July 15, 1870: Georgia Readmitted to the Union

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Georgia was the last of the former Confederate States to be readmitted to the Union.  Congress refused to sit Georgia representatives or senators in Congress in 1869 due to the action of the Georgia legislature in expelling black members of that body.  This was followed by an attack by a white mob in the town of Camilla, Georgia on a Republican gathering that killed 12 blacks.  Federal military rule was reimposed in December of 1869.  In 1870 the troops were withdrawn and the Georgia Congressional delegation seated, when the Georgia legislature agreed to sit blacks.  By 1872 Geogia was firmly under the control of one of the so-called “Redeemer” white governments throughout the old Confederacy that used a mixture of legislation and terrorism to disenfranchise blacks.  The Civil War ended slavery and preserved the Union.  The Reconstruction era failed to protect the civil rights of blacks, a sad legacy that is still impacting the nation.

Published in: on July 15, 2021 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on July 15, 1870: Georgia Readmitted to the Union  
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May 29, 1865: Amnesty Proclamation

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Eventually President Andrew Johnson and the Radical Republicans in Congress would come to bitter blows over the issue of amnesty for former Confederates.  However, for now they were in agreement, and the Presidential Proclamation of May 29, 1865 outlined the oath to be taken by former Confederates and the classes of individuals excluded from taking the oath:

Amnesty Proclamation

 

Whereas the President of the United States, on the 8th day of December, A.D. eighteen hundred and sixty-three, and on the 26 day of March, A.D. eighteen hundred and sixty-four, did, with the object to suppress the existing rebellion, to induce all persons to return to their loyalty, and to restore the authority of the United States, issue proclamations offering amnesty and pardon to certain persons who had directly or by implication participated in the said rebellion; and whereas many persons who had so engaged in said rebellion have, since the issuance of said proclamations, failed or neglected to take the benefits offered thereby; and whereas many persons who have been justly deprived of all claim to amnesty and pardon thereunder, by reason of their participation directly or by implication in said rebellion, and continued hostility to the government of the United States since the date of said proclamation, now desire to apply for and obtain amnesty and pardon:

To the end, therefore, that the authority of the government of the United States may be restored, and that peace, order, and freedom may be established, I, ANDREW JOHNSON, President of the United States, do proclaim and declare that I hereby grant to all persons who have, directly or indirectly, participated in the existing rebellion, except as hereinafter excepted, amnesty and pardon, with restoration of all rights of property, except as to slaves, and except in cases where legal proceedings, under the laws of the United States providing for the confiscation of property of persons engaged in rebellion, have been instituted; but upon the condition, nevertheless, that every such person shall take and subscribe the following oath, (or affirmation,) 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, (or affirm,) 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 laws and proclamations which have been made during the existing rebellion with reference to the emancipation of slaves. So help me God. (more…)

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March 3, 1865: Lincoln Signs Bill Creating Freedmen’s Bureau

One of the chief instruments of Reconstruction, the Freedmen’s Bureau, formally known as The Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands, had a broad area of responsibility as set forth in the Act creating it:

An Act to establish a Bureau for the Relief of Freedmen and Refugees.

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That there is hereby established in the War Department, to continue during the present war of rebellion, and for one year thereafter, a bureau of refugees, freedmen, and abandoned lands, to which shall be committed, as hereinafter provided, the supervision and management of all abandoned lands, and the control of all subjects relating to refugees and freedmen from rebel states, or from any district of country within the territory embraced in the operations of the army, under such rules and regulations as may be prescribed by the head of the bureau and approved by the President. The said bureau shall be under the management and control of a commissioner to be appointed by the President, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate, whose compensation shall be three thousand dollars per annum, and such number of clerks as may be assigned to him by the Secretary of War, not exceeding one chief clerk, two of the fourth class, two of the third class, and five of the first class. And the commissioner and all persons appointed under this act, shall, before entering upon their duties, take the oath of office prescribed in an act entitled “An act to prescribe an oath of office, and for other purposes,” approved July second, eighteen hundred and sixty-two, and the commissioner and the chief clerk shall, before entering upon their duties, give bonds to the treasurer of the United States, the former in the sum of fifty thousand dollars, and the latter in the sum of ten thousand dollars, conditioned for the faithful discharge of their duties respectively, with securities to be approved as sufficient by the Attorney-General, which bonds shall be filed in the office of the first comptroller of the treasury, to be by him put in suit for the benefit of any injured party upon any breach of the conditions thereof.

