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Title: William M. Evarts to Benjamin F. Wade, 20 February 1869

Date: February 20, 1869

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.00804

Contributors to digital file: Elizabeth Lorang, Nima Najafi Kianfar, Kevin McMullen, John Schwaninger, Courtney Rebecca Lawton, and Kenneth M. Price



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Feb. 20, 1869.

Hon. B. F. Wade,

Pres't pro tem of the Senate

Sir:

I had the honor to receive on the 17th of Feb, inst. a resolution of the Senate, passed on that day, wherein it was "Resolved that the Att. Gen. be directed to furnish for the information of the Senate a list of persons convicted for violating the revenue laws, and for counterfeiting; stating the length of sentence to imprisonment, the am't of fines in each case; & who of such persons, have been pardoned by the President, & when such pardons were granted."

Before undertaking to comply with the requisition upon me of this Resolution, which it would be my pleasure to do, so far as I have any means or knowledge enabling me so to do, I beg leave respectfully to ask the attention of the Senate to the scope of the resolution as it has been adopted by the Senate, in order that I may be assured whether its apparently universal application was intended, or whether its object was limited to information upon the subject of the resolution within the present term of the Presidency.

The first branch of the information required is of "a list of persons convicted for violating the revenue laws, & for counterfeiting, stating the length of sentence to imprisonment, the amount of fines in each case." This list, it will be seen by the term of the Resolution, would need to embrace all the instances of conviction for either of the crimes named, from the time the Judiciary of the U.S. first went into operation, until now.

The second branch of the information asked for by the resolution is, as to "who of such persons have been pardoned by the President, & when such pardons were granted." As this language, in its natural interpretation, would embrace the exercise of the pardoning power during the whole constitutional existence of the Presidential office, although it might have been intended only to apply to the present Presidential term, I have not felt at liberty to determine which meaning was intended by the Senate.

In reference to the unmistakable purpose of the resolution to obtain information which will present the means of comparison between the number of convictions for the offences described, & the number of pardons of the same, during whatever period the resolution was intended to embrace, I beg leave respectfully to say that the office of the Attorney General contains no record of convictions for these particular offences, or for any offences against the U.S. —nor, so far as I am advised, is any record of such convictions to be found except in the various Courts throughout the U.S. in which the convictions have been had.—It will, therefore, be entirely out of my power to furnish any part of this information concerning convictions, which is sought by the resolution, either from any source accessible to me, or by the exercise of any authority reposed in me by law.

In regard to information respecting pardons by the President, I also beg leave respectfully to state, that the only office of record of the same, in any proper sense of the term, is in the Department of State, from which the pardons are issued & where the formal record of them is preserved. Earlier than the 4th of March, 1861, the office of the Attorney General did not keep a record of the action of the Executive in cases of pardon, that was at all complete. But since that period, a more accurate & trustworthy record of the same has been preserved in this office.

I beg leave also respectfully to state that the information desired by this resolution, so far as it relates to pardons between the 14th of April 1865, and the 19th of Feb. 1868, of persons convicted for counterfeiting, was, in pursuance of a resolution of the House of Rep., of the 26th of Nov. 1867. desiring such information, communicated to the House of Rep. by the President as reported to him by the Att. Gen., & that the same is published as Ex. Doc. No. 179, of the 2d Session of the 40th Congress.

As I could not feel any doubt that the purpose, as well as the terms of the resolution of the Senate asking for this information, sought for the means of comparison between the convictions and pardons, & as it is wholly out of my power to furnish any record of the former, & as I am able to furnish a statement of the latter for only a recent period, I have thought it most respectful to the Senate to submit myself to its direction as to whether the partial information which it is in my power to communicate was desired by it.

I have the [honor?] to be,

&c. &c. &c.

Wm M. Evarts

Attorny General.


Report & Answer to U.S. Senate, in obedience to a Resolution.
conviction for violating revenue laws - pardons, &c.


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