On December 3, 1862, David C. McDonald, a discharged Union soldier from Ohio, was indicted by the Breckinridge Circuit Court for "Negro Stealing." Sentenced to seventeen years at hard labor, McDonald was still in confinement five years after the close of the Civil War[emphasis added]. The Cincinnati Commercial learned of his plight and launched a campaign to secure his release.
On April 7, 1870, while African-Americans across the land were celebrating the passage of the 15th Amendment, McDonald was pardoned by Governor John W. Stevenson. Generally, entries of this type in a Governor's executive journal consisted of one or two brief lines. Such was not the case in this instance. After referring to McDonald's date of conviction, the entry read:
Since that time the Negroes have all been emancipated, Slavery no longer exists any where in the Union, the negroes have been even invested with the electoral franchise, and as they are now free to go wheresoever they may choose, it would appear somewhat singular to see a man imprisoned for seventeen long years for attempting to take one negro from his master when the government has taken & freed them all since the conviction of McDonald took place.
In a brief reference to the event, the Louisville Courier-Journal observed on April 11 "This may be set down as the last of the immediate consequences of slavery in Kentucky."
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