A Pardon Refused

by Steve Hamilton

In 1829, two men robbed a United States mail carrier in Pennsylvania.  The men were tried on six indictments that included robbery and murder.  George Wilson and James Porter were found guilty and sentenced to death by hanging.  However, a petition for pardon was made on George Wilson's behalf by some of his influential friends.  President Andrew Jackson was agreeable and granted a formal pardon to Wilson. Incredibly, Wilson refused the pardon!

This had never happened before.  No one had ever declined a presidential pardon much less for an offense that didn't carry the death penalty.  What where they to do with a man who preferred to die on the gallows?

The case reached the Supreme Court.  Chief Justice John Marshall ruled, "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 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."

A pardon must be accepted.  George Wilson refused his pardon and was; therefore, hung until dead on the gallows!

Likewise, God has provided every human being a chance for pardon from their sins (John 1:12; 6:37).  However, that pardon must be accepted in the way God has ordained (Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38).  Those who do not accept the pardon will perish (II Peter 3:9).