Sunday, January 25, 2009

Context: Ah, The Good Old Days of Preemptive / Blanket Pardons

Christmas 1863 probably wasn't the best of times for John Ashbury of Missouri. He was under indictment for "Conspiracy against the Government." In addition, he was considered an "old" and "poor" man. One wonders if he could have ever really expected that Abraham Lincoln would take the time to sit down and write:
Now therefore be it known that I, Abraham Lincoln, President of the United States of America, in consideration the premises diverse and other good and sufficient reasons me thereunto moving, do hereby grant a free and full pardon to the said John Ashbury for the offenses of which he is indicted and for all similar offenses by him committed previous to the month of February, A.D. 1862.
Ashbury was off the hook .... after being charged with "Conspiracy against the United States!" Just like that. No trial. No conviction. No sentence. What the judicial system had to say just did not matter. The whole "government of laws and not men" thing seemed out of whack. And, whoever Mr. Ashbury was, he far from being alone.

Lincoln trashed judicial proceedings with separate preemptive blanket pardons for 16 others under indictment for conspiracy. Their warrants employed the same language ... "all crimes" ... "all similar offenses." He also eased judicial caseloads by granting 10 separate blanket pardons to individuals under indictment for treason. M.G. Singleton and Henry L. Routts and Henry Fort got such pardons while under indictment for treason and conspiracy! Others got preemptive pardons from Lincoln while under indictment for robbing the mail or aiding and comforting rebels.

In other instances, persons were charged, tried, or at least being detained, for a variety of crimes and Lincoln got them off the hook - or freed them - with blanket pardons. John Winter, John S. Fitzhugh and Frankin D. Graham, for example, were found guilty of treason and Lincoln pardoned them:
... of all treasons, felonies and other crimes by them or either of them committed before the first day of August AD 1861.
Ditto for 23 others. In other words, 56 of Lincoln's individuals pardons (or about 1 out of every 15 that he granted - and he granted almost 400 of them) derailed the judicial process and/or granted blanket immunity for such high crimes as treason and conspiracy against the United States of America.

So, the next time you hear about how "rare" and dramatic Gerald Ford's pardon of Richard Nixon was (especially because Nixon was not tried and the pardon covered crimes that he may have committed), take a second to remember the other president from Illinois.

No comments:

blogger templates | Make Money Online