Saturday, October 15, 2011

The Remarkable Story of George Wilson

On December 6, 1829 two men, George Wilson and James Porter, robbed a United States mail carrier in Pennsylvania. Both men were subsequently captured and tried. On May 1, 1830 both men were found guilty of six indictments which included robbery of the mail "and putting the life of the driver in jeopardy." On May 27th both George Wilson and James Porter received their sentences: Execution by hanging. The sentences were to be carried out on July 2nd, 1830.

By today’s standards, this sentence seems very harsh. Remember, no one was killed in their crimes. In the earlier days of American history the justice system more closely followed Biblical principles.

The system was both swift: "Because sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily, therefore the heart of the sons of men is fully set in them to do evil." Ecclesiastes 8:11. And harsh: "Whoso sheddeth man’s blood, by man shall his blood be shed: for in the image of God made he man." Genesis 9:6.

James Porter was executed on schedule. George Wilson was not. Shortly before the set date a number of Wilson’s influential friends pleaded for mercy to the President of the United States, Andrew Jackson, on behalf of their friend.

President Jackson issued a formal pardon. The charges resulting in the death sentence were completely dropped. Wilson would have to serve only a prison term of twenty years for his other crimes.

Incredibly George Wilson Refused The Pardon!

According to the official report, THE UNITED STATES VERSUS GEORGE WILSON (Peters 7 Report Sections 150-163) Wilson was returned to court as they attempted to "force" the pardon on him. It is recorded that George Wilson chose to:

"...waive and decline any advantage or protection which might be supposed to arise from the pardon referred to..." Wilson also stated that he "...had nothing to say, and that he did not wish in any manner to avail himself in order to avoid sentence ..."

The case reached the Supreme Court. The Attorney-General made the following comments:

"The court cannot give the prisoner the benefit of the pardon, unless he claims the benefit of it... It is a grant to him: it is his property; and he may accept it or not as he pleases."

Chief Justice John Marshall wrote the following in the decision:

"A pardon is an act of grace, proceeding from the power entrusted with the execution of the laws, which exempts the individual, on whom it is bestowed, from the punishment the law inflicts for a crime he has committed...

"A pardon is a deed, to the validity of which delivery is essential; and delivery is not completed without acceptance. It may then be rejected by the person to whom it is tendered; and if it be rejected, we have discovered no power in a court to force it on him.

"It may be supposed that no being condemned to death would reject a pardon, but the rule must be the same in capital cases and in misdemeanors."

In other words, George Wilson committed a crime. He was tried and found guilty. He was sentenced to be executed. A presidential decree granted him a full pardon. But George Wilson chose rather to refuse that pardon. The courts concluded that the pardon could not be forced upon him so George was hanged.

Seek ye the LORD while he may be found, call ye upon him while he is near: Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the LORD, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon. Isaiah 55:6-7.

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