Slavetrader Gordon’s Execution Remembered

February 22, 1862

“Yesterday at noon was hanged Gordon, convicted of piracy as a slave-trader,” wrote New York lawyer George Templeton Strong of slave trader Nathan Gordon, who had tried to commit suicide before his execution. “ ‘Vere dignum et justum est, dignum et salutare.’  Served him right, and our unprecedented execution of justice on a criminal of this particular class and at this particular time will do us good abroad, perhaps with the pharisaical shop-keepers and bagmen of England itself.  Immense efforts were made to get the man pardoned or his punishment commuted.  Lincoln told me of them last January.  he deserves credit for his firmness.  The Executive has no harder duty, ordinarily, than the denial of mercy and grace asked by wives and friends and philanthropes.  Gordon, poor wretch, made a very pitiful exit.  He went to the gibbet half-dead with a dose of strychnine swallowed with suicidal intent and more than half-drunk with brandy.  The doctors drenched him with stimulants and thus kept life in his body for the law to extinguish in due form.”

“At night I returned to the Presidents and again sat up part of the night with his little son,” wrote Senator Orville H. Browning in his diary.  General George B. McClellan wrote President Lincoln regarding the death of his son Willie: “I have not felt authorized to intrude upon you personally in the midst of the deep distress I know you feel in the sad calamity that has befallen you & your family — yet I cannot refrain from expression to you the since & deep sympathy I feel for you.

You have been a kind true friend to me in the midst of the great cares & difficulties by which we have been surrounded during the past few months — your confidence has upheld when I should otherwise have felt weak.  I wish now only to assure you & your family that I have felt the deepest sympathy in your affliction.
I am pushing to prompt completion the measures of which we have spoken, & I beg that you will not allow military affairs to give you one moment’s trouble — but that you will rest assured that nothing shall be left undone to follow up the successes that have been such an auspicious commencement of our new campaign.

Concern for Lincoln’s youngest son Tad continued; the wife of Navy Secretary Gideon Welles, helped nurse him.

Published in: on February 22, 2012 at 12:01 pm  Leave a Comment  

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