William Henry Trescot, Pardon Broker
UVA Law Faculty Affiliations
This essay details the efforts of William Henry Trescot, "executive agent" for South Carolina, to secure pardons for the state's lowcountry elite class after the Civil War. As state executive agent, Trescot held job responsibilities extending well beyond inducing Andrew Johnson's administration to issue individual pardons. Trescot also used those pardons to facilitate the restoration of land the federal government had seized from lowcountry planters during the war. The seizures were primarily rooted in the land's legal classification as Captured and Abandoned Property. At the time of the war's conclusion, this land was in the hands of Freedmen's Bureau, and it provided the foundation for the tentative plans for land redistribution in the former Confederacy. Trescot's maneuvering in the Johnson White House and with Freedmen's Bureau officials throughout 1865 and 1866 was a primary reason for the failure of Reconstruction-era land redistribution in the United States.