In late February 1862, Yankee slaver trader Nathaniel Gordon of Portland, Maine, was hung in the stone courtyard of the Tombs, in New York City, convicted of “piratically confining and detaining Negroes with the intent of making them slaves.” Ironically, New York’s own Declaration of Independence signer, Phillip Livingston, made his own vast fortune in the slave trade, as did many other New Englanders. A further irony is that soon Lincoln would be formulating a plan to foment race war in the American South, replicating the emancipation edicts of Royal Governor Lord Dunmore in 1775, and Vice Admiral Alexander Cochrane in 1814. It was England and New England that brought shiploads of enslaved Africans to work Southern and South American plantations, and both would later demand liberty and the rights of man for those they had placed in bondage. See: Hanging Captain Gordon, Ron Soodalter, 2006 for deeper reading.
Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org
Yankee Slave Trader Gordon
“In November 1861 a Yankee slave trader was captured on the high seas with a boat load of slaves bound for the West Indies. Trading in slaves had been illegal for years, although the New England slave ships had been carrying on clandestine slave trading with considerable success for Cuba and Brazil but not the South, which was not interested.
It is commonly but erroneously assumed that slave trading was a Southern occupation, but in fact almost all slave trading, when it was legal and later illegal, was from ships of New England registry with Northern crews.
The Yankee slave trader Nathaniel Gordon, who was originally from Maine, was tried before a federal judge in New York and sentenced to be hanged on 7 February 1862. It was the first and only time such a sentence was handed down and carried out.
Realizing the undue harshness of the sentence, 25,000 New Yorkers petitioned Lincoln to commute Gordon’ sentence to one of life imprisonment. There was nothing to be lost by Lincoln doing this, but Lincoln refused to commute the sentence. (Later, when another slave trader was caught, Lincoln went to the other extreme and granted a pardon).
There were many vociferous abolitionists who called for the hanging to be carried out, and Lincoln yielded to their demands. He did, however, grant a cruel delay of thirteen days so that the execution would not take place until 20 February. Lincoln explained his course of action in these words: “In granting this respite [thirteen days] it becomes my painful duty to admonish the prisoner that relinquishing all expectation of pardon by human authority, he refer himself alone to the mercy of the common God and Father of all men.”
It would seem that mercy from God, to be realistic, would have to come through men, and in this case, Lincoln. Where was the “mercy of the common God” when Lincoln had him hanging from a rope until dead? What is the logic of this cruelty?”
(When in the Course of Human Events, Arguing the Case for Secession, Charles Adams, Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc., 2000, excerpts pp. 209-210)