The Power of the Pardon

A territorial governor let himself go scot-free.

Isaac Stevens was a controversial governor of Washington Territory. In the 1850s, he enacted brutal treaties upon Indian tribes in the area, forcing them to give up large amounts of land in exchange for small reservations. As part of that effort, Stevens declared martial law in 1856—which allowed him to arrest his enemies as well as take on the Indians.

He’d gone too far. A court ordered him to lift the martial law; he refused and was charged with contempt. But Stevens had the last word—he pardoned himself.

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