George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Edmund Randolph, 6 September 1794

From Edmund Randolph

Sepr 6. 1794.

The secretary of state has the honor of informing the President of the United States, that the recommendation of Judge Peters in favor of a pardon for Thomas Norton corresponds with the opinion of Mr Rawle, the district-attorney; that his subject is to be considered now, howsoever it might have been represented at first, as no more than larceny; that his long imprisonment is of itself a severe punishment, that it is probable from the representation of Judge Peters, that he may continue many months longer in gaol, before he can have his third trial, he having had two already; and that upon the whole it seems adviseable to pardon him.1

AL, DNA: RG 59, Miscellaneous Letters; LB, DNA: RG 59, GW’s Correspondence with His Secretaries of State; LB, DNA: RG 59, Domestic Letters.

1According to the pardon that GW signed on 20 Sept., Thomas Norton, a "mariner," had been convicted "of larceny committed on the high Seas, in Stealing two pair of silk stockings, the property of Francis Moreau," and had been imprisoned twelve or thirteen months (DNA: RG 59, Copies of Presidential Pardons and Remissions).

In Norton’s statement of 7 Aug. 1794 prior to his second trial, he reviewed the incidents which led to the accusation of theft. When the ship on which he was serving was captured by a privateer, several passengers insisted upon placing their belongings in Norton’s sea chest and bread room for safekeeping. Although the privateers seized most of the items in the chest, those hidden in the bread room were saved. Passengers who lost possessions, however, grew jealous. One jury subsequently found him not guilty of larceny from Anthony Cambay, while a second jury found Norton guilty of larceny from Francis Moreau (DNA: RG 21, Minutes and Habeas Corpus and Criminal Case Files of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, 1789-1843).

Index Entries