Papers of John Adams, volume 5

From Andrew Henshaw

From Nathanael Greene

Resolution on Pardoning Power, 28 May 1777 JA


Resolution on Pardoning Power, 28 May 1777 Adams, John
Resolution on Pardoning Power
ante 28 May 1777

Resolved That the General, or Commander in Chief for the Time being Shall have full Power of pardoning, or mitigating any of the Punishments ordered to be inflicted, for any of the Offences mentioned in the Rules and Articles for the better Government of the Troops, raised, or to be raised and kept in Pay, by and at the expence of the united States of America, the fourth Article resolved in Congress the 14th. day of April last notwithstanding.1

MS in JA's hand and written at the bottom of a letter of 17 May 1777 from John Laurence (PCC, No. 78, XIV, f. 161).


Judge Advocate Gen. John Laurence, who took William Tudor's place on 10 April, inquired whether a change in the Articles of War was meant to deprive the commander in chief of the pardoning power in capital cases or merely deprive other Continental generals of that power. On 14 April the congress, among other changes, had repealed Art. 2 of Sect. XVIII of the revised Articles of War, which had given full pardoning power to the commander in chief. The substitute article, numbered 4, gave to Continental generals the pardoning power except in capital cases, which, if a general chose to suspend punishment, he had to refer to the congress. Laurence's inquiry was referred to the Board of War on 23 May, and on the 27th the congress adopted the Board's resolution as drafted by JA (Heitman, Register Continental Army , p. 342; JCC , 8:381; 5:806; 7:265–266; 8:390).