Loyalty Oaths--United States of America. Oaths of Allegiance



In 1862, in the midst of the Civil War and heightened emotions regarding loyalty among military and political officials, Republicans in the United States Congress created an oath in which participants not only promised future faith and allegiance to the United States and the Constitution, but also denied any past support of secession and the Confederacy. Nicknamed the “Ironclad Oath,” Radical Republicans intended to require it for all incoming members of Congress and federal appointees. The oath generated controversy among Democrat and more moderate Republican representatives, who saw it as unjustly harsh and punitive for past actions.

Following the war, Radical Republicans sought to use the Ironclad Oath to prevent former Confederates from reestablishing pre-war political regimes and policies, and in 1867 Congress passed the Supplementary Reconstruction Act which required all voters in the South to take a similar oath of past loyalty to the Union. That same year, the Supreme Court ruled that the federal Ironclad Oath violated the Constitution’s prohibitions against ex post facto laws (or laws that retroactively punish Americans). In 1868, Congress created an alternate oath for Southerners, which omitted vows of past loyalty. This prompted a surge of Southern men taking the oath to regain voting and office eligibility. Ironically, Northern officials were still required to take the Ironclad Oath until 1884, at which point it was repealed. (Wikipedia; United States Senate)

See also: https://www.senate.gov/about/origins-foundations/senate-and-constitution/protest-loyalty-oath.htm

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