In Whitman's Hand

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Title: Amos T. Akerman to Fredrick T. Frelinghuysen, 9 March 1871

Date: March 9, 1871

Whitman Archive ID: nar.02948

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: Nima Najafi Kianfar, Courtney Rebecca Lawton, and Kenneth M. Price

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March 9, 1871.

Hon. Fred'k. T. Frelinghuysen

U.S. Senate.


I have received your letter of the 8th instant, in reference to the case of Edward W. Blake, for whom a pardon has been asked, convicted of passing counterfeit money.

I have examined the case, and do not feel at liberty to recommend a pardon. On account of the high character of the gentlemen who urge a pardon, I state to you more fully than is usual the reasons which have governed me in the matter.

Blake was sentenced on the 17th of October, 1867 to ten years imprisonment. Instead of having served six years, as you have been informed, he has served less than three and a half years.                In the many papers which accompany the petition, I do not find anything which mitigates the offence.—It is affirmed that the sentence was more severe than had been usual in the District of New Jersey—"that certain statements were made to the Judge which led him to believe that the defendant was a dangerous criminal—that there is reason to believe that this fact was much exaggerated, and that Judge Field regretted the severity of the sentence."

All this is too shadowy and indefinite to authorize an interference with the solemn official action of the Judge. He had the case before him when the facts were fresh, and when he had the benefit of hearing all that was presented on either side, and I think it is due to the Judiciary that the pardoning power should not shorten the sentences pronounced under such circumstances, unless there is strong evidence of inconsiderateness, or other mistake on the part of the Judge, or of facts which would have mitigated the sentence. Such evidence is not furnished to me. The District Attorney says that gentlemen have assured him of mitigating circumstances which would have reduced the term of his sentence, if they had been known. These circumstances, if they exist, should be clearly proved to the pardoning power.

Of all the circumstances stated in the papers as a ground for mercy, none seems to be well made out except that of good behavior in the Penitentiary. But this would hardly justify a release of nearly two thirds of the ten years sentence.

I will also say to you that there is scarcely any offense for which, I think, that pardons should be so cautiously granted, as that of which Blake has been convicted. It is usually perpetrated with great deliberation. It has none of the palliations which belong to crimes done under a sudden impulse. The victims of the fraud are generally the poorer and the least intelligent classes in society. I think therefore that the law should usually be visited in all its severity upon such offenders.

Blake is reported to be about fifty years old. The chances of reformation are, therefore, much less than in the case of young men of unsettled character.

Very respectfully,

A. T. Akerman,

Attorney General.

question of pardon of E. W. Blake, N. J.


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