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16 December 2004
LINCOLN, Abraham. Partly printed document signed ("Abraham Lincoln"), Washington, 10 June 1863. 1 page, 4to, blue paper.
AN ORDER TO AFFIX THE SEAL TO A PRESIDENTIAL PARDON. Lincoln's order to the Secretary of State to Affix the Seal of the United States to "a Warrant for the pardon of William W. Bain..." Bain was the recipient of one of Lincoln's non-military pardons. But even these played an important role in the war effort. He granted clemency to some 331 prisoners convicted in the civil courts, and denied only 81. Many of those pardoned were from border states or other sensitive areas of the Union, where the cultivation of good will towards the Federal government was a distinct advantage not only to the Administration but to the Northern cause as a whole. Lincoln issued twice as many pardons as his predecessor, James Buchanan, and was famously generous with the applications from Union army soldiers convicted of capital offenses. He denied every application to execute a sentry for sleeping at his post, and in 1864 (an election year), issued a blanket order revoking the execution orders for over 60 troops. Several of his generals thought the President's mercy undermined discipline and encouraged desertion. Sherman reportedly boasted that he made sure his prisoners got shot before Lincoln had a chance to pardon them. On the civil side, Attorney General Bates lamented that "in nine cases out of ten," a woman's tears "if nothing else," were "sure to prevail in winning clemency" (Current, 168-169). But Lincoln was not just a bleeding heart. He saw the larger picture and realized the importance of restoring and reconciling a divided nation.
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