A Musing about George Wilson 6/29/22


So as the Supreme Court has been in the news recently, to say the least, and before you stop reading, I am not commenting on any of the rulings. This is not a political commentary so you can relax.

I have however been self-goaded into doing a bit of research into the Court as a result of their large presence in the news.


Now, as I have discovered with many topics researched through the internet via Google, it is easy to wander away from the initial research topic. Pretty quickly you can veer off course and find yourself going down some strange “cyber rabbit holes.”


One particularly strange court case I discovered in one of these searches occurred in 1830. It involved a man by the name of George Wilson. It seems that Mr. Wilson robbed a letter carrier and stole the US Mail which is both a federal and a state crime.


Having been convicted of the crime (Wilson did not dispute his actions) he was summarily sentenced to be hanged. Yes, you read that right he was to be publicly hanged for his crime.

However, Wilson had some influential friends who were able to reach out to President Andrew Jackson to ask for a pardon. Jackson, who was certainly never considered by anyone to be soft on crime, did see this as unjust and issued a pardon for Wilson.


But then something astounding happened! Geoge Wilson refused to accept it. This refusal led to a legal battle that made it all the way up to the United States Supreme Court.


In a historic Supreme Court decision, the justices concluded that Wilson would have to be executed. “A pardon is a slip of paper,” Chief Justice John Marshall wrote in his explanation, “the value of which is determined by the acceptance of the person to be pardoned. If it is refused, it is no pardon. George Wilson must be hanged.”


So much of our walk with God on the earth is like this. We can choose the blessings of life. We can choose hope and optimism. We can choose forgiveness and grace. We can choose patience and understanding. We can choose kindness and mercy. We can choose to work for justice and practice generosity. We can seek reconciliation and control. We can be gentle and offer mercy. We can seek the peace that comes from God.


We can choose love.


The fact is all of this is available to all, but the choice is up to you and me. And the good news is that choice (some folks call this free will) is always available.


I told you the story of George Wilson, but what I have not mentioned yet is as Paul Harvey would have said – The rest of the story.


You see while Wilson refused the pardon, he avoided being hanged. For reasons no one is fully sure of, Wilson remained in prison on death row for over a decade. Then as reported in The National Gazette of Philadelphia dated January 14, 1841, he was released. It seems his friends had not given up on him and they sought another Presidential pardon for him. This time his pardon was granted by President Martin Van Buren and Wilson accepted it.


Friends, God’s love and grace are always available; you just have to reach out and take hold of it. Doing so will indeed be freeing.


The truth is we each choose how we will live each day.


So, make it a great day or not. The choice is yours.

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