What Was the Ten Percent Plan?

The Ten Percent Plan required each Southern state to have 10 percent of its voters swear an oath of allegiance to the Union for readmittance. The plan formed part of President Lincoln’s Proclamation of Amnesty and Reconstruction.

The Ten Percent Plan was announced by President Abraham Lincoln in December 1863, as the first comprehensive program for Reconstruction. It offered a pardon to all Southerners who took oaths of loyalty to the Union and support for emancipation. Only Confederate leaders were excluded. Once 10 percent of the populace was obtained, it could establish a new state government.

Lincoln proposed the Ten Percent Plan as a way to undermine the Confederate control and begin a process of change. The newly formed governments were met with trouble from Congress and the public because they had little support and were almost delayed by the Wade-Davis Bill. Lincoln vetoed the bill, proposing no government could be formed until a majority had taken the loyalty oath.

Some Republican senators were already of the opinion that equal rights for former slaves must accompany the readmission to the Union. In April 1865, Lincoln expressed this view in the last speech he delivered before being assassinated, stating that Southern Blacks, the “very intelligent” and those who served in the Union Army should have the right to vote.