Conscientious objectors: Madison pardons Quakers, 1816

A primary source by James Madison and James Monroe

James Monroe to Thomas Rutter, November 13, 1816, on the Quakers’ petition for aIn 1816, seven Quakers in Baltimore, Maryland, petitioned President James Madison for pardons after refusing to serve in the militia or pay the exemption fee. Secretary of State James Monroe requested additional information on the men from the Marshal of the District of Maryland, Thomas Rutter, to determine whether the case merited the President’s attention:

You are requested to give such Information as you may be able, on the subject of the cases which it involves, – so far as to shew whether the time or the suffering of the Confinement of the Petitioners may bring them within the President’s pardoning Power.

We do not have Rutter’s response, but one week after Monroe requested the information, he forwarded a blank pardon form signed by President Madison, telling Rutter to extend the pardon to “such Persons, of the Society of Friends or others . . . who have incurred militia fines, as you may be of opinion, under all the Circumstances of the Case, are entitled to that Indulgence.”

This series of documents includes the request from Secretary of State James Monroe for more information; Monroe’s letter transmitting the President’s pardon to the Marshal of the District of Maryland, Thomas Rutter; and a copy of the pardon left blank so that Rutter could write in the names of the Quakers being pardoned.

Transcript

James Monroe to Thomas Rutter, November 13, 1816 (GLC00043.06)

Department of State, Nov 13, 1816.

Sir,

A Petition for Relief having just been preferred to the President by the Persons whose names are subjoined, who are represented to be of the Society of Friends, you are requested to give such Information as you may be able, on the subject of the cases which it involves, – so far as to shew whether the time or the suffering of the Confinement of the Petitioners may bring them within the President’s pardoning Power; the Prayer of the Petition, in its present shape, appearing to be founded on his possessing a dispensing power.

It is stated by the Petitioners that they have lately been arrested by you under the militia law of the United States, and that being conscientiously scrupulous against bearing arms, some of them are confined in the Prison of Baltimore County, and that the others are at large, by your Indulgence. I am, respectfully, sir, your obed servt.

Jas. Monroe

Thomas Rutter Esqr.
     Marshal of the Dist of Maryland.

________

Names of the Petitioners referred to,
Joseph Hollingsworth             Levi Hartley
Wm. Ellicott junr                      Samuel Hartley junr
Wm. Ellicott                             Seneca Parry
Thomas Hartley

Transcripts of all three documents are available here.

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