Missouri State Archives
Guide to African American History
Record Group 005: Office of the Secretary of State, Commissions Division, Pardon Papers (1837-1909)
This series contains the evidence upon which a governor based his action regarding the request for pardon from a crime or prison term. In 1841, abolitionist George Thompson was sentenced to twelve years at the Missouri State Penitentiary for "slave abduction." He and two other abolitionists crossed the Mississippi River into Marion County from Quincy, Illinois, with the intent of helping slaves escape to Canada.
After serving four years, Thompson asked for a pardon; petitions from Ohio, Indiana, and other states supported his request. These petitions reveal much about antebellum attitudes toward slavery and abolitionists. Thompson's letter to penitentiary inspectors states, "Although we cannot feel that Slavery is right, yet we do feel that much of our effort to do it away has been a 'zeal not according to knowledge'; and can now exercise a charity for slaveholders, which we did not before possess." The pardon was granted June 24, 1846.