SEC. 2. And be it further enacted, That the Secretary of War may direct such issues of provisions, clothing, and fuel, as he may deem needful for the immediate and temporary shelter and supply of destitute and suffering refugees and freedmen and their wives and children, under such rules and regulations as he may direct.

SEC. 3. And be it further enacted, That the President may, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate, appoint an assistant commissioner for each of the states declared to be in insurrection, not exceeding ten in number, who shall, under the direction of the commissioner, aid in the execution of the provisions of this act; and he shall give a bond to the Treasurer of the United States, in the sum of twenty thousand dollars, in the form and manner prescribed in the first section of this act. Each of said commissioners shall receive an annual salary of two thousand five hundred dollars in full compensation for all his services. And any military officer may be detailed and assigned to duty under this act without increase of pay or allowances. The commissioner shall, before the commencement of each regular session of congress, make full report of his proceedings with exhibits of the state of his accounts to the President, who shall communicate the same to congress, and shall also make special reports whenever required to do so by the President or either house of congress; and the assistant commissioners shall make quarterly reports of their proceedings to the commissioner, and also such other special reports as from time to time may be required.

SEC. 4. And be it further enacted, That the commissioner, under the direction of the President, shall have authority to set apart, for the use of loyal refugees and freedmen, such tracts of land within the insurrectionary states as shall have been abandoned, or to which the United States shall have acquired title by confiscation or sale, or otherwise, and to every male citizen, whether refugee or freedman, as aforesaid, there shall be assigned not more than forty acres of such land, and the person to whom it was so assigned shall be protected in the use and enjoyment of the land for the term of three years at an annual rent not exceeding six per centum upon the value of such land, as it was appraised by the state authorities in the year eighteen hundred and sixty, for the purpose of taxation, and in case no such appraisal can be found, then the rental shall be based upon the estimated value of the land in said year, to be ascertained in such manner as the commissioner may by regulation prescribe. At the end of said term, or at any time during said term, the occupants of any parcels so assigned may purchase the land and receive such title thereto as the United States can convey, upon paying therefor the value of the land, as ascertained and fixed for the purpose of determining the annual rent aforesaid.

SEC. 5. And be it further enacted, That all acts and parts of acts inconsistent with the provisions of this act, are hereby repealed.

Congress would reauthorize the Freedmen’s Bureau each year until 1872 when it was dissolved.  We shall follow its activities in future posts.

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June 19, 1865: Juneteenth

The last slaves liberated on June 19, 1865 in Texas by the Union troops occupying Galveston.  The event has been commemorated down through the years as Juneteenth: (more…)

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Pitchfork Ben Tillman and The Ending of Reconstruction in South Carolina

I trust that regular readers of this blog can tell from my posts that I take pride in being an American and enjoy studying the history of our nation.  Alas, no American can take pride in all aspects of our history.  One feature of our history that is a matter of shame and not pride is the treatment that Black Americans endured in our nation for centuries.

After the Civil War, “Redeemer” white governments arose after Reconstruction and fought to take away the newly won franchise from Blacks .

Senator “Pitchfork” Ben Tillman of South Carolina, he got the nickname Pitchfork  from stating in his 1896 that he would drive a Pitchfork into President Grover Cleveland’s ribs, on March 23, 1900 in a speech in the Senate summed up what happened to the rights of blacks throughout the South:

We did not disfranchise the negroes until 1895. Then we had a constitutional convention convened which took the matter up calmly, deliberately, and avowedly with the purpose of disfranchising as many of them as we could under the fourteenth and fifteenth amendments. We adopted the educational qualification as the only means left to us, and the negro is as contented and as prosperous and as well protected in South Carolina to-day as in any State of the Union south of the Potomac. He is not meddling with politics, for he found that the more he meddled with them the worse off he got. As to his “rights”—I will not discuss them now. We of the South have never recognized the right of the negro to govern white men, and we never will. We have never believed him to be equal to the white man, and we will not submit to his gratifying his lust on our wives and daughters without lynching him. I would to God the last one of them was in Africa and that none of them had ever been brought to our shores. But I will not pursue the subject further.

