructionpartII.html (2002); Ferrell, Reconstruction, p. 18-19; Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971), p. 690-91; Stewart, David O., Impeached (New York, NY: Simon & Schuster, 2009), p. 17; Woods, Jr., Thomas E., The Politically Incorrect Guide to American History (Washington: Regnery Publishing, 2004), p. 78

[3] Ferrell, Claudine L., Reconstruction (Greenwood, 2003), p. 18-19; Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971), p. 690-91

[4] Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971), p. 690-91; Murphy, Richard W., The Nation Reunited: War’s Aftermath (Alexandria, VA: Time-Life Books, 1983), p. 32

[5] Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971), p. 690-91; Murphy, Richard W., The Nation Reunited: War’s Aftermath (Alexandria, VA: Time-Life Books, 1983), p. 32

[6] Murphy, Richard W., The Nation Reunited: War’s Aftermath (Alexandria, VA: Time-Life Books, 1983), p. 32; Schlesinger, Jr., Arthur M., The Almanac of American History (Greenwich, CT: Brompton Books Corp., 1993), p. 294

[7] Murphy, Richard W., The Nation Reunited: War’s Aftermath (Alexandria, VA: Time-Life Books, 1983), p. 32; Schlesinger, Jr., Arthur M., The Almanac of American History (Greenwich, CT: Brompton Books Corp., 1993), p. 294

[8] CivilWarHome.com/presidentalreconstructionpartII.html (2002); Murphy, Richard W., The Nation Reunited: War’s Aftermath (Alexandria, VA: Time-Life Books, 1983), p. 32; Napolitano, Andrew P., Dred Scott’s Revenge: A Legal History of Race and Freedom in America (Thomas Nelson, Kindle Edition, 2009); Schweikart, Larry and Allen, Michael, A Patriot’s History of the United States (New York: Penguin Books, 2004), p. 361

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2 thoughts on “Andrew Johnson’s Presidential Restoration Plan

  1. […] President Andrew Johnson issued two proclamations: […]

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