Showing posts with label Lincoln. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Lincoln. Show all posts

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Obama and Other Multiple Term Presidents

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Sunday, April 3, 2016

Obama is No Nixon (or Eisenhower)

White House counsel W. Neil Eggleston - and others in the White House - are want to compare President Obama's record on clemency favorably (after almost two full years of zero pardons and commutations of sentence) to the least merciful presidents. Even then, the focus of such "analyses" is but one dimension of clemency (commutations, not pardons). We imagine there are other, less awkward and more enlightening reference points: such as presidents who have, like Obama, have served more than one term:

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Fortunately, Mr. Eggleston, who recently presided over an organizational framework which completely excluded the U.S. Pardon Attorney from communication with the Office of White House Counsel - even when the Deputy Attorney General deep-sixed recommendations for clemency - has told Politico that, in the last months of the administration, the “infrastructure is now very much in place” to file and process clemency petitions and we are all "going to start seeing a lot more very quickly" and "on a more regular basis."

Friday, November 13, 2015

Kentucky: A Merciless Regime Ends

With exceptional casualness, the Courier-Journal notes Gov. Steve Beshear has had "thousands" of clemency applications come into his office over the last eight years, but "he has not yet decided whether he will issue any pardons before leaving office at midnight." To date, he has not granted a single pardon because "traditionally, Kentucky governors have waited until their final day in office to issue any pardons."

Birthplace of Abraham Lincoln?

What an exceptional tribute to how wrong things can be.

See story here.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Pardons and Presidents from Illinois

"Lincoln is a source of inspiration for Barack Obama" - Washington Post

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Saturday, January 12, 2013

Obama and Lincoln? Lincoln, you say?!

It appears that President Obama will be taking the oath of office by swearing himself in on a copy of the Bible used by Abraham Lincoln, at his first inauguration ceremony (see one of many, many stories floating around on the topic here).

With this explicit invitation to compare the presidential record of President Obama to that of Abraham Lincoln, we have gathered data on individual acts of clemency from National Archives microfilm set T967 for both presidents up to January 12th of the last year, of their first term. These data thus exclude general pardons (or amnesties) and here are the results:


Pardons
Cond. Pardons
Rem. of
Fines
Respites
Comm. Sentence
Other
Total
Lincoln
305
5
25
6
3
4
349
Obama
22
0
0
0
1
0
23

We remind readers that President Lincoln was somewhat busy with the Civil War and had no Department of Justice with an Office of the Pardon Attorney and a $3 million plus budget to "process" applications. And, of course, it is the Bible which contains that witty line: "For he shall have judgment without mercy, that hath shewed no mercy" (James 2:13).

Monday, January 2, 2012

The Top Ten Clemency Stories of 2011

10. The West Memphis Three - The Three served almost 18 years before a plea deal allowed for their release. But, Governor Mike Beebe - one of the Nation's most steady dispensers of gubernatorial clemency - announced that he had no intention of granting a pardon. And he will only grant a pardon if there is "compelling evidence" that "someone else was responsible" for the murders the men were accused of.

9. 100,000 Application Backlog in Florida - The Florida Rights Restoration Coalition, a group which aims to have the State's Board of Executive Clemency "simplify" (and speed up) the application process estimates a backlog of 100,000 applications!

8. December Clemency - A study published by the author of this blog, in White House Studies, shows that 1 of every 2 pardons and commutations of sentence granted over the last 39 years has been granted in a single month: December.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Lincoln and the John Yates Beall Incident

John Yates Beall, a young, well-educated Virginian, from a wealthy family, found himself looking at the gallows on February 25, 1865. It must have seem like an unexpected ending to a man whose dedication to his religious beliefs were strong, indeed, so compelling, that they even steered him away from billiards tables.

Beall served as a private under the legendary Stonewall Jackson for a brief period of time, but received a serious chest wound in October of 1861. He then buddied up to a nephew of Robert E. Lee's and got audiences with the President of the Confederacy, Jefferson Davis. Beall was soon given two small boats and a handful of men and granted the title of "acting master" in the Confederate Navy. But he was rarely provided with specific orders or assignments. Instead, Beall acted as a kind of "privateer," randomly appearing here and there to destroy a lighthouse, cut a telegraph wire or capture a trading vessel. As will be seen, the ambiguous nature of Beall’s position eventually carried over into his work.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

ProPublica: History of Pardons

The ProPublica web page has a feature entitled "Timeline: A History of Pardons" (linked here). We have informed ProPublica of the following errors / suggestions:

1. If the page intends to say George Washington's first pardon was granted in 1794, that is incorrect. The first known Washington clemency warrant was signed in 1791. If the intent is to imply the first Whiskey Rebel pardon was granted in 1794, that is also incorrect. The first of that batch was granted in 1797.

