Thomas Jefferson Papers

To Thomas Jefferson from Augustus B. Woodward, 16 August 1802

From Augustus B. Woodward

Washington, August 16. 1802.

Nothing will satisfy the unhappy James Mc.Girk, who is sentenced to be executed on the twenty eighth of this month, but that I should go to Monticello, to intercede with the President for his life. Oppressive and inconvenient as it is to me at this time, I suppose I must comply. I am the rather prompted to it, as I persuade myself that when his case is fully understood by the President, he will consider it as almost unavoidably necessary to make him an object of mercy. Some facts which exist in his case, and which were entirely unknown at his trial or sentence, seem to entitle him to pardon. He has addressed a number of letters to the President, written in prison, which I have hitherto suppressed as they might have been deemed intrusive. I shall bring these to submit to the President, with the papers and petitions which accompany his prayer for pardon. I shall probably arrive within a day or two of this letter, which is committed to the post.

Augustus B. Woodward.

RC (DLC); endorsed by TJ as received 19 Aug. and so recorded in SJL.

SENTENCED TO BE EXECUTED: for James McGurk’s case, see his first petition for pardon, printed at 19 Apr. 1802. In April the circuit court of the District of Columbia found McGurk guilty of murdering his wife and sentenced him to death. In its July term, the court set the date of execution (Washington Federalist, 14 Apr., 27 Aug.; Georgetown Olio, 5 Aug.).

If Woodward showed TJ documents that McGurk had WRITTEN IN PRISON since his appeal for clemency in April, TJ did not retain them. No communication from the condemned man to the president between April and October 1802 has been found or is recorded in SJL.

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