Showing posts with label Coolidge. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Coolidge. Show all posts

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Obama's Fourth Year Commutation Blitz. How Historic?

While it is true that most presidential terms have featured the highest number of individual clemency grants in the fourth and final year, Bill Clinton's last-minute fiasco was an extremely rare bird. For most presidents, commutations of sentence have been but a tool in an arsenal of clemency options (including pardons, conditional pardons, group pardons - or amnesties - respites and reprieves, remissions of fines and forfeiture, etc.). But, for President Obama, they are damn near everything. Indeed, 91 percent of his clemency grants have been commutations of sentence.

Department of Justice data on the topic are nearly worthless because they are arranged by fiscal year and, in some instance, are not disaggregated when two presidents served in the same fiscal year unit. So, we have disaggregated the data on commutations of sentence and have arranged them by a more meaningful unit of analysis: year of term (below):

Click on Image (Above) to Enlarge
Previous to 1885, the distinction between pardons and commutations of sentence was more vague, but it is safe to say that Woodrow Wilson was setting records as his administration progressed. At first glance, one might guess Obama has set the all-time record for commutations of sentence, but that would be false. Both Woodrow Wilson and Calvin Coolidge granted more. They just didn't wait until the very end of their terms to dump a big load of them. Mercy was a regular (monthly) feature of their administrations, not so much an afterthought, or last-minute stunt.

It is safe to say that the President has set a record for the most commutations of sentence granted in a single year - the fourth year of his second term which, of course, is not yet over. As we recently revealed from our own, original data, he has also set a new record for most commutations of sentence granted in a single day

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Obama: Second Only to Wilson and Coolidge in Commutations

Click on Image (Above) to Enlarge

Friday, May 6, 2011

Quite the Pair: Herbert H. Bigelow and Charlie Ward

Hubert Huse Bigelow was the chief executive officer of Brown and Bigelow, a company in St. Paul, Minnesota which produced playing cards and calendars. Industry magazine described him as "one of the foremost citizens of the Midwest." His partner, Hiram Brown, was actually quite apart from the day to day operations of the company, but Bigelow was famous for a meticulous management style and a tendency to wear unnecessarily cheap suites.

When the Sixteenth Amendment created the federal income tax, Bigelow simply ignored the law and became the first "big-name" target of government prosecutors. As a result, he was convicted on June 24, 1924. Bigelow was fined ten thousand dollars and sentenced to two years in the federal penitentiary at Leavenworth, Kansas.

Prison life was not exactly comfortable for businessman Bigelow. Indeed, he constantly felt as though his life was being threatened. Something had to be done, or someone was going to have to step in and provide protection. As U.S. Attorney General Francis Biddle described it, Bigelow just happened to meet a man “in the cell next to him” and the two became "friends.” But others would claim that Bigelow’s lawyer, Will Oppenheimer, arranged for his client to meet and share the same cell with one Charles Allen Ward, the man who would provide the necessary protection.

Ward had been in prison for almost four years by the time he “met” Bigelow. He was born in Seattle and, after high school, went from a job selling newspapers to a job shining shoes. This led him to work as a commercial fisherman and driving dog-sleds. He even managed a hotel before moving to Tijuana to run his own casino.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Remembering Marcus Garvey

Marcus Mosiah Garvey was born on the northern coast of Jamaica. His mother, Sarah, had eleven children, but only two (Marcus and a sister) reached adulthood. His father and grandfather were master masons who built  houses but were eventually reduced to making tombstones and vaults for coffins. Marcus’ lucky break occurred when he was apprenticed to the printing offices of his godfather, Alfred E. Burrows. There, he quickly learned the trade and devoured books and newspapers. Eventually, Marcus landed a position in the government’s printing office and started his own (albeit short-lived) newspaper.

