Past President Issued Pardon for Biden’s Great-Great-Grandfather

Biden Relative Was Pardoned By Abraham Lincoln

( – Researchers have discovered documents in the National Archives revealing that President Joe Biden’s great-great-grandfather was officially pardoned by then president Abraham Lincoln.

Moses J. Robinette, Biden’s ancestor, faced attempted murder charges after a fight that occurred between him and John J. Alexander during the Civil War. Both worked as civilian employees for the Union Army. According to documents, Alexander, who worked as brigade wagon master, overheard a conversation between Robinette and a woman who was preparing meals. He apparently made a rude remark about Alexander, which led to an argument.

At one point during the fight that ensued, Robinette pulled out a knife and cut Alexander but failed to kill him. Robinette was incarcerated at Dry Tortugas island near Florida. The island has since been designated a national park. The controversial prison had been dubbed the “American Siberia” by those who opposed Lincoln.

Robinette, a veterinary surgeon, claimed he acted out of self-defense. However, a judge disagreed and sentenced him to serve two years’ worth of hard labor. His case was appealed by officers who worked for the army with a senator representing Virginia. That eventually brought Robinette’s case to Lincoln himself.

They argued that his punishment was too severe, and Lincoln agreed. Robinette received an official presidential pardon on September 1st, 1864, just 7 months ahead of Lincoln’s assassination. He would issue a total of 343 pardons during his presidency. Robinette was released five days later after being incarcerated for about two months. He reunited with his family in Maryland and began working as a farmer.

Historian David J. Gerleman, who made the discovery, said that it fills a previously unknown piece of Biden’s family history. Biden has not publicly commented on the discovery.

Robinette died in 1903 and was described as “a man of education and gentlemanly attainments.” Biden’s father was born about 12 years later.

Gerleman works for George Mason University’s History and Art History department.

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