Ossining, NY: 1876. Three handwritten pages by a prisoner with a note from Governor Samuel Tilden's office and response from warden on last page.
The prisoner Benjamin Robinson was convicted for attempted rape in 1872 and sentenced to five years. In this letter dated June 15, 1876 he explains that he should be due for early release, save for the fact that he escaped in 1875 and was recaptured after 6 days. His most compelling reason for release is to support his wife and 3 young children who were "dependent upon the cold unwelcome alms of public charity." Knowing he had to address his escape, he wrote, "If liberty is very sweet and precious at any time, how much more than priceless it became to me, who, knowing this deplorable situation of my family, was yet powerless to stay or relieve it! And may not this crying circumstance somewhat mitigate the extent of the offence which I committed, when I sought my own liberty, only that I might give them bread, and succor their distress? Besides this arch-temptation -- in itself enough to nerve the weakest man to greatest effort -- recall the glaring opportunity which was mine! Left at night near the outer skirts of the grounds -- no Keeper attending, no Guard at his usual post, no check, no barrier between me and those who were suffering so sorely on my account -- black helpful night about me, to cover my escape - -is it not natural that I would attempt to rejoin my family, to drive distress from my door? Ah! How many there are here, as elsewhere, who assume the virtue of quiet obedience, but who, much less tempted than I would have yielded, also, to the devil of opportunity."
A response from Albany on June 17, 1876 from E. Miggael (?) Pardon Clerk asks George R. Youngs, Sing Sing Warden, "What is there about this case?" Youngs responds on June 20th that, "...I am informed... that he is illiterate and can barely write his name... and did not have consent of Inspectors [and myself] to write this letter."
4 pages, 9 3/4 x 7 3/4", very good condition with old folds. Item #23711