Efforts to Procure the Pardon of Jeff. Davis

April 25, 1867


Many Southerners are seeking out to get President Johnson to pardon Jefferson Davis. This includes hundreds of petitions being sent to the Attorney General. These are for no use, as Jefferson Davis will not send a petition of his own, as it would be declared as an admission of guilt.


Paul Bagley, formerly a missionary to India and Japan, went to Fortress Monroe on the 19th instant, and spent Saturday and Sunday in conversation with Jefferson Davis. The object of his visit was to induce Mr. Davis to apply to the President for a pardon, in the obtaining of which he offered Mr. Davis his services. Mr. Bagley believed that if a regular application should be made by Mr. Davis he could support it with a petition presenting such an array of influential names, a large proportion of them from the Radical Republican party, that the movement would be as successful as that made by him in the case of Governor Vance, of North Carolina. Mr. Davis, however, declined accepting the proposition. He said to ask for pardon was a confession of guilt, and that such an application would prejudice his case at the trial, which he was given to understand was close at hand. Mr. Bagley, nothing daunted with the ill success he met with at Fortress Monroe, arrived here today, and this afternoon called on the President to ascertain whether a pardon would be granted to Jefferson Davis without an application if petitions were presented of a satisfactory character. It is understood that Mr. Bagley was equally unsuccessful at the White House. In the exercise of the pardoning power the President has been guided by an inflexible rule, never to grant a pardon on petitions unless such petitions were accompanied by an application from the individual seeking the Executive clemency. The Attorney General's office has now on file a huge budget of petitions, signed by hundreds of people North and South, praying for the release and pardon of Jefferson Davis; all of which are of no avail, owing to the before-mentioned rule.
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Walker Black




“Efforts to Procure the Pardon of Jeff. Davis,” Reconstructing Virginia, accessed February 1, 2023, https://reconstructingvirginia.richmond.edu/items/show/582.