Of course “Pitchfork” Ben prettied up the process for a national audience.  Rights were taken away from Blacks in South Carolina through a long process of violence and murder.  Tillman was involved in one notorious incident, the Hamburg massacre of 1876, that Tillman bragged about when he ran for governor in 1890.

The Attorney General of South Carolina made a report on the Massacre shortly after it occurred: (more…)

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President What’s His Name

 

Poor Andrew Johnson! You know that a President is obscure when a film made 77 years ago, when the average American knew far more American history than the average American does today, has a trailer with a quiz about the presidential subject of the film. This is a shame. Andrew Johnson was a fascinating man and led a fascinating life.

Born on December 29, 1808, his father died when he was three, from the ill effects incurred by his efforts in saving several people from drowning, leaving his mother, young Andrew and Andrew’s elder brother William, in dire poverty. Johnson, along with his brother William, were apprenticed by his mother, not an uncommon arrangement at that time , to a tailor when Johnson was 10 or 14, and he learned the tailor’s trade. Johnson never had a formal education and taught himself to read and write. In 1826 Johnson opened his own tailor shop in Greenville Tennessee, located in far eastern Tennessee in the foothills of the Smoky Mountains.

In 1827 Johnson married Eliza McCardle, probably the turning point in his life. His saintly wife instructed him in mathematics and improved his reading and writing skills. She would read to him while he worked. Johnson drank up the knowledge, worked diligently and his business prospered. It quickly became a center for political discussion in the town as Johnson was fond of talking about politics and debating the issues of the day. To hone his debating skills Johnson joined a debate club at a small college.

 

 

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Published in: on March 19, 2019 at 5:30 am  Comments (3)  
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December 8, 1863: Lincoln Issues Proclamation of Amnesty and Reconstruction

 

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By the end of 1863 Abraham Lincoln could look back on a year in which the Union had made some progress in its goal of defeating the Confederacy.  Although barren of results, the Union had won the largest battle of the War at Gettysburg, a huge boost for Union morale.  In the West results were more tangible, with the Union seizing control of the Mississippi, and rooting Confederate forces from Tennessee.  The Union certainly had not yet won the War, but the signs were encouraging.  This allowed Lincoln to turn his attention to the vexing questions of what to do with former Confederates who wished to pledge their loyalty to the Union and how to re-establish pro-Union civilian governments throughout the Confederacy.  Lincoln had always been clear in his view that the Confederate states had never left the Union, and that once the rebels who had seized control of these states were suppressed, that these states could resume their rightful places in the Union.  His policy thus favored leniency both to individuals and to states, to ensure that the military victory of the Union would be followed by a lasting peace.  It is a great tragedy that Lincoln did not live to attempt to implement the policy.  On December 8, 1863 Lincoln issued a Proclamation that set forth his policy regarding amnesty for individuals and the re-establishment of pro-Union civil governments in defeated Confederate states.  Here is the proclamation: (more…)

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Grant’s War on the Klan

President Grant has a rather deserved reputation for being a poor president.  However there were bright spots to his term in office, and one of the brightest was the war he waged against the Klan.

Basically a domestic terrorist group that used violence and the threat of violence against blacks and Republicans in the South, the activities by the Klan had aroused a fury in the North by 1870.    With Grant taking the lead Congress passed the Ku Klux Klan act on April 30, 1871.  The text of the Act is here.  The Act gave broad powers to the Executive Branch to combat the Klan, including use of the military and suspension of the writ of habeus corpus.  (more…)

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What Might Have Been

 

 

One of the great tragedies of American history is that Abraham Lincoln was assassinated before he could implement his post war reconstruction policy.  In a letter in January 1864 to Major General James Wadsworth, a wealthy New York politician and philanthropist who helped found the Free Soil Party, Lincoln set forth his basic policy:

 

You desire to know, in the event of our complete success in the field, the same being followed by a loyal and cheerful submission on the part of the South, if universal amnesty should not be accompanied with universal suffrage.

