Kentucky Declaration of Neutrality

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Kentucky Declaration of Neutrality was a resolution passed by the Kentucky Legislature declaring the Commonwealth of Kentucky officially neutral in the American Civil War. It was enacted on May 16, 1861, following Governor Beriah Magoffin's refusal of troops to aid the Union in invading the South the previous month. Magoffin had flatly refused President Abraham Lincoln's call for troops to fight seceded Southern states. The Legislature passed the resolution in an effort to prevent Kentucky from seceding and also to prevent Kentucky from becoming a battleground. Kentucky remained neutral until September 4, 1861, when Confederate Major General Leonidas Polk ordered Brigadier General Gideon Johnson Pillow to occupy Columbus.[1]

The Declaration[edit]

Kentucky House of Representatives - Committee on Federal Relations

Resolution of Neutrality, May 16, 1861

Considering the deplorable condition of the country and for which the State of Kentucky is in no way responsible, and looking to the best means of preserving the internal peace and securing the lives, liberty, and property of the citizens of the State; therefore,

Resolved, by the House of Representatives, that this State and the citizens thereof should take no part in the civil war now being waged, except as mediators and friends to the belligerent parties; and that Kentucky should, during the contest, occupy the position of strict neutrality.

Resolved, that the act of the governor in refusing to furnish troops or military force upon the call of the executive authority of the United States under existing circumstances is approved.


  1. ^ Harrison, p. 12

See also[edit]