James Madison Papers
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Executive Pardon, 20 July 1812 (Abstract)

§ Executive Pardon

20 July 1812. “Whereas it has been made to appear to me that a certain D. McKenny, a private in the Marine Corps of the United States, has been sentenced, by a Court Martial to suffer death—Now be it known, That I James Madison, President of the UStates, for divers good causes and considerations, do by these presents pardon and remit the sentence aforesaid; requiring all persons whom it may concern to Govern themselves accordingly.”1

Letterbook copy (DNA: RG 59, PPR). 1 p.

1JM also remitted the death penalty for several other offenders in the early months of the war: Privates Daniel, Leonard, Conroy, McDonald, Jones, Green, and Howard, 22 July 1812; James Grant and Martin Johnson, 6 Aug. 1812; James Barrett, 6 Aug. 1812; John Miller, Robert Bennet, Theodorus Vanilestine, and Rowland Jeffery, 21 Aug. 1812; John McCormick, 26 Oct. 1812; John Ryan, 14 Nov. 1812; and James Whitehurst, 1 Dec. 1812 (ibid.). In addition, JM remitted lesser penalties and discharged prosecutions in the cases of several others: Francis Breuel, 15 Aug. 1812; Amasa Kingsborough, 18 Aug. 1812; and Josiah Rogers, 8 Oct. 1812 (ibid.). The procedure for handling pardons changed, however, with a 5 Sept. 1812 general order that stipulated: “The proceedings of General Courts Martial, which in time of peace are to be submitted to the President of the U. States, before the same can be carried into execution, will, during the continuance of the war, be laid before the general officer having the command of the Department, within which such general courts martial may be held, for his confirmation or disapproval and orders in the case; agreeably to the provisions of the 65th article of the act entitled ‘An Act for establishing Rules and Articles for the government of the Armies of the United States’” (National Intelligencer, 8 Sept. 1812). That article required that “no sentence of a general court martial, in time of peace, extending to the loss of life, or the dismission of a commissioned officer, or which shall, either in time of peace or war, respect a general officer, be carried into execution, until after the whole proceedings shall have been transmitted to the Secretary of War, to be laid before the President of the United States, for his confirmation or disapproval, and orders, in the case” (U.S. Statutes at Large description begins The Public Statutes at Large of the United States of America … (17 vols.; Boston, 1848–73). description ends , 2:367). The order of 5 Sept. 1812 notwithstanding, death penalty cases continued to come to JM’s attention throughout the War of 1812.

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