Now, since you know my private inclinations as to what terms should be granted to the South in the contingency mentioned, I will here add, that if our success should thus be realized, followed by such desired results, I cannot see, if universal amnesty is granted, how, under the circumstances, I can avoid exacting in return universal suffrage, or, at least, suffrage on the basis of intelligence and military service.

How to better the condition of the colored race has long been a study which has attracted my serious and careful attention; hence I think I am clear and decided as to what course I shall pursue in the premises, regarding it a religious duty, as the nation’s guardian of these people, who have so heroically vindicated their manhood on the battle-field, where, in assisting to save the life of the Republic, they have demonstrated in blood their right to the ballot, which is but the humane protection of the flag they have so fearlessly defended.The restoration of the Rebel States to the Union must rest upon the principle of civil and political equality of the both races; and it must be sealed by general amnesty. (more…)

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July 2, 1864: Wade-Davis Bill Passes Congress

 

In 1864 Lincoln faced three main challenges:  winning the War, winning re-election and how the defeated Confederate States, assuming the winning of the War, could be brought back into the Union.  The first two challenges were obviously more immediately pressing, but the question of Reconstruction would grow ever larger as an issue during the brief remainder of Lincoln’s life.  On July 2 Congress passed the Wade-Davis bill.  The bill set up as a condition for a state to be readmitted to the Union that a majority of white voters take an oath to support the Constitution and laws of the United States.  It also effectively disenfranchised almost all white voters by banning those who had borne arms voluntarily against the United States.  This flew in the face of Lincoln’s plan which required only 10 percent of white voters to take an oath of loyalty and extended a pardon to all Confederates except high ranking military and those who had held elective office.  Lincoln pocket vetoed the bill on July 8, 1864.  Here is the text of the bill and Lincoln’s pocket veto message:

 

 

 

 

A Bill to guarantee to certain States whose Governments have been usurped or overthrown a Republican Form of Government.

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That in the states declared in rebellion against the United States, the President shall, by and with the advice and con- sent of the Senate, appoint for each a provisiona1 governor, whose pay and emoluments shall not exceed that of a brigadier-general of volunteers, who shall be charged with the civil administration of such state until a state government therein shall be recognized as hereinafter provided.

SEC. 2. And be it further enacted, That so soon as the military resistance to the United States shall have been suppressed in any such state, and the people thereof shall have sufficiently returned to their obedience to the constitution and the laws of the United States, the provisional governor shall direct the marshal of the United States, as speedily as may be, to name a sufficient number of deputies, and to enroll all white male citizens of the United States, resident in the state in their respective counties, and to request each one to take the oath to support the constitution of the United States, and in his enrolment to designate those who take and those who refuse to take that oath, which rolls shall be forthwith returned to the provisional governor; and if the persons taking that oath shall amount to a majority of the persons enrolled in the state, he shall, by proclamation, invite the loyal people of the state to elect delegates to a convention charged to declare the will of the people of the state relative to the reestablish- ment of a state government subject to, and in conformity with, the constitution of the United States.

SEC. 3. And be it further enacted, That the convention shall consist of as many members as both houses of the last constitutional state legislature, apportioned by the provisional governor among the counties, parishes, or districts of the state, in proportion to the white population, returned as electors, by the marshal, in compliance with the provisions of this act. The provisional governor shall, by proclamation, declare the number of delegates to be elected by each county, parish, or election district; name a day of election not less than thirty days thereafter; designate the places of voting in each county, parish, or district, conforming as nearly as may be convenient to the places used in the state elec- tions next preceding the rebellion; appoint one or more commissioners to hold the election at each place of voting, and provide an adequate force to keep the peace during the election.

SEC.4. And be it further enacted, That the delegates shall be elected by the loyal white male citizens of the United States of the age of twenty-one years, and resident at the time in the county, parish, or district in which they shall offer to vote, and enrolled as aforesaid, or absent in the military service of the United States, and who shal1 take and subscribe the oath of allegiance to the United States in the form contained in the act of congress of July two, eighteen hundred and sixty-two; and all such citizens of the United States who are in the military service of the United States shall vote at the head-quarters of their respective commands, under such regulations as may be prescribed by the pro-visional governor for the taking and return of their votes; but no person who has held or exercised any office, civil or military, state or confederate, under the rebel usurpation, or who has voluntarily borne arms against the United States, shall vote, or be eligible to be elected as delegate, at such election.

