THE HISTORICAL SOCIETY
OF THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE DISTRICT OF MARYLAND
The Historical Society was founded in 2007 to heighten the public’s awareness of the rich history of the United States District Court for the District of Maryland since its inception in 1789. To enhance the administration of justice in the Court and to educate those who frequent the courthouses in Baltimore and Greenbelt about the Court’s role in society and its impact on history, the Historical Society, governed by a Board of Trustees, will undertake a variety of projects such as the creation of exhibits in the courthouses, the preservation and restoration of court documents and artifacts, the recording of oral histories of senior judges and others, and the commissioning of portraits and photographs of judges and lawyers who have served the Court.
THE LINCOLN PARDON
The Lincoln Pardon, signed by President Abraham Lincoln on June 18, 1863, was discovered with old files and papers in a locked storage room in the courthouse in Baltimore and was restored by the Maryland State Archivist. Benjamin Brown, born in Baltimore, was a 19-year-old African-American cabin steward aboard the Barque George & Henry. While playing with a pistol in a cabin on the ship, he carelessly shot through an open window and killed a fellow seaman. When the George & Henry returned to Baltimore, Brown was tried and convicted of manslaughter in the United States District Court for the District of Maryland. He received a three-year sentence. Upon completion of his sentence, Brown could not afford to pay the $1.00 fine and court costs. Under the law at that time, he was destined to remain in jail for the rest of his life until President Lincoln pardoned him on the recommendations of the trial judge, William F. Giles, and the U.S. Attorney. The discovery of the Lincoln Pardon inspired the creation of the Court’s Historical Society.
OUR EXHIBITS / DOCUMENTING THE COURT'S STORY
Visit our exhibits to learn more about the remarkable history of the United States
District Court for the District of Maryland.