[Lancaster, PA: 1797]. , [2 blanks], [1- docket, with Governor Mifflin's signature approving the petition]. Manuscript petition, written in ink on a single page, with the names and signatures of ten townspeople endorsing the petition. One leaf. Old folds with a few short splits but Very Good.
Elizabeth Hyton was convicted of horse stealing "on the last Monday of February Anno Domini 1797." Governor Mifflin pardoned her on March 27, 1797, when her one-month jail sentence expired. Fortunately for Elizabeth and her impoverished family, Pennsylvania did not consider horse theft a capital crime, unlike some States.
In 1786 Pennsylvania became the first State to adopt discretionary terms of hard labor and imprisonment for felony offenses, and to delegate to judges rather than juries the authority to determine the sentence. "The frequency with which felons were pardoned may be surprising to those familiar with modern clemency practices. Pardon and benefit of clergy were alternative and ameliorative features of what was otherwise a horribly draconian penal system." King, 'The Origins of Felony Jury Sentencing in the U.S.' 78 Chicago-Kent Law Review No. 3, pages 937, 949  [noting the dramatic rise in pardons for horse-stealing in 18th century Virginia, when it was rendered a capital crime]. Item #31477