Garvey left Jamaica in 1910 and traveled to Ecuador, Venezuela, Columbia and throughout Central America. He returned home briefly in 1912, then headed for England and the Continent. While in London, he spent many hours in the visitor’s gallery in the House of Commons and took his place in Hyde Park’s notorious Speaker’s Corner.

On August 1, 1914, Garvey announced the creation of a new organization, the Universal Negro Improvement Association and African Communities League (or UNIA). The organization had several “goals.” Among them were the promotion of “the spirit of race pride and love,” assistance to “the needy,” civilization of the “backward tribes of Africa,” universities and colleges for the “education and culture” of boys and girls “of the race,” and the promotion of “Christian worship among the native tribes of Africa.” By 1916, the UNIA had attracted one hundred members, but Garvey was not pleased with what he perceived to be a lack of enthusiasm.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Not Your Average German Pirate

The plan was fairly simple, for its type.

Five men (four with experience at sea) would travel to New York, board the ship known as City of Sparta and seize control. If killing were necessary, so be it. Claming to be subjects of Germany, the men would find their way to the Captain’s private cabin and locate a certain chest. Inside that chest would be two thousand British pounds concealed in a bag. The men would enjoy the loot, continue to navigate the ship to their liking and become popular idols, perhaps even legends, among the German people. The brilliant nature of the scheme and seemingly high probability of its success were heartily reinforced by the fact that it was conceived under the influence of large amounts of alcohol poured in the saloons of Hoboken, New Jersey.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Kansas: Remembering "Red Kate"

Kate Richards O’Hare (a.k.a. “Red Kate”) was the first “important” figure to be indicted under the Espionage Act. She was born in 1876 on a farm in Ottawa County, Kansas, and spent some time as a schoolteacher and bookkeeper before becoming a machinist’s apprentice. As a result, she was one of the first female members of the International Association of Machinists. The young Richard's was also deeply religious (Campbellite Disciple of Christ) and active in the Florence Crittenton Mission and Home and the Kansas City Crittenton Mission. Her sympathies were particularly directed toward the problems of alcoholism and prostitution.

She also began to familiarize herself with the writings of Henry George and attended union meetings. But the critical event in Richard's life was a dance, which featured a speech by the legendary socialist Mary Harris “Mother” Jones. The seventy-year-old Jones referred Richards to other prominent socialists and she joined a socialist group. In 1901, she enrolled in the first class of the International School of Socialist Economy, a “training school” for Socialist party workers. One year later, Richards married one of her twenty-four fellow students, Frank P. O’Hare. It actually took the two young socialists all of four days to realize that they were meant to be married (they divorced in 1938).

Mrs. O’Hare’s fame and popularity as a socialist speaker increased considerably. She was soon considered second only to Eugene V. Debs so, in 1910, a run for public office only seemed logical. O'Hare was actually the first woman to ever to run for Congress in the state of Kansas. Three socialists were already in the state legislature, but O’Hare gathered a mere five percent of the vote in a four-candidate race. She later ran for a position on the board of education in St. Louis and became the first woman to run for the United States Senate. O'Hare also ran for a seat in the Missouri state legislature. But the popularity and interest generated by her public speaking never seemed to translate into high levels of support in voting booths.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

A Governor From the Midwest is Convicted.

On August 31, 1923, Warren T. McCray, Republican Governor of Indiana, sat down in the Rainbow Room of the Hotel Severin (Indianapolis) with a group of one hundred and fifty bankers and lawyers. There was some good news and some bad news.

The good news was that the Governor had a little over three million dollars in personal assets and he was the proud owner of almost sixteen thousand acres of land. Most of the people in the room were probably not all that amazed because they were quite familiar with McCray’s amazing life story. At the age of fifteen, he began working at his father's bank and assumed ownership bank when his father died in 1913. McCray also owned several grain elevators and a livestock farm where he bred Hereford cattle and, on occasion, sold single bulls for as much as twenty five thousand dollars. Warren T. McCray became known as the “Hereford King.” But there was some bad news as well.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Explorer. Oil Man. Liar. Pardoned!

