Title: Orville Hickman Browning to William H. Seward, 6 May 1868
Date: May 6, 1868
Source: Transcribed from digital images or a microfilm reproduction of the original item. For a description of the editorial rationale behind our treatment of the correspondence, see our statement of editorial policy.
Location: National Archives and Records Administration
Whitman Archive ID: nar.00530
Contributors to digital file: Elizabeth Lorang, John Schwaninger, Nima Najafi Kianfar, and Kevin McMullen
May 6, 1868.
Hon. William H. Seward,
Secretary of State.
I have the honor to invite your attention to a matter which requires immediately whatever attention the subject merits.
I enclose herewith an application for a special pardon, made by one, Clarvoe, together with an affidavit in which he avers facts which tend to show that he has been pardoned by virtue of an amnesty proclamation,—that of Mr. President Lincoln, in 1863. In the application, you will observe that the blank appropriated to the "exception" under which the applicant falls, and by reason of which he stands in need of special clemency, is vacant in the present case. In the affidavit of the party, it is declared that he does not fall within any one of the exceptions enumerated by President Johnson in his proclamation of 29th May, 1865. He must therefore have been pardoned by virtue of a competent proclamation of amnesty as soon as he signified his acceptance, by taking the prescribed oath, whether under the proclamation of 8 December 1863, within none of whose exceptions Clarvoe falls, or that of 29 May, 1865. In this view it would seem that the only question would be the sufficiency of the evidence that the party is included in the Proclamations, and that his acceptance of the clemency has been satisfactorily signified.
I observe that the regulations prescribed by your Department, (13 Stats. 759,) make it the duty of the officer before whom the party takes the amnesty oath, to forward the same for permanent preservation in your archives. I presume that in your Department, therefore, the proper evidence is always available, of the fact that an individual has been pardoned by a proclamation of amnesty.
The laws relating to suffrage in the District of Columbia exclude persons who have given aid to the rebellion, etc. (14 Stat. 375, 390; 15 Stat. 27;) - but it is understood that no question is made against such as have a full and special pardon. On the other hand, it is alleged that equal efficacy is not recognized by the Boards of registration, in the several amnesty proclamations. This may be erroneously stated, as no legal distinction would seem to justify such a view. But the practical effect is to multiply applications for special pardon, to the seemingly useless increase of official labor—without adverting to the novelty involved in the practice of pardoning persons previously declared innocent in the most solemn manner.
My object is, to ascertain whether a resort should not be had in all cases by parties interested, to the records of your Department, for certified evidence that they had already been fully pardoned by the President, before applying to him for a special warrant. It may be, that practical reasons, such as insufficiency of data, or the like, may render the latter course most expedient. If so, information to that effect would satisfy my present inquiry.
Respectfully, your obedient Servant,
O. H. Browning,
Attorney General ad interim.