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Wade-Davis Bill

Wade-Davis Bill/tiles/non-collection/l/lfp_011imgtile1.xml
Image courtesy of the National Archives and Records Administration


As the Civil War drew to a close, Congress and the President turned their attention to plans for rebuilding and readmitting Southern states into the Union. In his “Proclamation of Amnesty and Reconstruction,” issued on December 8, 1863, President Abraham Lincoln detailed his plan for Reconstruction. Known as the 10 percent plan, it offered repatriation for Confederate states if 10 percent of eligible voters agreed to an oath of allegiance to the Constitution and the Union and to abide by the emancipation of enslaved people.

Many in Congress, particularly the faction known as Radical Republicans, found Lincoln’s plan too lenient. This group advocated a much harsher approach, treating Confederate states as conquered provinces that had forfeited their civil and political rights and that would revert to territorial status after the war. Their response was the Wade-Davis Reconstruction Bill, introduced in the House on February 15, 1864. Co-sponsored by Representative Henry Winter Davis of Maryland and Senator Benjamin Wade of Ohio, it required that 50 percent of eligible voters swear an oath to support the Constitution before state governments were recognized as members of the Union. Passed at the close of the congressional session in July 1864, Lincoln defeated it through use of the pocket veto.

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