On September 1, 1909, Dr. Frederick A. Cook sent a cable to the New York Herald which read:


The news of Dr. Cook’s achievement spread throughout the United States, and made headlines in Paris and Berlin. It looked like the story of the century was about to unfold in the pages of a struggling newspaper. But, consistent with a theme in Cook’s life, newspapers in London were somewhat skeptical of his claim.

Monday, June 28, 2010

The Director Who Could (or Would) Not Count

Robert Kennedy once boasted that he and his brother “made a real major effort and really major breakthrough” when it came to pardons and commutations. The notion was certainly enhanced by James V. Bennett’s 1970 book entitled I Chose Prison. Bennett, who served as Director of the Bureau of Prisons from 1937 to 1964, praised Kennedy for his exceptional “compassion.” He also claimed that his fellow Democrat “used his powers of granting executive clemency more often than any other President in our history.”

The observation may have appeared all the more impressive by the fact that, at the time Bennett’s book was published, the pardoning power seemed to be a thing of the past. Lyndon Johnson granted no pardons in the last seven months of his administration and Richard Nixon pardoned no one in his first nine months as president.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Context: Amnesties (or Blanket Pardons)

Washington - July 10 1795, Whiskey Insurrectionists
Adams - May 21 1800, Pennsylvania Insurrectionists (Fries Rebellion)
Jefferson - October 15 1807, Military deserters (if surrendered in 4 months)
Madison - February 7 1812, Military deserters (if surrendered in 4 months)
Madison - October 8 1812, Military deserters (if surrendered in 4 months)
Madison - June 14 1814, Military deserters (if surrendered in 4 months)
Madison - February 6 1815, Pirates participating in War of 1812
Jackson - June 12 1830, Military deserters discharged, those confined released
Buchanan - April 6, 1858, Utah uprising
Lincoln - February 14 1862, Political prisoners paroled
Lincoln - March 10 1863, Military deserters restored with only forfeiture of pay
Lincoln - December 8 1863, “Rebellion” participants (with exceptions) subject to oath
Lincoln - February 26 1864, Military deserters sentences mitigated, restored to duty
Lincoln - March 26 1864, Clarification of December 8, 1863, amnesty
Lincoln - March 11 1865, Military deserters (if returned to post in 60 days)
Johnson - May 29 1865, Certain rebels of Confederate States
Johnson - May 4 1866, Clarification of previous amnesty
Johnson - July 3 1866, Military deserters restored with only forfeiture of pay
Johnson - September 7 1867, Confederates (excepting certain officers) subject to oath
Johnson - July 4 1868, Confederates (except those indicted for treason or felony)
Johnson - December 25 1868, Confederates (universal and unconditional)
Harrison - January 4 1893, Mormons practicing polygamy
Cleveland - September 25 1894, Mormons practicing polygamy
T. Roosevelt - July 4 1902, Philippine insurrectionists, subject to oath
Wilson - June 14 1917 5,000, Persons under suspended sentences
Wilson - August 21 1917, Clarification, reaffirmation of June 14 amnesty
Coolidge - December 15 1923, Espionage Act
Coolidge - March 5 1924, Over 100 military deserters. Restoration of citizenship.
F. Roosevelt - December 23 1933, Over 1,500 who violated Espionage or Draft laws.
Truman - December 24 1945, Thousands of ex-convicts serving at least 1 year in war
Truman - December 23 1947, 1,523 draft evaders (recommended by Amnesty Board)
Truman - December 24 1952, Convicts serving armed forces at least 1 year since 1950
Truman - December 24 1952, Military deserters convicted between 1945 and 1950
Ford - September 16 1974, Vietnam draft evaders. Conditioned on public service
Carter - January 21 1977, Vietnam draft evaders. Unconditional pardon

* For additional updating / commentary on this list, contact the Editor of this blog.

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