To: Peter Martin

Subject: Re: Hearing on bill to pardon John Gordon

Dear Peter,

It's Brother Don Deignan. I am very pleased that the House Resolution to Pardon John Gordon will be heard tomorrow afternoon. Unfortunately, I have a prior commitment which will prevent me from testifying before you in person on this matter. Nonetheless, I want to submit the letter included below in hopes that you will give it serious consideration for the same purpose.

Thank you for your continuing good work on behalf of the Irish-American community and all other Rhode Islanders, too.

My very best,

Brother Don Deignan

50 Park Row West
Apt. #417
Providence, Rhode Island 02903

March 30, 2011

Representative Peter Martin
State House
Providence, Rhode Island 02903



Dear Representative Martin:

As you know, I am all but a life-long Rhode Island resident and a retired professional historian who specialized in the study and teaching of Irish History.  In both of these capacities, I am firmly convinced that the arrest, trial, conviction and execution of John Gordon constituted, equally, a travesty and a miscarriage of justice.  The time to right these  manifest wrongs, symbolically at least, is long overdue.  The only question I bring before you, for your consideration, is which is the best mechanism  the State can use to take  this necessary action at long last.?

In my view John Gordon does not need "a Pardon", since he almost certainly never murdered Amasa Sprague in the first place.  On page 1113 Black's Law Dictionary, 6th Edition, (MN: West Publishing Co.) c. 1990, defines "Pardon" as "An executive action that mitigates or sets aside punishment for a crime."  

It has long been impossible either to "mitigate" or to "set aside" the punishment inflicted upon John Gordon in 1845 for a crime which he very probably did not commit; So a "Pardon" in its intended sense will literally and figuratively do him no good in and of itself.  "Exoneration," by contrast, would better serve the General Assembly's praiseworthy, intended purpose.  Again, Black's Law Dictionary, defines "Exoneration " as "The removal of a burden, charge, responsibility, or duty." (Ibid., p. 576)  

If the current Resolution was to be amended so as to include "Exoneration", as well as "Pardon", I believe that John Gordon's memory and reputation would be appropriately vindicated to the satisfaction of everybody concerned.  The "Pardon", with appropriate explanatory language included in it, would allow the Executive Branch to atone for the wrongdoing of its predecessors and the legislative declaration concerning "Exoneration"would enable the General Assembly to clear its collective, historical conscience on behalf of the people of Rhode Island which it represents.

Adoption of the formula outlined above is the solution which I would strongly recommend to you, your legislative colleagues and to the Governor as well.  Thank you for your serious consideration of my somewhat unorthodox views.  


Donald D. Deignan, Ph.D.