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Amnesty Petition of Thomas Bragg, August 15, 1865

Title

Amnesty Petition of Thomas Bragg, August 15, 1865

Description

Thomas Bragg lived in Raleigh, North Carolina during the Civil War. He served as the Attorney General for the Confederacy after leaving the Senate and returning to Raleigh. (Cross) He was exempted from general amnesty on two grounds the first, “all who are or shall be have been pretended civil or diplomatic officers or otherwise domestic or foreign agents” in the Confederate Government, and the fourth “all who left seats in the Congress of the United States to aid the rebellion.” (Johnson and Seward) Bragg wrote in his amnesty petition to Andrew Johnson on August 15, 1865, that he doesn’t believe the fourth reason for him having to apply for separate amnesty applies to him, but does accept the first exception to general amnesty.

Bragg argues that he was “called home by dispatch” because of his ailing wife and so remained there “during the time he was a member” of the Senate. (Bragg) He then states that while he was home in Raleigh he was “extremely solicitous to alloy and not to increase the excitement” of the time and “to bring about some amicable adjustment” over the issue between the North and South. (Bragg) Also stating that he “was not then, nor had he been in favor of a rupture of the Union.” (Bragg) Bragg states that when he returned to North Carolina after an extra session of Congress he had “little doubt of a coming rupture,” but did not return to Raleigh with “the intent to ‘aid the rebellion.’” (Bragg) For the first exception, Bragg does accept the charge of having held an office for the Confederate Government, becoming the Attorney General in November 1861 until March 1862, when he voluntarily resigned and returned to private life. (Cross) In February of 1864 Bragg was appointed by the Secretary of War as Commissioner tasked with examining the cases where the Writ of Habeas Corpus was suspended. (Bragg) Brag notes often that although he did sympathize with the southern cause, he fought often for the finding of common ground and compromise between the North and South. (Bragg) He believed that “the South had to resist the unconstitutional encroachments of the North,” however he didn’t “believe the South could establish her independence.”(Peele) Bragg played a large role in restructuring the government of North Carolina, as he noted in his petition to Andrew Johnson and took the “Oath of Amnesty and Allegiance” in May of 1865. (Bragg)

Thomas Bragg was a well-known man not only in North Carolina but also among Southern politicians. He was a successful lawyer who then became involved in politics. (Cross) In 1854 Bragg became the governor of North Carolina and won reelection in 1856, in his two terms he “supported internal improvements” and worked to stabilize the economy. (Cross) The question of secession was one that hovered around his entire time in office. Bragg was a “strong states’ rights Democrat who “objected to encroachments by the Federal Government” but “did not favor secession.” (Cross) After serving his two terms and Governor he was then elected to the United States Senate, until the Civil War. (Cross) Like many after the Civil War, Bragg was bankrupt, forcing him to reestablish his law practice. (Cross) He even notes in his amnesty petition to Andrew Johnson that he is “advanced in years and reduced in circumstances, with a large family…all dependent on his personal exertions.” (Bragg) Once he reestablished his law practice he gained a “reputation of a strong defender of constitutional law and personal liberty.” (Cross) Leading to him serving on the prosecution team in the “impeachment and removal” of Governor William Holden. (Cross) Thomas Bragg was a man who had a very well respected reputation in the state and had a political and legal career that are both very historically significant.

Thomas Bragg was a man very deserving of amnesty in my personal opinion. He states often in his amnesty petition to Andrew Johnson his beliefs that the Southern states had just claims, but that he was not for a “rupture” of the government. However, once one did occur he really had no other choice but to follow and support his state. He didn’t serve very long in the Confederate Government, due to what is often described as a dysfunctional government. (Cross) To me the main reason that Thomas Bragg would be very deserving of amnesty is the fact that he took the Oath of Amnesty and Allegiance, but also that he played a large role in restructuring the government of North Carolina. It’s fair to say that Thomas Bragg was not a fan of the idea of taking up arms against fellow countrymen and that he wanted to see a unified government. He was in favor of compromise and pushed his state to pursue such acts. Thomas Bragg is one of the southern politicians that helped with getting the state of North Carolina back into the Union, and that alone is a very telling trait, and one that is deserving of amnesty.

Creator

Bragg, Thomas

Source

Thomas Bragg, Amnesty Petition, Aug 15, 1865, Case Files of Applications from Former Confederates for Presidential Pardons (“Amnesty Papers”), 1865-67, Records of the Adjutant General’s Office, 1780s-1917, Record Group 94, Publication M1003, National Archives, Washington, D.C.

Date

1865-08-15

Contributor

Loomer, Kari

Type

Document

Coverage

Raleigh, North Carolina
Wake County, North Carolina

Original Format

Government Document

Text

"In and by the Proclamation of our Excellency of the 29th of May last certain classes of persons are specially excluded from the amnesty therein granted. Two of these exceptions may be supposed to apply to you petitioner. The fourth 'All who left seats in the Congress of the United States to aid the rebellion.' And the first 'All who are or shall have been pretended civic or diplomatic officers or otherwise domestic or foreign agents of the pretended Confederate government.' In the fourth your petitioner does not consider himself embraced. In the first he is embraced.