SEC.5. And be it further enacted, That the said commissioners, or either of them, shall hold the election in conformity with this act, and, so far as may be consistent therewith, shall proceed in the manner used in the state prior to the rebellion. The oath of allegiance shall be taken and subscribed on thc poll-book by every voter in the form above prescribed, but every person known by or proved to, the commissioners to have held or exercised any office, civil or military, state or confederate, under the rebel usurpation, or to have voluntarily borne arms against the United States, shall be excluded, though he offer to take the oath ; and in case any person who shall have borne arms against the United States shall offer to vote he shall be deemed to have borne arms voluntarily unless he shall prove the contrary by the testimony of a qualified voter. The poll-book, showing the name and oath of each voter, shall be returned to the provisional governor by the commissioners of election or the one acting, and the provisional governor shall canvass such returns, and declare the person having the highest number of votes elected.

SEC. 6. And be it further enacted, That the provisional governor shall, by proclamation, convene the delegates elected as aforesaid, at the capital of the state, on a day not more than three months after the election, giving at least thirty days’ notice of such day. In case the said capital shall in his judgment be unfit, he shall in his proclamation appoint another place. He shall preside over the deliberations of the convention, and administer to each delegate, before taking his seat in the convention, the oath of allegiance to the United States in the form above prescribed.

SEC. 7. And be it further enacted, That the convention shall declare, on behalf of the people of the state, their submission to the constitution and laws of the United States, and shall adopt the following provisions, hereby prescribed by the United States in the execution of the constitutional duty to guarantee a republican form of government to every state, and incorporate them in the con- stitution of the state, that is to say:
First. No person who has held or exercised any office, civil or military, except offices merely ministerial, and military offices below the grade of colonel, state or confederate, under the usurping power, shall vote for or be a member of the legislature, or governor.
Second. Involuntary servitude is forever prohibited, and the freedom of all persons is guaranteed in said state.
Third. No debt, state or confederate, created by or under the sanction of the usurping power, shall be recognized or paid by the state.

SEC. 8. And be it further enacted, That when the convention shall have adopted those provisions, it shaII proceed to re-establish a republican form of government, and ordain a constitution containing those provisions, which, when adopted the convention shall by ordinance provide for submitting to the people of the state, entitled to vote under this law, at an election to be held in the manner prescribed by the act for the election of delegates; but at a time and place named by the convention, at which election the said electors, and none others, shall vote directly for or against such constitution and form of state government, and the returns of said election shall be made to the provisional gov- ernor, who shall canvass the same in the presence of the electors, and if a major- ity of the votes cast shall be for the constitution and form of government, he shall certify the same, with a copy thereof, to the President of the United .States, who, after obtaining the assent of congress, shall, by proclamation, recognize the government so established, and none other, as the constitutional government of the state, and from the date of such recognition, and not before, Senators and Representatives, and electors for President and Vice President may be eleected in such state, according to the laws of the state and of the United States.

SEC. 9. And be it further enacted, That if the convention shall refuse to reestablish the state government on the conditions aforesaid, the provisional gov- ernor shall declare it dissolved; but it shall be the duty of the President, whenever he shall have reason to believe that a sufficient number of the people of the state entitled to vote under this act, in number not less than a majority of those enrolled, as aforesaid, are willing to reestablish a state government on the conditions aforesaid, to direct the provisional governor to order another election of delegates to a convention for the purpose and in the manner prescribed in this act, and to proceed in all respects as hereinbefore provided, either to dissolve the convention, or to certify the state government reestablished by it to the President.

