Andrew Johnson Issues "Christmas Amnesty" Pardoning Former Confederates for Treason Dec. 25, 1868

Pat Young

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On December 25, 1868, Andrew Johnson issued his final amnesty proclamation pardoning former Confederates for treason against the United States. Here is that Christmas Amnesty:


December 25, 1868

By the President of the United States of America

A Proclamation

Whereas the President of the United States has heretofore set forth several proclamations offering amnesty and pardon to persons who had been or were concerned in the late rebellion against the lawful authority of the Government of the United States, which proclamations were severally issued on the 8th day of December, 1863, on the 26th day of March, 1864, on the 29th day of May, 1865, on the 7th day of September, 1867, and on the 4th day of July, in the present year; and

Whereas the authority of the Federal Government having been reestablished in all the States and Territories within the jurisdiction of the United States, it is believed that such prudential reservations and exceptions as at the dates of said several proclamations were deemed necessary and proper may now be wisely and justly relinquished, and that an universal amnesty and pardon for participation in said rebellion extended to all who have borne any part therein will tend to secure permanent peace, order, and prosperity throughout the land, and to renew and fully restore confidence and fraternal feeling among the whole people, and their respect for and attachment to the National Government, designed by its patriotic founders for the general good:

Now, therefore, be it known that I, Andrew Johnson President of the United States, by virtue of the power and authority in me vested by the Constitution and in the name of the sovereign people of the United States, do hereby proclaim and declare unconditionally and without reservation, to all and to every person who, directly or indirectly, participated in the late insurrection or rebellion a full pardon and amnesty for the offense of treason against the United States or of adhering to their enemies during the late civil war, with restoration of all rights, privileges, and immunities under the Constitution and the laws which have been made in pursuance thereof.

In testimony whereof I have signed these presents with my hand and have caused the seal of the United States to be hereunto affixed.
Done at the city of Washington, the 25th day of December, A. D. 1868, and of the Independence of the United States of America the ninety-third.

ANDREW JOHNSON.
By the President:
F. W. SEWARD,
Acting Secretary of State .
 

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Pat Young

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I will offer a sampling of reactions to the proclamation. In most cases, newspapers printed a headline and then the proclamation itself:

Times-Picayune
Friday, Dec 25, 1868
New Orleans, LA
Page: 8


pardon1.JPG
 

Pat Young

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The NY Herald, a Democratic paper, did some actual reporting on the story. First it described the reaction of politicians, then it excerpted newspaper reactions:

Herald
Saturday, Dec 26, 1868
New York, NY
Page: 8


pardH1.JPG

pardh2.JPG
 

Pat Young

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The Memphis Avalanche was a Democratic newspaper sympathetic to the Klan.

Memphis Daily Avalanche
Sunday, Dec 27, 1868
Memphis, TN
Vol: 11
Issue: 200

censure.JPG

censure2.JPG

censure3.JPG
 

Pat Young

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The Charleston Daily News was a Democratic paper:

Charleston daily news
Saturday, Dec 26, 1868
Charleston, SC
Vol: 6
Page: 3

daily.JPG
 

JPK Huson 1863

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Goodness yes. Not doing so could only add to the shambles our country was in, generate a need to build more prisons, divide us even further. And think about it- how in heck would it have worked? Who would be prosecuted, just the government or every, single soldier, every, single woman who supported the Confederacy by nursing wounded men? We'd still be putting them on trial in 2018, how does anyone come up with court time for so many?

Someone did seem to forget to send Johnson's memo to Brownlow and a few others, however. Never have made a secret of being appalled by what Southern civilians suffered through those awful years of war. War over, next wave hit in a few areas.
 

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I have one reservation here. The Amnesty resulted ultimately in political power in the South going right back into the (unrepentant) hands of those who had plunged the country into four years of blood and destruction; while at the same time, it betrayed the loyal service and sacrifices of hundreds of thousands of southern Unionists; and, most of all the hopes and aspirations of the freedmen, whose emancipation was the ONLY true redeeming element in the entire lunatic enterprise.

"Let 'em up easy" is fine and admirable, but at the cost of betrayal of those most deserving of protection or reward? There must have been a better way.

I, personally, don't know what that best way to handle it might have been. Clearly there was no available consensus for finding a "fair, just, and honorable" solution. Reconstruction, properly, conscientiously carried out, might have provided one ... but never really had a chance. Greed,
arrogance, and racism (on both sides) saw to that.
 
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Andersonh1

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Amnesty for the rank and file Confederate soldier was acceptable, no amnesty until more years down the road for her military leaders, and imho, the leaders of the Confederate government should have been executed.
Is the United States of America in the habit of executing the leadership of opponents who we vanquish in war?
 

unionblue

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I'm with @Copperhead-mi on this one.

Rank and file soldiers should be pardoned, the leaders of the rebellion who brought them and the rest of the nation to grief, not so much.

Banishment, maybe for a term of years, imprisonment, certainly. The results of what happened in the South after the war speaks volumes.
 
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Amnesty for the rank and file Confederate soldier was acceptable, no amnesty until more years down the road for her military leaders, and imho, the leaders of the Confederate government should have been executed.
I am of the Lincoln persuasion on the subject of executions - nobody should be executed. However, I do believe there should have been treason trials for the principle leaders, after which they could have been pardoned. Conviction first, then pardon. Those leaders fit both the letter and spirit of the constitutional legal definition of traitors and should have been labeled as such legally before being pardoned. A blanket pardon for the rank and file soldiers and those who considered themselves citizens of the CSA was appropriate.
 


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