John L. McKee to Thomas E. Bramlette
I suppose one of the greatest annoyances, incident to your office as Govinor, is an application to pardon those condemned as ciminals—doubtless, efforts are often made to rescue those that ought to suffer—but; I think you know me well enough, to be satisfied that I would not try to prevent the punishment of the guilty—or of those I believe to be guilty.
An unfortunate negro girl, about 21 or 22 years of age, brought to this city, as a contraband, by Buell's Army, last Fall, Caroline, by name, has been
tried, convicted and sentenced to be hung upon the 11th Inst. If guilty she ought certainly to receive the dreadful penalty But, in my judgment, it is very doubtful, to say the least, whether she perpetrated the deed. I did not hear the evidence before the jury—but had a statement of the evidence, in person, from the Judge and Commonwealth's Attorney, and do not think the life of any human being ought to be taken, from such testimony. No one cared any thing about her, and she had a strong prejudice to meet in the mere fact of being a contraband. I visited her as a spiritual instructer and at first inquired into the facts of the case solely as a guide in bringing her to confession and repentance—when I recd the statement, I was amazed that any one
should have been convicted upon such a showing. I do not charge or believe there was any corruption in the Court. I questioned and crossquestioned ^Caroline^ at different times, and in every way my ingenuity would dictate, and always received the same simple, artless narative. I may be mistaken in but I do not believe any one, as ignorant as she is, could tell me such a lie as she did, if guilty, and not be caught. She gives a very natural account of every part of the case, that looked to her guilt. I pressed upon her conscience with all the power I could, the impossibility of her finding pardon of God, if she went to Him with a lie in her mouth—and that she might find pardon from God for murder telling lies and every other sin, if she would confess and repent—
And this I continued up to the very time she expected to be taken out for execution. She was sentenced to be hung last month, and we got Gov. Robinson to extend her time—She knew nothing of the extention of the time, or even that application had been made for any thing.
More than this, Caroline gives many marks of true penitence for sin—in a word, she gives good evidence of genuine conversion, and yet denies resolutely that she perpetrated the deed.
No body claims that any of her anticedents point to such a deed, but the contrary is proven by the parents of the child that was poisoned.
In my judgment, no man that will use poison about his premises as carelessly as Mr Levi did, has any right to ask that his servant shall be hung upon ^such^ circumstantial evidence, if his child should die of poison.
I did not intend to test your patience so long, but it is no light matter to take the life of even a friendless and homeless contraband. I hope you will look into the case, and not let the heavy arm of power fall upon an innocent being.
Yours very respectfully
John L. McKee