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Ten Percent Plan

Abraham Lincoln

Ten Percent Plan: Abraham Lincoln was the 16th American President who served in office from March 4, 1861 to April 15, 1865. The Ten Percent Plan was President Lincoln's plan for reunification of the United States.

Definition and Summary of the Ten Percent Plan
Summary and definition:
The Ten Percent Plan was conceived by President Abraham Lincoln during the Civil War in order to reunify the North and South after the war’s end. On December 8, 1863 he issued a Proclamation of Amnesty and Reconstruction offering pardon to Confederates who would swear to support the Constitution and the Union.

The lenient Ten percent Plan first required 10% of seceded state voters take oath of loyalty to Union. Second to create a new state government and third to adopt a new constitution abolishing slavery.

Ten Percent Plan for kids: President Lincoln and the Proclamation of Amnesty and Reconstruction
The idea of the Ten Percent Plan was conceived by President Lincoln during the Civil War to present his strategy to start the difficult task of Restoration. It was President Lincoln's effort to try to reduce the anger and bitterness caused by the horrific Civil War. He took the opportunity to seize the initiative from volatile members of Congress on plans for Restoration, by issuing the Proclamation of Amnesty and Reconstruction on December 8, 1863, a vital component before the Ten Percent Plan could be fully adopted.

President Abraham Lincoln's Reason for the Ten Percent Plan
During 1863 the Union army, which vastly outnumbered the Confederate Army, had scored Important victories against the Southern States. On July 4, 1863, over 31,000 Confederates had been starved into submission and surrendered at the Siege of Vicksburg, there was another great Confederate defeat at the Battle of Gettysburg and November 1863 saw another Important Confederate defeat at the Battle of Chattanooga. The South were beginning to lose the Civil War. The South was fast becoming ruined land due to the invasion of the Union forces from the North. The plantation system and the economy, founded on slavery, was collapsing. President Lincoln wanted the nation to re-unify which meant he had to find ways for the 11 Southern Confederate states to be restored to their former positions within the Union but with with loyal governments. President Lincoln had issued the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863 but it could only be enforced in those parts of the seceded states that were held by the Union armies. The role of the freedmen (emancipated slaves) in the South had to be defined. He had to address the issue of Reconstruction and duly developed the Ten Percent Plan. The objectives of the Ten percent Plan were to:

  • Shorten the Civil War by offering a moderate peace plan

  • Forge the path towards healing, at the end of the Civil War, during the Reconstruction era

  • Further his emancipation policy by insisting that the new governments abolished slavery

Ten Percent Plan for kids: The Seceded Southern States
The ideas for Reconstruction and the Ten percent plan offered an answer to the question of what should be done with the Southern states and their people. And what should be done with the freedmen.  Opinions were greatly divided on these questions. Some believed that Southern states had been conquered and should be treated as a part of the national domain. Lincoln believed the solution was to restore "proper practical relations" as quickly and as quietly as possible to the seceded states. His answer was the Ten percent Plan:

  • Ten percent of seceded state voters take oath of loyalty to Union

  • Create new seceded state governments

  • New state governments to adopt a new constitution abolishing slavery.

Ten Percent Plan for kids: What was Lincoln's Ten percent plan designed to do?
The Ten percent plan was designed first to be presented by the areas of the Confederacy that were occupied by Union armies. The Ten percent plan conciliatory arrangement for the reunification of the United States that would:

  • Allow for a full pardon for and restoration of property to all Confederates engaged in the Civil War rebellion, with the exception of the highest Confederate officials and military leaders

  • Allow for new state governments to be formed and readmitted to the Union when 10 percent of the eligible voters had taken an oath of allegiance to the United States

  • The new governments of such Southern states were encouraged to enact plans to deal with the freed slaves (freedmen), as long as their freedom was not compromised

Once a Southern state, equal in number to one tenth of that state's total vote in the presidential election of 1860, took the prescribed oath to the Constitution and the United States, and organized a government that abolished slavery, President Lincoln would grant that state government executive recognition.

Ten Percent Plan for kids: How did Congress respond to Lincoln's Ten percent plan?
The admission to Congress of Senators and Representatives from 'reconstructed' states would rest with Congress and several states were reconstructed on the Ten percent plan. There was strong opposition from many members in Congress, who believed a Reconstruction plan should restore to power the old plantation aristocracy. Then, in July 1864 the radical Republicans in Congress, fearful that slavery would continue due to the leniency of the Ten percent Bill, pushed through the Wade-Davis Bill.

Ten Percent Plan: The Wade-Davis Bill
The inflexible Wade-Davis Bill, sponsored by senators Benjamin F. Wade and Henry W. Davis, outlined far more stringent requirements for re-admission to the United States. President Lincoln applied the Presidential pocket veto of the Wade-Davis bill and continued with his Ten percent Plan. By the end of the Civil War the Ten percent Plan had been tried, albeit not too successfully, in Virginia, Louisiana, Arkansas and Tennessee. Congress, however, refused to seat the Senators and Representatives elected from these 'Ten percent' states. Many people in the North were opposed to the Ten percent plan and President Lincoln and Congress had reached a stalemate.   

Ten Percent Plan: Andrew Johnson
Then the unthinkable happened. President Lincoln was assassinated by James Wilkes Booth. Vice President Andrew Johnson assumed the presidency. President Andrew Johnson lacked the experience, charisma and patience of Lincoln and immediately became involved in the struggle with Congress regarding the process of Reconstruction. The people had trusted Abraham Lincoln and, had he lived, he might have induced the people to accept his Ten percent plan.


US American History
1850-1865: Civil War Era

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