Petition for reprieve by John Gordon

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  • Petition for reprieve by John Gordon

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Petition for reprieve by John Gordon


The failed petition of John Gordon for a reprieve, 1845.

John Gordon (died February 14, 1845) was the last person executed by Rhode Island. In 1844, Gordon was tried and convicted for the December 31, 1843 beating murder of Amasa Sprague, a Cranston textile factory owner. The murder occurred within the village of Knightsville. John Gordon was executed by hanging in the state jail in Providence. Seven years after Gordon's execution, Rhode Island abolished the death penalty. Although it was reintroduced in 1872, no executions took place before capital punishment was abolished again by the state in 1984. Rhode Island Governor Lincoln Chafee pardoned Gordon on June 29, 2011, following passage of legislation by the state's General Assembly urging such action. Chafee signed the proclamation of pardon at the Old State House, where Gordon's trial took place more than 150 years prior.

See also:
General Assembly - Prisoner/Judicial Petitions, Committee on, 1829-1862

General Assembly - Petitions Failed / Withdrawn, 1811-1874

General Assembly - Petitions Received, 1725-1890


Rhode Island State Archives


1845 January 20


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Document Item Type Metadata


To the Honorable the General Assembly of the
State of Rhode-Island, in session in Provi-
dence, January, 1845

John Gordon, a convict sen-
tenced to be executed on the 14th day of Feb-
ruary next - averring, as he has ever done,
his innocence of the crime of which he was
convicted, yet conscious that unless that fact
be, now or hereafter, satisfactorily shown to your Hon-
or, he must ultimately suffer the dread penalty
of the law, -
Believing that the circumstances of
his case, (which he prays he may, through his
counsel be allowed to make known to your Hon-
able body,) warrant his asking, as an act of
justice, rather than of mercy and favor, an ex-
ercise in his behalf of the reprieving power.

Would now humbly pray that the
execution of the sentence pronounced upon him
by the Supreme Court at its September term, may
be postponed until some period subsequent
to the final trial of his brother Nicholas S.
Gordon, as the insti-
gator of the crime of which your petitioner
is convicted.

And as in duty bound will ever pray.
John Gordon

Providence County Jail
Jan. 20, 1845

Original Format



Gordon, John, -1845, "Petition for reprieve by John Gordon," in Virtual Exhibits, Item #487, (accessed October 15, 2019).