LINCOLN, ABRAHAM, President. Document signed in full as President, Washington, D.C., 28 March 1861. One page, 4to, printed on pale blue paper, accomplished in manuscript in a secretarial hand, mat-burned at extreme edges. The President authorizes the Secretary of State (William H. Seward) to "affix the Seal of the United States to the warrant for the pardon of William Edwards...."
THREE WEEKS IN OFFICE, LINCOLN SIGNS A PARDON
A very early order to affix the seal to a pardon, dated only three weeks after Lincoln's inauguration as President. This is the earliest such document on the recent market of which we are aware (an order to affix a seal to a pardon dated 29 March 1861 was sold at auction 24 February 1976 (cf. ABPC). This document was signed by Lincoln at the height of the Fort Sumter crisis. Confederate commissioners were in Washington demanding that the fort be turned over to the secessionist government. General Pierre Gustave Toutant Beauregard had been sent to Charleston by the Confederacy's provisional President, Jefferson Davis; he had arrived in Charleston on March 3, the day before Lincoln's inauguration, to take charge of military operations. Lincoln and the cabinet met in urgent session on March 27 and on the 29th, the day after this warrant was signed, Lincoln announced his decision to proceed with plans to reinforce and provision Fort Sumter. When various ultimatums and responses proved unproductive, Beauregard's batteries opened fire on the fort on the morning of April 12, 1861.