War of the Rebellion: Serial 116 Page 0235 CORRESPONDENCE, ETC. --UNION.

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Gordon, lately convicted of piracy and sentenced to be hanged upon the 7th of this month, and as the time is short I proceed to answer it without delay.

The question is, can you lawfully grant to the convict a respite of his sentence without relieving him altogether of the death penalty? I have no doubt that you can. The Constitution (Article II, section 2) plainly gives you power to grant reprieves as well as pardons, and that without any exception but cases of impeachment. A reprieve does not annul the sentence as a pardon does. It only prolongs the time and fixes a day for execution different from and more distant than the day fixed by the court. You have exercised the power with my full concurrence. In the case of the three sailors sentenced to be hanged for murder on the high seas you first granted them a respite for four months and afterward commuted their sentence for a term of imprisonment.

My answer is confined to be single question of your lawful power to do the thing which is clear and plain. I say nothing about the justice or expediency of using the power because upon that branch of the subject no question is propounded to me.

I have the honor to be, with the greatest respect, your obedient servant,



Fortress Monroe, Va., February 4, 1862.


Commanding at Norfolk, Va.

GENERAL: The Rev. Bishop Ames and the Honorable Hamilton Fish have been appointed visitors by the Secretary of War for the purpose of visiting and relieving the prisoners belonging to the Army of the United States now held as captives at Richmond and elsewhere in the South and for other purposes, as indicated in the instructions to the visitors, a copy* of which is herewith inclosed.

These honorable gentlemen visitors propose to enter upon their humane and merciful mission if permitted to do so as son as some 400 prisoners arrive from Fort Warren, of which you have already received notice, under such restrictions as may not be incompatible with the execution of their mission. If the permission is granted they will accompany the prisoners to Norfolk anticipating that you will previously transmit to me such safeguards as will secure their protection and the execution of their merciful and important functions, with the assurance that whatever is granted to them will be extended to any visitors that you may think proper to send to the United States having the same objects in view.

I am, very respectfully, your obedient servant,




Fort Monroe, Va., February 4, 1862.

Major General B. HUGER, Commanding at Norfolk, Va.

SIR: Herewith you will receive by this days' flag of truce Captain William D. Farley, First South Carolina Volunteers; Lieutenant Frank


*Omitted here; Stanton to Fish and Ames, p. 222.