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Lincoln Originals at Cincinnati Museum Center

Proclamation of Amnesty and Reconstruction, Dec. 8, 1863

Great Western Sanitary Fair
Great Western Sanitary Fair at Cincinnati

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.

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Proclamation - Page 1

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Whereas in and by the Constitution of the United
States, it is provided that the President “shall have
power to grant reprieves and pardons for offences ag=
ainst the United States, except in cases of impeach=
ment, and
Whereas a rebellion now exists whereby the loy=
al state governments of several States have for a long
time been subverted, and many persons have commit=
ted, and are now guilty of treason against the Uni=
ted States, and
Whereas, with reference to said rebellion and
treason, laws have been enacted by Congress declar=
ing forfeitures, and confiscation of property, and lib=
eration of slaves, all upon terms and conditions
therein stated, and also declaring that the Presi=
dent was thereby authorized at any time there=
after, by proclamation, to extend to persons who
may have participated in the existing rebellion
in any state, or part thereof, pardon and amnesty, with
such exceptions, and at such times, and on such
conditions, as he may deem expedient for the pub=
lic welfare, and
Whereas the congressional declaration for limited
and conditional pardon, accords with well estab=
lished judicial exposition of the pardoning power, un=
der the British and American Constitutions,
Whereas with reference to said rebellion, the Presi=
dent of the United States has issued several pro=

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