Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln. Volume 5.
Lincoln, Abraham, 1809-1865.

To Joseph Holt [1]

Executive Mansion, Washington,
Judge Advocate General Dec. 1. 1862.

Sir: Three hundred Indians have been sentenced to death in Minnesota by a Military Commission, and execution only awaits my action. I wish your legal opinion whether if I should conclude to execute only a part of them, I must myself designate which, orPage  538 could I leave the designation to some officer on the ground? Yours very truly A. LINCOLN

Annotation

[1]   ALS-P, ISLA. See Lincoln's communication to John Pope, November 10, supra. Joseph Holt, who had been appointed judge advocate general as of September 3, 1862, replied to Lincoln's letter on December 1:

``I do not understand the precise form in which the question, referred to in your note of this morning, presents itself. If it be on an application to pardon the indians condemned, or a part of them, I am quite sure that the power cannot be delegated, and that the designation of the individuals, which its exercise involves, must necessarily be made by yourself. The designation of those upon whom the sentence is to be executed, is but the exercise of the same power, being merely an approval of the sentences and a refusal to pardon. I am not aware of any instance in which the delegation of this delicate and responsible trust, has been attempted.

``In view of the large amount of human life involved in these proceedings, would it not be well---if this step has not already been taken---to submit them to the Attorney General for the purpose of more satisfactorily determining the question of their regularity?'' (DLC-RTL).

See further Lincoln letter to Henry H. Sibley, December 6, infra.