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Lincoln, Abraham (1809-1865) [Respite of execution for slaver Nathaniel Gordon]

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Gilder Lehrman Collection #: GLC00182 Author/Creator: Lincoln, Abraham (1809-1865) Place Written: Washington, D.C. Type: Document signed Date: 4 February 1862 Pagination: 3 p. ; 41 x 27 cm.

Summary of Content: Countersigned by Secretary of State William H. Seward. Convicted of engaging in the slave trade, respite granted to allow Gordon to prepare for execution. He was the only slave trader in U.S. history to be executed for that crime and was executed on 21 February 1862 in New York. See story in Harpers Weekly, 8 March 1862, p.150 (ill. p.157).

Background Information: Early in the war, Lincoln handled the slavery issue cautiously to avoid losing the support of the border states. He did, however, take a major symbolic step when he became ...the first President to approve of the execution of an illegal slave trader.See More

Full Transcript: Abraham Lincoln,
President of the United States of America,
To all to whom these Presents shall come Greeting:
Whereas, it appears that at a Term of the Circuit Court of ...the United States of America for the Southern District of New York held in the month of November A.D. 1861, Nathaniel Gordon was indicted and convicted for being engaged in the Slave Trade, and was by the said Court sentenced to be put to death by hanging by the neck, on Friday the 7th day of February, A.D. 1862;
And whereas, a large number of respectable citizens have earnestly besought me to commute the said sentence of the said Nathaniel Gordon to a term of imprisonment for life, which application I have felt it to be my duty to refuse;
And whereas, it has seemed to me probable that the unsuccessful application made for the commutation of his sentence may have prevented the said Nathaniel [2] Gordon from making the necessary preparation for the awful change which awaits him;
Now, therefore, be it known, that I, Abraham Lincoln, President of the United States of America have granted and do hereby grant unto him, the said Nathaniel Gordon, a respite of the above recited sentence; until Friday the twenty first day of February, A.D. 1862, between the hours of twelve o'clock at noon and three o'clock in the afternoon of the said day, when the said sentence shall be executed.
In granting this respite, it becomes my painful duty to admonish the prisoner that, relinquishing all expectation of pardon by Human Authority, he refer himself alone to the mercy of the Common God and Father of all men.
In testimony whereof, I have hereunto signed my name and caused the Seal of the United States to be affixed.
Done at the City of Washington, [3] this Fourth day of February A.D. 1862, and of the Independence of the United States the Eighty sixth.
Abraham Lincoln.
By the President:
William H. Seward
Secretary of State.
See More

People: Lincoln, Abraham, 1809-1865
Seward, William Henry, 1801-1872

Historical Era: Civil War and Reconstruction, 1861-1877

Subjects: Death PenaltySlaveryCriminals and OutlawsLawPresidentAfrican American History

Sub Era: The American Civil War

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