Andrew Johnson: A Study in Courage

By Lloyd Paul Stryker | Go to book overview

XXVI
JOHNSON TAKES UP LINCOLN'S CAUSE

ON the 29th of May, forty-four days after he had become President of the United States, Andrew Johnson cast the die. It was one of the great decisions in the history of the Republic! He had counted all the cost, he had considered the consequences, he had weighed the opposition that would arise to thwart and to destroy him as it had sought to thwart and to destroy his predecessor; he knew that the popular road lay on the side of vengeance for a beaten foe, yet knowing these things, he chose the course he thought was right,--for the sole reason that it was right. On that day, selecting Abraham Lincoln as his mentor and his guide, he issued his reconstruction proclamation. It related to North Carolina, but as we shall see, he by no means intended to stop there.

"To the end . . . that the authority of the government of the United States may be restored and that peace, order and freedom be established, I, Andrew Johnson, President of the United States, do . . . hereby grant to all persons who have . . . participated in the existing rebellion, amnesty and pardon with restoration of all rights of property except as to slaves. . . ."1

From the benefits of this amnesty and pardon, fourteen classes were excepted. The thirteenth excluded those who had "voluntarily participated in said rebellion and the estimated value of whose taxable property is over $20,000."2 With this exception Johnson's proclamation in every essential and in much of its actual language was the same as that which Abraham Lincoln had issued on December 8th, 1863.3 For those thus excluded, however, he declared "that special application may be made to the President for pardon by any person belonging to the excepted classes, and such clemency will be liberally extended as may be

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