History: December 25, 1868: President Johnson Pardons all Confederate Veterans

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A Brief History

On December 25, 1868, much maligned and embattled President of the United States Andrew Johnson issued a blanket pardon for all Confederate veterans of the US Civil War.

Digging Deeper

A Southerner himself, Johnson had been born in North Carolina and lived in Tennessee where he served as Governor and US Senator before becoming Abraham Lincoln’s vice-president in the 1864 election.  When Lincoln was killed and Johnson assumed the presidency in 1865, the Civil War was now over and Johnson was eager to get the South back into normal operation, allowing the former Confederate States to hold elections and re-form their governments.

The Republican congress took exception to this, and imposed harsh “reconstruction” laws on the former Confederate states, enabling African-Americans to hold public office much to the chagrin of White Southerners.

First African American Senator and Representatives: Sen. Hiram Revels (R-MS), Rep. Benjamin S. Turner (R-AL), Robert DeLarge (R-SC), Josiah Walls (R-FL), Jefferson Long (R-GA), Joseph Rainey and Robert B. Elliott (R-SC)

Clashes with congress resulted in Johnson becoming the first US president to be impeached in 1868, but he avoided conviction and remained in office, allowing him the opportunity to issue his pardon of former Confederate soldiers  and other Confederate office holders, including Confederate President Jeff Davis and even Dr. Samuel Mudd (the guy convicted of helping John Wilkes Booth escape) shortly before leaving office.

Presidential pardons are often made right before leaving office and are just as often controversial.  What do you think about Johnson issuing the blanket pardon for former Confederates?  Did this act of leniency help heal the country?  Did the pardon hurt the country?  Let us know what you think.

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Historical Evidence

For more information, please see…

Trefousse, Hans L.  Andrew Johnson: A Biography.  W. W. Norton & Company, 1997.

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About Author

Major Dan

Major Dan is a retired veteran of the United States Marine Corps. He served during the Cold War and has traveled to many countries around the world. Prior to his military service, he graduated from Cleveland State University, having majored in sociology. Following his military service, he worked as a police officer eventually earning the rank of captain prior to his retirement.