Legal Effect of Amnesty

July 7, 1868


It is illegal under the amnesty proclamation of the 4th of July to hold all people to nothing but political and civil equality, and by restricting the ex-Confederates' right to vote, the Radicals are doing just that.


Legal Effect of Amnesty. The National Intelligencer of yesterday very clearly proves by argument the plain proposition that the amnesty proclamation of the 4th of July " places all the people of the United States upon a complete political and civil equality," except indeed "such as have been indicted for offending against the laws of the United States, or of the States in any part of the Union," who "have to await the determination of the judiciary in their respective jurisdictions," the Presdent having excepted such from the benefit of his proclamation. All other persons, it says, "are, in law, innocent of crime, and, in the language of Lord Coke, 'new men' if they have heretofore violated the criminal laws of the United States by participating in the late civil war." It follows, it adds, "that a person who was a rebel, no more than a person who was never a rebel, is subject to be challenged at the polls of his vicinage on grounds of rebellion, or to be governed by military authority in any matter." In regard to the power of the States to regulate suffrage, it says that "the proscription of a valuable franchise in 1868 for acts done to the prejudice of the public good in 1864, or earlier, would appear to the most stupid or most blinded as simply an es post facto law. The Constitution contains these words (article 1 , section 10) : " ' No State shall pass any bill of attainder, ex post facto law, or law impairing the obligation of contracts.' " The Intelligencer cites the limitation of the powers of Congress in the preceding section, which prohibits that body also from passing "any bill of attainder or ex post facto law ;" and it asks how can the fourteenth article, known as the "constitutional amendment," should it be adopted, "operate as applicable to a 'rebel' upon a person who, before it went into effect, had to all purposes and all intents, and under all senses known to law, ceased not only to be, but ever to have been, a rebel?" On these grounds it declares the right of all persons in the South to vote at the approaching national elections, and that "it is the duty of those who may be charged with the supervision of elections in the South to see that no man is wronged in the premises." And those persons so "charged with the supervision" are the very persons who will see that the wrong is done. They are appointed for the express purpose of wrong and outrage, and no authority of law or constitution, nor no right, however clear, will be respected by them. We shall have an additional illustration of the abominable tyranny to which the South is subjected by a brutal party in power, whose object has been all the time to oppress the white men and diminish their power in the Government, while the late black slaves were enfranchised and put in control of the government; and when that could not be done otherwise, it was done by frauds upon the ballot box and by continuing the polls open as many as eight days at a time to give the more complete opportunity to carry out those frauds. If we appeal to the judiciary, that is or will be in the hand of Radicals, at least until we get up to the Supreme Court : and before any help can come from that body, the time will have passed for the citizen to exercise his right ; the wrong will have been done, and there will be no mode of undoing it. The elections will have been certified and returned, and the Executive being helpless, Congress and the army, headed by General Grant, will go ahead in their own way, utterly regardless of laws or rights. Perhaps this will be all the better as heaping up wrong to give that revolution which must hurl the present party from power down to everlasting execration, increased wrath and force.
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Joshua Hurlburt




“Legal Effect of Amnesty,” Reconstructing Virginia, accessed March 30, 2023,