SEC. 10. And be it further enacted, That, until the United States shall have recognized a republican form of state government, the provisional governor in each of said states shall see that this act, and the laws of the United States, and the laws of the state in force when the state government was overthrown by the rebellion, are faithfully executed within the state ; but no law or usage whereby any person was heretofore held in involuntary servitude shall be recognized or enforced by any court or officer in such state, and the laws for the trial and punishment of white persons shall extend to all persons, and jurors shall have the qualifications of voters under this law for delegates to the convention. The President shall appoint such officers provided for by the laws of the state when its government was overthrown as he may find necessary to the civil administration of the slate, all which officers shall be entitled to receive the fees and emoluments provided by the state laws for such officers.

SEC. 11. And be it further enacted, That until the recognition of a state government as aforesaid, the provisional governor shall, under such regulations as he may prescribe, cause to be assessed, levied, and collected, for the year eighteen hundred and sixty-four, and every year thereafter, the taxes provided by the laws of such state to be levied during the fiscal year preceding the overthrow of the state government thereof, in the manner prescribed by the laws of the state, as nearly as may be ; and the officers appointed, as aforesaid, are vested with all powers of levying and collecting such taxes, by distress or sale, as were vested in any officers or tribunal of the state government aforesaid for those purposes. The proceeds of such taxes shall be accounted for to the provisional governor, and be by him applied to the expenses of the administration of the laws in such state, subject to the direction of the President, and the surplus shall be deposited in the treasury of the United States to the credit of such state, to be paid to the state upon an appropriation therefor, to be made when a republican form of government shall be recognized therein by the United States.

SEC. 12. And be it further enacted, that all persons held to involuntary servitude or labor in the states aforesaid are hereby emancipated and discharged therefrom, and they and their posterity shall be forever free. And if any such persons or their posterity shall be restrained of liberty, under pretence of any claim to such service or labor, the courts of the United States shall, on habeas corpus, discharge them.

SEC. 13. And be it further enacted, That if any person declared free by this act, or any law of the United States, or any proclamation of the President, be restrained of liberty, with intent to be held in or reduced to involuntary servi- tude or labor, the person convicted before a court of competent jurisdiction of such act shall be punished by fine of not less than fifteen hundred dollars, and be imprisoned not less than five nor more than twenty years.

SEC. 14. And be it further enacted, That every person who shall hereafter hold or exercise any office, civil or military, except offices merely ministerial, and military offices below the grade of colonel, in the rebel service, state or con- federate, is hereby declared not to be a citizen of the United States.

 

BY THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:
A PROCLAMATION:

WHEREAS, at the late session, congress passed a bill to “guarantee to certain states, whose governments have been usurped or overthrown, a republican form of government, ” a copy of which is hereunto annexed;
And whereas the said bill was presented to the President of the United States for his approval less than one hour before the sine die adjournment of said ses- sion, and was not signed by him;

And whereas the said bill contains, among other things, a plan for restoring the states in rebellion to their proper practical relation in the Union, which plan expresses the sense of congress upon that subject, and which plan it is now thought fit to lay before the people for their consideration ;

Now, therefore, I, ABRAHAM LINCOLN, President of the United States, do proclaim, declare, and make known, that, while I am (as I was in December last, when by proclamation I propounded a plan for restoration) unprepared by a formal approval of this bill, to be inflexibly committed to any single plan of restoration; and, while I am also unprepared to declare that the free state constitutions and governments already adopted and installed in Arkansas and Louisiana shall be set aside and held for nought, thereby repelling and discouraging the loyal citizens who have set up the same as to further effort, or to declare a constitutional competency in congress to abolish slavery in states, but am at the same time sincerely hoping and expecting that a constitutional amendment abolishing slavery throughout the nation may be adopted, nevertheless I am truly satisfied with the system for restoration contained in the bill as one very proper plan for the loyal people of any state choosing to adopt it, and that I am, and at all times shall be, prepared to give the executive aid and assistance to any such people, so soon as the military resistance to the United States shall have been suppressed in any such state, and the people thereof shall have sufficiently returned to their obedience to the constitution and the laws of the United States, in which cases military governors will be appointed, with directions to proceed according to the bill.

In testimony whereof; I have hereunto set my hand, and caused the seal of the United States to be affixed.

Done at the city of Washington this eighth day of July, in the year of our [L S.] Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-four, and of the Independence of the United States the eighty-ninth.

ABRAHAM LINCOLN.

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