Monday, February 27, 2012

History: The Baratarians Pardoned

On February 6, 1815, the President of the United States did something that had not much been thought of prior to that date. Upon the recommendation of a man who, seemingly overnight, had become a national hero, President Madison pardoned en mass the men who had contributed – according to Andrew Jackson – so much to the victory at New Orleans that ended the War of 1812. Madison put pen to paper and, in one sweeping gesture, welcomed every Baratarian who served under Jackson into the fold of U.S. citizens. Prices on heads were dropped and warrants for arrest were sent to the trash heap; men who once hid in the shadows could now walk freely among their fellows. Here is the proclamation as quote in The Pirate's Own Book by Charles Ellms:

By the President of the United States of America, A Proclamation: Among the many evils produced by the wars, which with little intermission have afflicted Europe, and extended their ravages into other quarters of the globe, for a period exceeding twenty years, the dispersion of a considerable portion of the inhabitants of different countries, in sorrow and in want, has not been the least injurious to human happiness, nor the least severe in the trial of human virtue.

It had been long ascertained that many foreigners, flying from the dangers of their own home, and that some citizens, forgetful of their duty, had co-operated in forming an establishment on the island of Barrataria [sic], near the mouth of the river Mississippi, for the purpose of a clandestine and lawless trade. The government of the United States caused the establishment to be broken up and destroyed; and, having obtained the means of designating the offenders of every description, it only remained to answer the demands of justice by inflicting an exemplary punishment.

But it has since been represented that the offenders have manifested a sincere penitence; that they have abandoned the prosecution of the worst cause for the support of the best and, particularly, that they have exhibited, in the defense of New Orleans, unequivocal traits of courage and fidelity. Offenders, who have refused to become the associates of the enemy in the war, upon the most seducing terms of invitation; and who have aided to repel his hostile invasion of the territory of the United States, can no longer be considered as objects of punishment, but as objects of a generous forgiveness.

It has therefore been seen, with great satisfaction, that the General Assembly of the State of Louisiana earnestly recommend those offenders to the benefit of full pardon. And in compliance with that recommendation, as well as in consideration of all the other extraordinary circumstances in the case, I, James Madison, President of the United States of America, do issue this proclamation, hereby granting, publishing and declaring, a free and full pardon of all offences committed in violation of any act or acts of the Congress of the said United States, touching the revenue, trade and navigation thereof, or touching the intercourse and commerce of the United States with foreign nations, at any time before the eighth day of January, in the present year one thousand eight hundred and fifteen, by any person or persons whatsoever, being inhabitants of New Orleans and the adjacent country, or being inhabitants of the said island of Barrataria, and the places adjacent; Provided, that every person, claiming the benefit of this full pardon, in order to entitle himself thereto, shall produce a certificate in writing from the governor of the State of Louisiana, stating that such person has aided in the defense of New Orleans and the adjacent country, during the invasion thereof as aforesaid.

And I do hereby further authorize and direct all suits, indictments, and prosecutions, for fines, penalties, and forfeitures, against any person or persons, who shall be entitled to the benefit of this full pardon, forthwith to be stayed, discontinued and released: All civil officers are hereby required, according to the duties of their respective stations, to carry this proclamation into immediate and faithful execution.

Done at the City of Washington, the sixth day of February, in the year one thousand eight hundred and fifteen, and of the independence of the United States the thirty-ninth. By the President, James Madison. James Monroe, Acting Secretary of State.

According to Winston Groom in his unfortunately historically flawed – he relies heavily on the so called “Diary of Jean Lafitte” written by Laffite maniac John Lafflin – but well written book Patriotic Fire, the proclamation reached New Orleans on February 27th. The stories of what each individual Baratarian did –or didn’t do – with his Presidential pardon will continue to be told here at Triple P, and elsewhere, for a long time to come.

Header: The Battle of New Orleans via


Blue Lou Logan said...

Yay! An event to celebrate for sure...

Timmy! said...

Ahoy, Pauline! I don't know why, but that pardon reminds me of the end of the movie "O Brother, Where Art Thou?" when the Governor pardons George Clooney and his buddies...

Pauline said...

Lou: Absolutely!

Timmy!: And if the Baratarians I'm familiar with weren't as chuckleheaded as Everett McGill, I've missed the mark entirely; so good analogy there my man.