Washington, D. C. Seven months after then President Barack Obama commuted the sentence of WikiLeaks informant Chelsea Manning, documents have surfaced indicating Obama planned to posthumously pardon two infamous American military officers from another era. The Obama memos, which the president's staff failed to destroy, were revealed this week by White House aides troubled by the unfriendly reaction to President Donald Trump's pardon of Sheriff Joe Arpaio.
The Obama pardon memos indicate the president had given serious consideration to pardons for Benedict Arnold and Philip Nolan. Arnold, who as a general in the Continental army had defected to the British and planned to surrender West Point to British forces but was foiled by the capture of a British spy.
Nolan was the infamous "Man Without a Country," a convicted Army officer who denounced the United States and spent his remaining years as a prisoner at sea.
Obama's memos indicate that both men had served their country well until the events that brought them notoriety. "They have suffered long enough in absentia and the time has come to give them peace."
The pardons were never issued because legally neither had been convected of a crime. Obama could have issued a pardon in anticipation of a criminal charge, as President Gerald Ford did in the case of Richard Nixon, although two centuries later such charges were a moot point.
Furthermore, in the Nolan case, Obama apparently acted in the belief that there was a Philip Nolan, failing to recognize that Nolan was but a character in Edward Everett Hale's short story, "The Man Without a Country."