LINCOLN, Abraham. Autograph note signed ("A. Lincoln"), 21 December 1864. Three lines plus date and signature on verso of a letter from A.G. Hodges to Lincoln, 12 December 1864, 1 page, 4to.
"LET THESE MEN TAKE THE OATH..." LINCOLN WRITES TO A KENTUCKY UNIONIST
Writing on the verso of a letter from Albert G. Hodges, publisher of The Frankfort Commonwealth, introducing one Joseph Hickman, a Kentucky Unionist, Lincoln writes: "Let these men take the oath of Dec. 8, 1863, & be discharged." Evidently, Hickman had visited Lincoln at the White House to personally urge the release of certain prisoners. Lincoln complied under the terms of his Proclamation of Amnesty and Reconstruction, which granted a full pardon to rebels willing to swear that they would "support, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States and the Union of the States," and would obey all acts of Congress or the President respecting slavery. Only high-ranking Confederate officials were excluded from this parole.
Hodges, a political confidant of Lincoln, was the recipient of one of Lincoln's most quoted letters: his April 4, 1864 statement explaining why he issued the Emancipation Proclamation after earlier swearing non-interference with slavery: "I attempt no compliment to my own sagacity. I claim not to have controlled events, but confess plainly that events have controlled me." Hodges's letter has its own catching turns of phrase: Hickman, he writes, is an ardent unionist and "one of the truest and most zealous of your friends in Kentucky. It requires a man with a great deal of nerve, and a good pair of heels, to be a friend of yours in the region where he resided."