In Whitman's Hand

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Title: Letter to Amos T. Akerman to Garret Haubenberk, 22 August 1871

Date: August 22, 1871

Whitman Archive ID: nar.02432

Source: National Archives and Records Administration>. 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.

Contributors to digital file: Elizabeth Lorang, Melanie Krupa, John Schwaninger, and Nima Najafi Kianfar

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August 22, 1871

Rev. Garret Haubenberk

Norwalk, Conn.

Dear Sir:

I have received your letter of the 19th instant.

You are entirely mistaken if you suppose that any irritation occasioned by what seemed to be an importunate and unnecessary presentation of the case of Charles A. Willard, would in any degree affect my official action in that matter. I judge his case upon its merits as they appear in the papers on file. Thus judging it, I have not been able to bring myself to believe that he ought to be pardoned. Your convictions founded no doubt in great measure upon your private knowledge of the prisoner, and good will for him, I have not been able to adopt. The official history of the case satisfied me that he was guilty.

Perhaps it is not possible for one in your circumstances to view such cases as they appear to one in my circumstances. I am obliged to consider the effect of a pardon, not only upon the individual concerned, and his immediate friends, but as a precedent, and as a rule of official action in other cases. If the principles upon which alone a pardon could be granted in Willard's case, should furnish a rule for general action, the United States criminal law would become an idle ceremony. It would be easy, in a majority of crimes, to make out as plausible a show of grounds for pardon, as have been furnished in his. Of course I do not question the conscientiousness with which you have come to an opinion favorable to his innocence. But, as I have already hinted, that opinion must in some measure have been induced by your personal knowledge of the man, and your personal sympathy for him—considerations by which I am not at liberty to be swayed.

I might further say that the irritation which I may have manifested when you were last in the office was occasioned by what seemed to me an unreasonable importunity on your part, not sufficiently considerate of the very heavy pressure upon the time and thoughts of an occupant of this office, which its necessary business imposes. If I were to bestow upon all matters that come before me, the time and attention which I had already given to the case of Willard, not one twentieth of the business of the office would be done. And after so disproportioned a share of attention given to it, and which was cheerfully given, (on account of my respect for the conscientious interest which you seemed to take in the matter) it was unreasonable to press it further upon my attention in a mode which would command much more time than the written statements which I promised to consider, would require. But this was only a passing impulse on my part, and I desire you to feel that I retain no unkindness towards you.

Now, in answer to your question, what more is necessary? I can only say that if any additional facts are shown me, tending to establish Willard's innocence, I shall consider them with the greatest pleasure, and shall be glad if they can bring my mind to a conviction of his innocence. In that case I shall most cheerfully recommend his pardon. But a mere repetition of the statements already made, or the mere addition of respectable names to the list of petitioners, will not produce a change in my views.

Very respectfully,

A. T. Akerman,

Attorney General

Chas. A. Willard.


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