2. U.S. v. Wilson should be dated 1833, not 1832.

3. Arthur O'Bryan was pardoned by Abraham Lincoln in 1861, not 1864.

4. Dr. Samuel Mudd, who set the leg of a fleeing John Wilkes Booth, and lied about his relationship with Booth, was pardoned in 1869, not 1868. And his pardon was not based on the grounds of innocence. This is noteworthy because the Mudd family has, for a long, long time now, tried to have his name cleared via a pardon based on an assertion of innocence.

5. It is also worthy of note that Spengler and Arnold (Lincoln assassination conspirators) were pardoned just before Andrew Johnson left office, again, in 1869, not 1868.

6. Andrew Johnson's post-Civil War decisions are best described as amnesties, not pardons.

7. Charles W. Morse was not pardoned. His prison sentence was commuted by President Taft. Furthermore, the commutation of sentence was granted in January of 1912, not 1908.

8. The ruling in Biddle is best summarize as follows: Pardons are not private acts of grace but are, instead, best thought of as the by-product of a constitutional scheme which aims to determine what is in the best interest of the public. Consequently, the thoughts, desires and wishes of the recipient are irrelevant.

9. Richard Nixon granted Jimmy Hoffa a conditional commutation of sentence, not a presidential pardon. The condition was, of course, challenged in federal court, until Hoffa had the poor taste to disappear.

11. Jimmy Carter granted an amnesty to Vietnam War era offenders.

12. George H.W. Bush did not pardon Orlando Bosch.

13. Readers should be aware that the data - which originate from the Department of Justice - are actually arranged by fiscal year, as opposed to calendar year.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Obama: Just Too Busy for Mercy

James Buchanan granted 25 presidential pardons from the time South Carolina seceded from the Union and the Confederate States of America were formed (February 1861).

Abraham Lincoln took the time to grant 5 pardons in July of 1861, following the disastrous showing of Federal troops in the Battle of the First Bull Run. In early 1862, he granted 7 pardons while his 11-year old son, Willie, suffered (and eventually died) from typhoid fever. Lincoln also granted 3 pardons during the week of the Battle of Gettysburg.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Robert Redford on the Most Famous Non-Pardon?

The Editor is intrigued to learn that Robert Redford will be releasing a new movie this week, The Conspirator, which will cover the story of the trial of the conspirators in the Lincoln assassination. Many are surprised to learn that several of those convicted in the conspiracy (Dr. Samuel Mudd, Samuel Arnold, and Edward Spangler) were recipients of executive clemency via the hand of Andrew Johnson. But, in many ways, the most intriguing story is that of the presidential pardon that was not given, a pardon that was intended for Mary Eugenia Jenkins Surratt, the first female executed by the U.S. Government and, actually, the last, until Ethel Rosenberg. So, it will be quite interesting to see how director Redford will handle this critical aspect of the story.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Debate Among Lincoln Aficionados?

In a very odd New York Times article entitled "Kindnesses Are Revealed From Day Lincoln Died," Sam Roberts contemplates the recent National Archives episode and suggests:
the disclosure of the forgery has touched off a kerfuffle among Lincoln aficionados over whether the president was pardon-happy or a ruthless wartime commander.
Roberts then offers what he apparently thinks is key piece of evidence in the matter: the fact that Lincoln "showed compassion in other official business" his last day in office.

While we cannot claim to be in the company of "Lincoln aficionados" per se, David Kincaid and I have conducted systematic empirical research of the 331 clemency warrants on file in Microfilm Set T967 in the National Archives and the findings of that research are published in Presidential Studies Quarterly. While our research may not have uncovered anything so glamorous or fascinating to aficionados as a life-saving pardon signed out of the window of a carriage on the way to Ford's Theater, we feel we have contributed enough to the topic to be given serious consideration.

Our research on clemency warrants for persons convicted in civil courts, found that President Lincoln granted more pardons than 13 of the 15 presidents before him and that his clemency activity was generally increasing as the term progressed. Nearly 1/3 of the pardons Lincoln granted to those outside of the District of Columbia were granted to individuals from the so-called border states. Unlike many of his predecessors, Lincoln took the time to explain the rationale behind his decision making in many of his warrants. For this reason, we know that good conduct, repentance and excellent reputation before the commission of an offense were critical factors to him, as well as the youthfulness of an offender.

