Few presidents have been as excited about pardon powers as Donald Trump.
In recent months, Trump has issued a rare posthumous pardon to boxer Jack Johnson and a much more contemporary one to conservative commentator Dinesh D’Souza. He has commuted the sentence of Alice Johnson, in the wake of lobbying by Kim Kardashian West, and drawn a rebuff from Muhammad Ali’s attorney for suggesting that the boxer might also receive a posthumous pardon, even though his name was already cleared by the Supreme Court….
Matthew Lyon (1749-1822)
Barbara A. Perry is Presidential Studies Director at the University of Virginia’s Miller Center, a non-partisan think tank focused on the presidency.
My nominee for a posthumous presidential pardon is the intriguing Vermont congressman Matthew Lyon. A member of Thomas Jefferson’s Democratic-Republican party, Lyon was convicted in 1798 of violating the Sedition Act and sentenced to four months in jail. The Sedition Act prohibited malicious criticism of the federal government, Congress or the president. In his own newspaper, Lyon editorialized that Federalist President John Adams had an “unbounded thirst for ridiculous pomp, foolish adulation, and selfish avarice.” Under Jefferson’s subsequent presidency, the Sedition Act was repealed as a gross violation of First Amendment free speech guarantees. Lyon is the only person ever elected to Congress while serving a jail sentence. In 1840, Congress passed a bill refunding Lyon’s $1,000 fine and other costs incurred from his conviction.
Slave Revolt Leaders
Christine Heyrman is Robert W. and Shirley P. Grimble Professor of American History at the University of Delaware
I can think of many people in the past worthy of pardons. At the top of my list are the leaders of major slave revolts or suspected conspiracies: Gabriel Prosser (1800), Charles Deslondes (1811), Denmark Vesey (1822) and Nat Turner (1831). Not all of these men who led rebellions received formal trials; for example, the U.S. army and Louisiana militia that put down the German Coast rebellion summarily executed Deslondes….