To: Peter Martin
Subject: Re: Hearing
on bill to pardon John Gordon
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
Providence, Rhode Island 02903
March 30, 2011
Providence, Rhode Island
GOVERNOR OF THE STATE OF RHODE ISLAND TO PARDON JOHN GORDON
As you know, I am all
but a life-long Rhode Island resident and a retired professional historian
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
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.
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.