Benjamin Wade portrait

Co-authored by Ohio Senator Benjamin Wade and Maryland Congressman Henry Winter Davis in 1864, the Wade-Davis Bill was an attempt to impose harsh Reconstruction terms on the South, which President Lincoln pocket vetoed. [Wikimedia Commons]

Wade-Davis Bill Facts


  • On December 8, 1862, President Abraham Lincoln announced his Proclamation of Amnesty and Reconstruction outlining lenient Reconstruction terms for the South.
  • On February 17, 1863 Republican Senator Ira Harris of New York introduced a bill (S. 538) To guarantee in certain States a republican form of government. The bill enumerated various conditions for the reestablishment of constitutional governments in the Confederate states following the war.
  • Senate bill 538 served as the foundation of a Reconstruction measure co-authored by Ohio Senator Benjamin Wade and Maryland Congressman Henry Winter Davis in 1864.
  • On February 15, 1864, Maryland Congressman Henry Winter Davis reported a bill from the House Select Committee on the Rebellious States entitled, A Bill to guarantee to certain States whose governments have been usurped or overthrown, a republican form of government (H.R. 244), commonly known as the Wade-Davis Bill.
  • The Wade-Davis Bill prescribed harsher terms for reconstruction than President Abraham Lincoln’s plan.
  • The House of Representatives passed the Wade-Davis Bill (H.R. 244) on May 4, 1864.
  • The Senate approved an amended version of the Wade-Davis Bill (H.R. 244) on July 1, 1864.
  • Congress passed the Wade-Davis Bill (H.R. 244) on July 2, 1864.
  • President Abraham Lincoln pocket vetoed the Wade and Davis Bill.
  • In addition to pocket vetoing the Wade-Davis Bill, President Abraham Lincoln took the unusual step of issuing a presidential proclamation on July 8, 1864 outlining his reasons for not signing the bill.
  • Outraged by President Abraham Lincoln’s pocket veto of the Wade-Davis Bill, Senator Benjamin Wade and Congressman Henry Winter Davis issued the Wade-Davis Manifesto on August 4, 1864.
  • The Wade-Davis Manifesto was entitled “To the Supporters of the Government.”
  • The Wade-Davis Manifesto was first published in Horace Greeley’s New York Tribune.
  • The Wade-Davis Manifesto was highly critical of President Abraham Lincoln.
  • Viewed by many as a treasonable attack on the office of the presidency in the midst of war, the Wade-Davis Manifesto backfired. Republican moderates and voters in the North rallied behind Abraham Lincoln to reelect him by a wide margin of electoral votes in the November 1864 presidential contest.
  • Many of the principles expressed in the Wade-Davis Bill eventually resurfaced in legislation enacted under Congressional Reconstruction.

Citation Information

The following information is provided for citations.

  • Article Title Wade-Davis Bill Facts
  • Coverage 1864
  • Author
  • Website Name American History Central
  • Access Date December 5, 2021
  • Publisher R.Squared Communications, LLC
  • Original Published Date
  • Date of Last Update February 17, 2021
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