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APPENDIX II.

A PAPER ON THE ABUSE OF THE PARDONING POWER.

THIS paper was originally a report. I had been appointed by a meeting of the Friends of Prison Discipline, without being present, the chairman of a committee, which was requested to report to the next meeting on "The Pardoning Privilege and its Abuse." The following was the result of this appointment. The legislature of the State of New York did me the honor of publishing it as a document; but it was printed so incorrectly, the subject is of such vital interest to a people who desire to live under the supremacy of the law, and the abuse continues in many parts of our country to so alarming an extent, that I do not hesitate here to reproduce the paper.

The pardoning privilege consists in the authority partially or wholly to remit the penalty which, in the due and regular course of justice, has been inflicted for some offence. A pardon is always an act of frustrating that common justice which has been established by law as the best means of protection; a nullification of legal justice. It is the only power in modern politics, in which the supremacy of the law is acknowledged as the primary condition of liberty, that can be compared in any degree to the veto of the ancient tribune.1 It is

1 An inaccuracy of terms has in the case of the veto power created much confusion. The ancient tribune had the privilege of

an irregular power, depending upon irresponsible individual will. We ought, therefore, clearly to be convinced of its necessity; and if this can be proved, we ought to inquire whether so extraordinary a power must not be guarded by proper limitations, especially if it should be found that it is liable to be seriously and even alarmingly abused.

In order to understand more fully the whole subject, it will not be amiss if we endeavor to obtain a view of the origin of this power, and to see why it is that everywhere we find it as an attribute of the chief executive power; whether this fact must be attributed to any inherent characteristics, or to incidental circumstances.

vetoing, and a so-called vetoing power being ascribed to the chief magistrate of modern constitutional States, people are apt to confound the two, and attack or defend them on common grounds. Yet the two have nothing in common. The Roman tribune had a real veto. He could prohibit an entire law, or a single operation of it; he could stop the building of a public fabric, or veto an officer from doing his duty, or a general from leaving Rome for the army. But the modern veto has nothing to do with the law once passed; it amounts to nothing more than the withholding of one necessary ingredient to pass a bill into a law. In governments where the crown has the concurrent or sole initiative, either house, whose consent is necessary in order to make a law, may be said to have the veto power against the crown with the same propriety with which we call the power, in our president, of withholding his approval a vetoing power. The president can never interrupt the operation of a law once made a law. In the case of pardoning, however, the power actually amounts to a tribunal veto. There the executive, or whoever may possess the pardoning privilege, actually stops the ordinary operation of the law. A man has been laboriously tried and sentenced according to the course minutely laid down by the law, and another power steps in, not according to a prescribed course or process of law, but by a pure privilege left to his own individual judgment, and says: I prohibit; and the due and regular course of law is interrupted accordingly. This is vetoing power. VOL. II.-13

APPENDIX II.

A PAPER ON THE ABUSE OF THE PARDONING POWER.

THIS paper was originally a report. I had been appointed by a meeting of the Friends of Prison Discipline, without being present, the chairman of a committee, which was requested to report to the next meeting on "The Pardoning Privilege and its Abuse." The following was the result of this appointment. The legislature of the State of New York did me the honor of publishing it as a document; but it was printed so incorrectly, the subject is of such vital interest to a people who desire to live under the supremacy of the law, and the abuse continues in many parts of our country to so alarming an extent, that I do not hesitate here to reproduce the paper.

The pardoning privilege consists in the authority partially or wholly to remit the penalty which, in the due and regular course of justice, has been inflicted for some offence. A pardon is always an act of frustrating that common justice which has been established by law as the best means of protection; a nullification of legal justice. It is the only power in modern politics, in which the supremacy of the law is acknowledged as the primary condition of liberty, that can be compared in any degree to the veto of the ancient tribune.1 It is

1 An inaccuracy of terms has in the case of the veto power created much confusion. The ancient tribune had the privilege of

an irregular power, depending upon irresponsible individual will. We ought, therefore, clearly to be convinced of its necessity; and if this can be proved, we ought to inquire whether so extraordinary a power must not be guarded by proper limitations, especially if it should be found that it is liable to be seriously and even alarmingly abused.

In order to understand more fully the whole subject, it will not be amiss if we endeavor to obtain a view of the origin of this power, and to see why it is that everywhere we find it as an attribute of the chief executive power; whether this fact must be attributed to any inherent characteristics, or to incidental circumstances.

vetoing, and a so-called vetoing power being ascribed to the chief magistrate of modern constitutional States, people are apt to confound the two, and attack or defend them on common grounds. Yet the two have nothing in common. The Roman tribune had a real veto. He could prohibit an entire law, or a single operation of it; he could stop the building of a public fabric, or veto an officer from doing his duty, or a general from leaving Rome for the army. But the modern veto has nothing to do with the law once passed; it amounts to nothing more than the withholding of one necessary ingredient to pass a bill into a law. In governments where the crown has the concurrent or sole initiative, either house, whose consent is necessary in order to make a law, may be said to have the veto power against the crown with the same propriety with which we call the power, in our president, of withholding his approval a vetoing power. The president can never interrupt the operation of a law once made a law. In the case of pardoning, however, the power actually amounts to a tribunal veto. There the executive, or whoever may possess the pardoning privilege, actually stops the ordinary operation of the law. A man has been laboriously tried and sentenced according to the course minutely laid down by the law, and another power steps in, not according to a prescribed course or process of law, but by a pure privilege left to his own individual judgment, and says: I prohibit; and the due and regular course of law is interrupted accordingly. This is vetoing power.

VOL. II.-13

When all government is yet mixed up with the family relations, and the individual views of the ruler alone prevail, he pardons, as a matter of course, whenever he sees proper and feels impelled so to do; but developed despotism over extensive states takes a different view. Fear of insecurity and suspicion of disobedience to the commands of the despot often lead the ruler to fence himself in with a strict prohibition of applications for pardon. That which a wise people does for virtuous purposes by a constitution, namely, the establishing, in calm times, of rules of action for impassioned periods, distrusting their own power of resisting undue impulses, and thus limiting their power, the despot does from fear of his own weakness, and therefore limits his own absolute power that he may not be entrapped into a pardon of disobedience. Chardin tells us that in his time it was, in Persia, highly penal to sue for pardon for one's self or for another person; the same was a capital offence under the Roman emperorsat least under the tyrants among them, who form the great majority of the fearful list. Still it is clear that the last and highest power, the real sovereign (not only the supreme) power, must include the power of pardoning. As in Athens the assembled people had the right of remitting penalties, so does the civil law acknowledge the privilege in the emperor who was supposed to be the sovereign, and acknowledged as the source of all law. Christianity confirmed these views. The mercy of the Deity is one of its chief dogmas; mercy, therefore, came also to be considered as one of the choicest attributes of the ruler, who on the one hand was held to be the vicegerent of God, and on the other the sovereign source of law and justice; nor can it be denied that, in times when laws were yet in a very

2 Voyage en Perse. London, 1686-1715.
3 Demosthenes against Timocrates.

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