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Lincoln the Lawyer, Humanitarian Concerns, and the Dakota Pardons

46 Pages Posted: 2 Apr 2013  

Paul Finkelman

University of Pittsburgh, School of Law; Albany Law School - Government Law Center

Date Written: 2013

Abstract

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.

Keywords: Sioux Nation, Dakota War of 1862

Suggested Citation

Finkelman, Paul, Lincoln the Lawyer, Humanitarian Concerns, and the Dakota Pardons (2013). William Mitchell Law Review, Vol. 39, No. 2, 2013; Albany Law School Research Paper No. 29 for 2012-2013. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2243020

Paul Finkelman (Contact Author)

University of Pittsburgh, School of Law ( email )

3900 Forbes Ave.
Pittsburgh, PA 15260
United States
412-648-2079 (Phone)

Albany Law School - Government Law Center ( email )

80 New Scotland Avenue
Albany, NY 12208
United States

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