Showing posts with label Madison. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Madison. Show all posts

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Lacking In Mercy

There are certainly many ways to gauge the amount of mercy displayed in an administration. Instead of simply looking at the total number of pardons, commutations of sentence, remissions of fines and forfeitures and respites, we gathered original data and calculated the average number of individual grants of clemency - per year of the term - for each and every president. That is to say, we considered consistency in the use of clemency throughout administrations, as well as the overall figures. This is what we found:

Click on Image (above) to Enlarge

It is clear that, to date, the Obama administration represents a low point, a very low point, in the exercise of this great, necessary, Constitutional power.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

SHOCK: Obama's Pardon Disaster. The Merciless Term

Barack Obama's first term has come to an end and we are now ready to report that his four-years as president represent the least merciful term for any modern president (Democrat or Republican) and, quite possibly, the least merciful in the entire history of the United States (see footnote below).

This is, of course, an incredible distinction for a president who repeatedly notes that America is a place where people get "second chances," from a president who complained bitterly about overly-harsh sentences given to criminal defendants simply because they were African-American, and from a president who promised us "hope and change."

Will the second term be like (or worse than) the first? Frankly, there are very few signs that anything will change in any significant way - save the conventional wisdom that presidents tend to wax irresponsible in the fourth and final year of the term and are subject to a world of pressure from interested parties (resulting in last-minute pardon splurges). In sum, we appear to be on the track to an equally merciless second term and/or a Clintonesque pardon disaster.


Individual Acts of Clemency
(Pardons, Commutations of Sentence, Respites)
George Washington *
Barack Obama
George Washington
George W. Bush
John Adams
Thomas Jefferson
Bill Clinton
George H.W. Bush
Thomas Jefferson
James Madison

* These data are based on Professor Ruckman's original data set, collected from copies of State Department clemency warrants found on Microfilm Set T969, National Archives, the Annual Report of the U.S. Attorney General and a CD set of clemency warrants issued by the Office of the Pardon Attorney, U.S. Department of Justice. Recently, George Lardner has uncovered additional acts of clemency in the first term of George Washington, suggesting State Department records may be incomplete, at least for that administration. There is no additional evidence of overlooked actions in any other administration.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

The First Spy Pardon

James Madison granted the first presidential pardon to a spy in the fourth year of his first term. The recipient was one John Ryan (of Great Britain - captured in New York) who was sentenced to the gallows by General William Wadsworth after the decision of a unanimous court.

President Madison "approved" of the sentence, but granted a pardon nonetheless.

The clemency warrant was signed on November 10, 1812.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Madison's Pirate Pardon: Celebrating New Orleans' Jean LaFitte

Jean LaFitte was the youngest of three boys who was born near France, in Haiti or in Spain, depending upon who you read. He and his cross eyed brother, Pierre, came to America some time between 1802 and 1804 and may have set up a blacksmith shop in New Orleans while taking up residence on Bourbon Street. By 1910, Jean was the leader of a privateering/smuggling operation that had forty warehouses, a fort, ships, cannons and three to five thousand employees.

The organization generally targeted slave ships, but was agreeable to plundering any vessel that might yield a profit. The booty was brought from Barataria Bay through bayous to New Orleans, where Pierre would take care of storage and inventory. Whether the Baratarians deserved the title “pirates” or mere “smugglers” seems to be an issue among historians. But, either way, there was no small irony in the fact that LaFitte rarely got on ships himself. The man who usually dressed in black and tipped his extravagant hats to admirers, tended to get seasickness.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

On Presidents, Pirates and Pardons

Presidents have understood the potential foreign policy / international benefits of the pardon power at least since April 25, 1793, when George Washington pardoned one Joseph Ravara out of "sentiments of respect" for the Republic of Geneva. Two hundred sixteen years and a few days later, the mother of Abduhl Wali-i-Musi is calling on President Barack Obama to pardon her teenage son, who is about to be tried for piracy. Notwithstanding the success of the Pirates of the Caribbean trilogy, it does not appear to be the best time in history to be facing such a charge.

John Adams pardoned the first pirate, George Rice, in May of 1800 (for "the public good"), but, in the catalogue of pardoned pirates, the popularity contest is easily won by Jean LaFitte and the Baratarian Pirates. Researching LaFitte (and his brother) is an excellent exercise in myth, legend, lore and - somewhere in there - fact. There appears to be agreement, however, that he was prone to sea sickness and stayed on shore as much as possible. General Andrew Jackson was appalled that the government would call upon the LaFitte (played by Yule Brenner in The Buccaneer) and Baratarian Pirates to assist in the Battle of New Orleans. But the self-righteous disposition of the future president gave way, soon enough, to expediency and, as a reward, President James Madison granted the Baratarians a general pardon. Unfortunately, Madison's grant was premised upon "sincere penitence" and, well, there was no such thing in the mix. So, it wasn't long before the government went right back to hanging Baratarian Pirates en masse and cannon-blasting their island headquarters.

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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