Presidential proclamation (United States)

A presidential proclamation is a statement issued by a president of the United States on an issue of public policy, and is a kind of presidential directive.


A presidential proclamation is an instrument that:
Proclamations issued by the U.S. president fall into two broad categories:
  1. "ceremonial" proclamations, that designate special observances or celebrate national holidays, and
  2. "substantive" proclamations, that usually relates to the conduct of foreign affairs and other sworn executive duties. These may be, but are not limited to, matters of international trade, the execution of set export controls, the establishment of tariffs, or the reservation of federal lands for the benefit of the public in some manner.
Unless authorized by Congress, a president's proclamation does not have the force of law. If Congress were to pass an act that would take effect upon the happening of a contingent event, and subsequently the president proclaimed that the event happened, then the proclamation would have the force of law.
Presidential proclamations are often dismissed as a practical tool for policy making because they are considered to be largely ceremonial or symbolic. The administrative weight of these proclamations is upheld because they are often specifically authorized by congressional statute, making them "delegated unilateral powers". Their issuances have on occasion led to important political and historical consequences in the development of the United States. George Washington's Proclamation of Neutrality in 1793 and Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation in 1863 are some of America's most famous presidential proclamations in this regard. The legal weight of presidential proclamations suggests their importance to presidential governance.
Other more recent policy-based proclamations have also made a substantial impact on economic and domestic policy, including Bill Clinton's declaration of federal lands for national monuments and George W. Bush's declaration of the areas affected by Hurricane Katrina as disaster areas.
Proclamations are also used, often contentiously, to grant presidential pardons. Recent notable pardon proclamations are Gerald Ford's pardon of former President Richard Nixon, Jimmy Carter's pardon of Vietnam War draft evaders and George W. Bush's clemency of Lewis "Scooter" Libby's prison sentence.
Although less significant in terms of public policy, proclamations are also used ceremonially by presidents to honor a group or situation or to call attention to certain issues or events. For instance, President George H. W. Bush issued a proclamation to honor veterans of World War II and Ronald Reagan called attention to the health of the nation's eyes by proclaiming a Save Your Vision Week and Proclamation 5497 recognizing National Theatre Week.