We also concluded, from the language of warrants, that Lincoln's pardons may have featured an unprecedented degree of public influence. In addition to referencing members of Congress, Supreme Court Justices, governors and other politicians, they very often reference the support of "large" numbers of "honorable" or "respectable" citizens. In some instances, specific numbers are given (fifty, many hundred, nearly one thousand, over eleven hundred, etc.). Lincoln clearly used one of the most imperial and unilateral powers of the presidency generously, and in a highly democratic fashion. See Times article here.

See also: "Inside Lincoln's Clemency Decision Making." P.S. Ruckman, Jr. and David Kincaid, 29 Presidential Studies Quarterly 84-99 (Winter 1999).

Monday, January 24, 2011

National Archives Pardon "Scandal"

One of the problems any serious researcher of Abraham Lincoln is keenly aware of is the difficult task of separating fact from fiction. Lincoln had his critics, more than willing to misrepresent the general situation in order to slander their target. But he also had (and continues to have ) overly enthusiastic admirers, individuals who not only defended him against the critics, but who were also more than a little willing to fabricate the record for the purpose of making Lincoln look better (more witty, more wise, more kind, more merciful, more understanding, etc.) than he actually may have been. In 1999, David Kincaid and I noted:
As with any dimension of Lincoln scholarship, sifting fact from the fiction can be a formidable task. Apocryphal tales abound of pardons issued minutes before hangings, and convicted youths fighting and dying valiantly after receiving a pardon from the Commander-in-Chief. Many such stories are facially dubious and have little corroborating evidence. "Inside Lincoln's Clemency Decision Making." 29 Presidential Studies Quarterly 84-99 (Winter 1999).
Now, the National Archives reports that 78-year old Thomas P. Lowry, a longtime "Abraham Lincoln researcher," has been caught "telling a big lie about Honest Abe." A "big lie?" Wow! Those are big words! What was the lie? The Washington Post reports Mr Lowry:
has acknowledged that he used a fountain pen with special ink to change the date on a presidential pardon issued by Lincoln to a military deserter, making it appear that Lowry had uncovered a document of historical significance. Specifically, Lowry changed the date of the pardon from April 14, 1864 to April 14, 1865. The Archive said the change made it look as if Lowry had discovered a document that was perhaps Lincoln's final official act before he was assassinated that evening at Ford's Theatre.
A date is a date. But how anyone discerned (or pretended to discern), from a document that was merely dated, that it might represent Lincoln's "final official act" is quite difficult for us to grasp. Nonetheless, the Post reports Lowry's "purported discovery" - thirteen years ago - was "hailed by historians," placed in a prominent display and he was credited with having made "a unique and substantial contribution to Lincoln research and to the study of the Civil War." Holy Schnikies!

Such enthusiasm invites disappointment at so many levels!

In this case, the party spoiler was one archivist, Thomas Plante, who was troubled by the fact that the number '5' on the clemency warrant (pictured above) appeared darker than the rest of the document, and was perhaps covering another number (like a "4"). Indeed, when he checked the document against other sources that were available to him, Plante concluded the date should have been 1864 (Plante, incidentally, gained a measure of fame with his own, unrelated, Lincoln "discovery").

It is reported that, at that point, Mr. Lowry, a psychiatrist, signed a written "confession" admitting to violation of the integrity of the Lincoln document - a federal crime - his weapon of choice being a Pelikan pen. But it is also now reported that Lowry denies the allegations against him, claiming that he was "pressured" for two whole hours to confess by federal agents (while wearing his bathrobe no less). Either way, he is banned from the Archives "for life."

Prosecution is not expected - the statute of limitations being 5 years. But, of course, it would be just too good if President Obama were to grant a pardon to the poor fellow! See Post reporting here and here.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Ye Olde Perjury School

Charles A. Dunham (who also went by the names of James Watson Wallace and Sandford Conover) was born and raised in New York City but was living in the South when the Civil War broke out. Dunham was conscripted and served as a clerk in the rebel War Department at Richmond for six months before deserting. He then made his way to Washington where he landed a job as correspondent with the New York Tribune. In the months that followed, he advertised himself as something between a secret service agent and spy without an official employer.

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.

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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