Proclamation of Amnesty and Reconstruction, Dec. 8, 1863
In December 1863, the Great Western Sanitary Fair was held at Cincinnati. The purpose of the fair was to raise funds to support the activities of the Cincinnati branch of the U.S. Sanitary Commission. The Sanitary Commission was a voluntary service which helped provide support for Union sick and wounded. The organizers of the fair wished to obtain the autographs of famous persons, along with other items, to be auctioned off to raise money.
Senator John Sherman of Ohio (1823-1900) approached Lincoln and asked him to donate his original draft of the recent Amnesty Proclamation for the auction. The proclamation offered amnesty to those engaged in rebellion if they would take an oath of allegiance and it contained a general outline of Lincoln’s reconstruction plan. Since the original draft was in poor condition, Lincoln actually offered to hand copy the entire document, including all corrections, additions, etc. When asked if he minded the additional labor required to copy the entire document, Lincoln replied that if the labor relieved the sufferings of a single soldier, he would cheerfully perform it. (Letter from John Sherman)
The five-page manuscript, along with autographs of cabinet members and senators, was sent to Cincinnati by Sherman and auctioned off. The National Union of Cincinnati won the manuscript for $150. This organization was dedicated to the "maintenance of the Federal Government, against all enemies, at home or abroad."
Albert Whelpley (1831-1900), Head Librarian of the Cincinnati Public Library, eventually obtained the manuscript. Whelpley was a collector of autographs, eventually amassing a collection of over 650 items. His widow donated his collection to the Cincinnati Historical Society in 1906.
From the CMC Manuscript Collection: Mss VF 2491.