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Fri, 02.21.1862

Slave-Trader Is Prosecuted, And Hanged

Nathaniel Gordon

*On this date in 1862, Nathaniel Gordon was hanged for slave trading.  He captained the slave ship Erie and is the only person in American history executed for slave trading.

During the early hours of that day, Gordon was found in convulsion in his cell. Physicians found that he had taken strychnine. According to an article in the New York Daily Tribune, the substance had been given to Gordon by an unidentified person at the beginning of his second trial and hidden in a small bench in his cell. A stomach pump, catheters, and brandy were used to revive him. He begged doctors to allow him to die, but every effort was made to restore him.

Threats were sent to the Marshal by Gordon sympathizers who opposed his execution. Marines were placed within the prison walls in response, but no riots occurred. No attempts were made to stop the proceeding. The U.S. Marshal pronounced his sentence. Gordon was asked if he had any final statements, and according to newspaper accounts, he said, "I did nothing wrong."



Federal Death Penalty Project

New York Daily Tribune and Harpers Weekly,
February 21, 1862.

Documents on Wheels
College Park, Md. 20740

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