In his New York Plebeian article Mackenzie made an appeal to Van Buren’s successor, President John Tyler:
In August 1842, two months after James returned and published his story, United States Secretary of State Daniel Webster, as part of his negotiations in the dispute over the border between Maine and New Brunswick, wrote a formal letter to England’s Lord Ashburton requesting a free pardon for the American prisoners in Van Diemen’s Land. Then in 1843, United States Representative Caleb Cushing made a formal appeal to President John Tyler, asking him to petition the British government for the release of the American prisoners. The British conceded, but the bureaucratic process moved slowly, and it was 1850 before all of the remaining Americans had received their free pardons. Joseph Hume in London had continued to petition for a free pardon for the Short Hills men.(3)
Linus Miller finally received a pardon in July 1845, more than a year after it had been sent from London. Elijah Woodman was finally pardoned, but died on the voyage home. Aaron Dresser, Jr., and Stephen Wright were pardoned, and upon their return in February 1844, they wrote in an emotional letter to the New York Tribune, “To be obliged to drag out an existence in such a convict colony and among such a population, is, itself a punishment severe beyond our powers to describe.” The letter succeeded in pressuring the United States government to intervene, and they finally directed the ambassador to request pardons for the American patriots still in VDL. The process was not completed for several more years.(4) After living in exile in the United States for eleven years, William Lyon Mackenzie was the last of the rebels to be pardoned. He returned to Toronto in 1849.
- Pybus, American Citizens, British Slaves, pp. 38, 43-44, 47-48.
- NY Plebeian, transcription, p. 11.
- Pybus, American Citizens, pp.171-2. 204; Pybus, Introduction to Snow’s narrative.
- Miller, p. 354; Pybus, American Citizens, pp. 197-8. (See Pybus’ note #36 in Snow, part III, for the last pardons.)