It tells us all we will ever need to know about Lincoln that the most popular form of his autograph is not on legal briefs or military documents, or even wartime letters, but on small slips of paper bearing, more or less, a dozen words of forgiveness:
Let this man take the oath of December 8, 1863 and be discharged.
The Oath of December 8 was announced by Lincoln, on that day, in his annual message to congress in 1863. He would offer a pardon to any man who would swear, without coercion, his allegiance to the Union. The Proclamation of Amnesty and Reconstruction provided, then, a general pardon to soldiers in the Rebellion, and to those, too, who deserted the Union cause. The Oath reads in part: I, [name], do solemnly swear, in the presence of Almighty God, that I will henceforth faithfully support, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States, and the union of states thereunder; and that I will, in like manner, abide and faithfully support all acts of Congress passed during the existing rebellion with reference to slaves...So help me God.”
This Oath is dated March 2, 1865; some six weeks later, the Rebellion would be over and Lincoln, assassinated.
Autograph Document Signed ("A. Lincoln"), as President, being an Oath of December 8th; 1 page, sextodecimo, no place, March 2, 1865. A late and desirable example.
View American Civil War Manuscripts