Thursday, April 18, 2013

Finkelman on Lincoln and the Dakota Pardons

Paul Finkelman, Albany Law School, has posted Lincoln the Lawyer, Humanitarian Concerns, and the Dakota Pardons, which is forthcoming in the William Mitchell Law Review 39 (2013)
Here is the abstract:    
H.A. Schwabe, The Siege of New Ulm. (Credit)
In 1862 there was a short war in Minnesota initiated by some members of the Dakota (Sioux) Nation. The Dakota fought against settlers in central Minnesota, and ultimately against the Minnesota militia and U.S. Army elements. After the War was over the Army tried nearly 400 Dakota soldiers by military commissions, and sentence 303 to death. President Lincoln, acting under the militia act of 1862, refused to sign the warrants of execution for 87 percent of those sentenced to die. In the end Lincoln reprieved 265 of the condemned men. The remain 38 were eventually hanged. This even was both the largest mass hanging in American history and also the largest mass pardon of my people sentenced to death. This article – the lead article in a symposium on the U.S.-Dakota War of 1862 – explores the route Lincoln took to pardoning the vast majority of those convicted. It also explores the fairness –actually the utter unfairness – of these sham “trials” before the military commissions that often lasted no more than ten minutes.