you on the proclamations dated, respectively, on the 8th day of December, 1863, and on the 26th day of March, 1864, commonly called the amnesty proclamations.
You ask my opinion, first, as to the proper construction and effect of those proclamations upon the citizens and residents of rebel States who have taken the oath of amnesty prescribed therein.
These two proclamations must be read together and regarded as one instrument. That must, at least, be so from the date of the last proclamation, March 26, 1864. No doubt many persons did, betwixt the 8th of December, 1863, and the 26th of March, 1864, take the oath who could not have done so had the original proclamation contained the exceptions set forth in the second. What the rights are of those who took the oath in that intermediate space of time, and who couldn"t have taken it after the 26th of March, 1864, is purely a judicial question. The facts in such cases are accomplished, and the rights arising out of those fac and become vested. If not improper, it would be, at least, idle in me to express an opinion on those cases. The Judicial Department of the Government must determine the law in those cases when they are properly presented before the courts.
For all practical purposes, so far as the Executive Department of the Government is concerned, both proclamations may therefore be regarded as of the date the 26th of March, 1864. From that point of view their proper operation and effect are now to be considered.
It is plainly stated on the face of the second proclamation that its objects "were to suppress the insurrection, and to restore the authority of the United States, and with reference to these objects alone." In the midst of a gigantic effort on the part of traitors toountry and overthrow our Government, the President, in the legitimate exercise of his great powers, invoked the healing influences of charity and forgiveness. His great heart but responded to the desire of the American people to win back this misguided people to their allegiance, and to peace and order, by gentleness, rather than to compel obedience by the dread powers of war.
It must not be supposed that in giving expression to and making a law of this noble wish of his heart, and the heart of the people whom he represented, it was intended to give license and immunity to crime and treason for the then future. His expressed object was "to suppress the insurrection,a nd to restore the authority of the United States, and that alone."
His object was made still more manifest when he said that the person 'shall voluntarily come forward" and take the said oath, with the purpose of restoring peace and establishing the national authority.
The reluctant, unrepentant, defying persons who, in their hearts, desired the success of the rebellion and the overthrow of the Government, were not invited to take the oath; and if any such should take it they would but add perjury--a God-defying sin--to that of treason; and if that fact can be shown to a judicial tribunal, it seems to me that they should take no benefit from the pardon and amnesty. A mind an heart unpurged of treason were not invited by the amnesty proclamation to add thereto the crime of perjury.
It seems to me, then, that all the citizens and residents of the rebel States not excepted from the amnesty, who did, after the issuing of the proclamation, or after notice thereof, or within a reasonable time within which it must be supposed they had notice, refrain from further hostilities, and take the oath of amnesty voluntarily, with the purpose of