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Rankin Family History Project

Letter from John Layton, father of James Layton
Plea for Clemency

His Excellency, Thomas Reynolds,
Governor of the State of Missouri

Very dear Sir,

It should be the duty of the father of the unfortunate James Layton to go and throw himself at the feet of your Excellency; to present to you his own prayers with those of your humble petitioners.  

But unable to travel on account of the infirmities of my old age and especially of the grief which has broken my heart and destroyed the rest of my strength,  

I can but send you our earnest supplication with the hope it will be sufficient to move to an act of mercy, for an old father, a father's heart.  

I have raised ten children, nine of whom are living.  

I have five sons-in-law, four daughters-in-law, thirty-three grand children and a great number of relatives; all reputed to be honest, respectable, and good citizens of the Commonwealth which your Excellency has been chosen to govern.  

I will not mention, very dear sir, my having been honored several times with the votes of the people for public office and of my being still a justice of the peace; but I will beg to remark that of our large family none has ever been accused or guilty of any thing repressed by law before this lamentable affair of my wretched son.  

No, sir, I had to come to my sixty-eighth year before being dishonored and all my hairs were to be grey before being stained with disgrace and infamy.

Oh! mercy not to the perpetrator of an action that we all condemn, that we all regret, that we all would recall with what we possess on earth; but mercy to his father, mother, brothers, sisters and relations.  

Spare my old age and our respectable name the horrid fate of an execution on the gallows.  

I insist not upon the state of complete intoxication in which the deed was perpetrated, not upon the provocation of the unfortunate victim, which both facts were proved and admitted at court and made us hope for a mitigated verdict.  

I respect the law of my country even when it strikes my son; but it seems to me as to all your petitioners that it would be satisfied as well if not better by a mutation of the pain of death to confinement in the penitentiary for a number of years you will think proper.  

Should it be for life your Excellency would still confer on us an immense favor and gain for ever our warmest gratitude.  

Should you see, dear sir, the misery in which this plunges our numerous family and friends, the bloody tears of an old mother, the woeful mourning of brothers and sisters, the heart rending position of five unhappy children, the whole hope of whom is to be only miserable orphans  

I am very sure, sir, you would and could not resist to your paternal feelings, and that you would use the best prerogative of your authority, that of doing good to your fellow citizens.  

We beesech you by all that is sacred and tender hear our prayer and grant to our tears our humble request, the God of Mercy will reward you and bless your children.  

I am with respect and hope of your Excellency the most humble and obedient servant.  

May 25th 1843
John Layton, Sen.

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The Rankin Family History Project began in 1997 with a simple 3 generation family chart.   Inspiration came from our grandmother who has shared a lot of great stories and really got us going when she loaned us her copy of Maryland Catholics on the Frontier by Timothy O'Rourke;   and also from Alex Haley, whom we had the pleasure of meeting shortly before Roots was published.   This site is dedicated to our great-grandparents.   Without them, we would not be here.  

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Rankin Family History Project     Sonoma County, California

Updated January 2000
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