This week in the Civil War | Lincoln clarifies his 1863 Amnesty proclamation

March 21, 2014 

President Abraham Lincoln, on March 26, 1864, issued a proclamation refining his Proclamation of Amnesty and Reconstruction, which was issued in December 1863.

Originally, Lincoln had offered a full pardon to all who had engaged in rebellion but had desisted and subsequently sworn an oath of allegiance to the Union — with the exception of ranking Confederate leaders and military officers.

He also had said a new state government could be formed in areas reclaimed by the Union once a tenth of eligible voters in those areas had taken such a loyalty oath.

The initial proclamation came after federal forces had begun recapturing several areas of the Confederacy.

With his new proclamation of March 1864, the president made clear that his 1863 amnesty did not apply to anyone under military or civil confinement, nor to prisoners of war and those detained for crimes of any sort.

“On the contrary,” Lincoln wrote, “it does apply only to those persons who, being yet at large, and free from any arrest ... shall voluntarily come forward and take the said oath, with the purpose of restoring peace and establishing the national authority.”

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