At the time of the attempted withdrawal of the state of North Carolina from the Union your petitioner was one of her Senators in the Senate of the United States having taken his seat therein on the 4th of March 1859. He remained in the Senate during the regular session of 1860-61, was present at the inauguration of Mr. Lincoln and also attended the extra session of the Senate called immediately thereafter remaining some days and taking part in the proceedings...was called home by dispatch informing him of the extreme illness of his wife...It was always that of moderation upon the distracting questions of the day for your petitioner was extremely solicious to ally and not to increase the excitement and to bring about some amicable adjustment of the matters then at issue between the North and the South.
Your petitioner was not then, nor had he been in favor of a rupture of the Union...he was called upon to address the people of North Carolina and did address large assemblages of them...The question, whether the Souther states ought to withdraw from the Union in the event of the election of Mr. Lincoln was then freely discussed...It was on every occasion that your petitioner spoke and he uniformly advised against it and opposed it with whatever power he possessed. During the Session of Congress which preceded the rupture and in the midst of the excitement your petitioner was called from Washington to Raleigh.

The Legislature of North Carolina was then ins session and he was invited to address the members and did so. He expressed his views and the anxiety manifested for an amicable adjustment. The state of Virginia had then recommended a meeting of what may known of the peace conference. Many of your petitioner's political friends were opposed to it, but your petitioner strongly urged the sending of delegates to the proposed conference.
The opinion was almost universal of the south that some additional guantees to slave forfeit out to be granted. Your petitioner honestly thought so...but he then advised the acceptance of what was known as the "Crittenden Proposition" and was sincerely desirous that it or some similar proposition should be accepted in the hope that peace and harmony might be restored.
Your petitioner returned to North Carolina from the extra session of the Senate, as he has state, but not with the intent to 'aid the rebellion.' True it is that from the best information he could attain before he left Washington he entertained little doubt of a coming rupture between the North and South. He further believed and so expressed that North Carolina, in such an event would be compelled from her situation to take sides either with the one or the other...He admits that his feelings and sympathies were with the South and that is the contingency he though and said North Carolina should unite with her Souther sisters. He honestly and sincerely believed that the state had a right to withdraw from the Union under the circumstances likely to be presented and that the Government of the United States had not the right to coerce a state thus withdrawing...he hoped that if separation did take place it would be peaceable and without any conflict of arms in this he was greatly mistaken.

Your petitioner has admitted that he was obnoxious to the charge of having held offices under the so called Confederate Government while what was call the provisional government thereof was in force he accepted the office of Attorney General under the laws in the Month of November 1861 and continued to act int hat capacity for a little more than four months which he voluntarily retired from the same and returned to private life.

In the month of February 1864 an act was passed by the Confederate Congress suspending in certain cases the privileges of the Writ of Habeas Corpus. In the month of May following a further act was passed requiring the appointment by the Secretary of War of Commissioners in each state to examine the cases of all such persons as might be placed under arrest by Executive Authority or the military acting under its orders with power to discharge them when no probable ground was found for such arrests and to detain or bail such persons for trial before the civic courts where such cause was found to exist...The appointment for North Carolina was offered to your petitioner was accepted by him and he acted as such until the expiration of the act suspending the privilege of the Writ of Habeas Corpus...Your petitioner neither sought or wanted such and office...
Involved himself in the duty and privilege of aiding in the restructuring of the Civil government in his state...a certificate will show that in the month of May he took the Oath of Amnesty and Allegiances...

Your petitioner's estate is small much less than 20,000 dollars on the 29th of May last...your petitioner finds himself advanced in years and reduced in circumstances, with a large family, a wife and eight children all dependent upon his personal exertions, and five of his children have yet to be educated...he hopes that he may be able to provide for his family and educate his children. This is the greatest desire and this is his intention should it please your Excellency to extend to him a pardon which he now respectfully asks.

Thomas Bragg
Raleigh, Aug. 15th, 1865"

Bibliography

Cross, Jerry L. "THOMAS BRAGG." Bragg, Thomas (from Research Branch, NC OA&H). Research Branch, NC Office of Archives and History, 2004. Web. 24 Mar. 2014. <http://ncpedia.org/biography/governors/bragg>.

Johnson, Andrew, and William Seward. "Johnson's Amnesty Proclamation." Johnson's Amnesty Proclamation. North Carolina Digital History, n.d. Web. 24 Mar. 2014. <http://www.learnnc.org/lp/editions/nchist-civilwar/4807>.

Peele, W. J. "Thomas Bragg." Lives of Distinguished North Carolinians. Raleigh: North Carolina Society, 1898. N. pag. Print.

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Citation

Bragg, Thomas, Amnesty Petition of Thomas Bragg, August 15, 1865, Civil War Era NC, accessed September 23, 2017, https://cwnc.omeka.chass.ncsu.edu/items/show/858.