With Congress in recess until December and peace scarcely restored in the former Confederacy, President Johnson found himself in a position to act not only immediately, but with unusual autonomy. Determined to return the country as quickly as possible to its former shape, he issued two proclamations on May 29th. The first, which quickly became known as the "Amnesty Proclamation," opened the way to restore individual citizens to the nation. In the second, reproduced below, Johnson appoints William W. Holden as Provisional Governor of North Carolina, and lays out the process by which former rebel states would be brought back into the Union.
President Johnson appoints William W. Holden Provisional Governor of North Carolina
May 29, 1865. BY THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA:
Whereas the fourth section of the fourth article of the Constitution of the United States declares that the United States shall guarantee to every state in the Union a republican form of government, and shall protect each of them against invasion and domestic violence; and whereas the President of the United States is, by the constitution, made commander-in-chief of the army and navy, as well as the chief civil officer
Now, therefore, in obedience to the high and solemn duties imposed upon me by the Constitution of the United States, and for the purpose of enabling the loyal people of said state to organize a state government, whereby justice may be established, domestic tranquility insured, and loyal citizens protected in all their rights of life, liberty, and property, I, ANDREW JOHNSON, President of the United States, and commander-in-chief of the army and navy of the United States, do hereby appoint William W. Holden provisional governor of the State of North Carolina, whose duty it shall be, at the earliest practicable period, to prescribe such rules and regulations as may be necessary and proper for convening a convention, composed of delegates to be chose by that portion of the people of said state who are loyal to the United States, and no others, for the purpose of altering or amending the constitution thereof; and with authority to exercise, within the limits of said state, all the powers necessary and proper to enable such loyal people of the State of North Carolina to restore said state to its constitutional relations to the federal government, and to present such a republican form of state government as will entitle the state to the guarantee of the United States therefore, and its people to protection by the United States against invasion, insurrection, and domestic violence; Provided that, in any election that may be hereafter held for choosing delegates to any state convention as aforesaid, no person shall be qualified as an elector, or shall be eligible as a member of such convention, unless he shall have previously taken and subscribed the oath of amnesty, as set forth in the President's Proclamation of May 29, A. D. 1865, and is a voter qualified as prescribed by the constitution and laws of the State of North Carolina in force immediately before the 20th day of May, A. D. 1861, the date of the so-called ordinance of secession; and the said convention, when convened, or the legislature that may be thereafter assembled, will prescribe the qualification of electors, and the eligibility of persons to hold officer under the constitution and laws of the state,-- a power the people of the several states composing the Federal Union have rightfully exercised from the origin of the government to the present time . . .
Source: U.S. Congress, United States Statutes at Large (Washington D.C.: U.S. G.P.O., 1937), vol. 13, pp. 760-61.
Questions to Consider
1. When President Johnson refers to citizens, who is he talking about?
2. What kind of rights and powers do those citizens exercise?
3. What kind of authority does Johnson believe belongs to the individual states? What kind of authority does Johnson believe belongs to the federal government?
4. In what ways does this proclamation along with the "Amnesty Proclamation" affect balances of power in the former Confederacy? Who gains? Who loses?
5. Above all, where do the former slaves fit into Johnson's vision of a post-slavery nation, and who has the right to decide?