Last pardon of Abraham Lincoln was 'forgery'

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It was the final act of compassion that seemed to epitomise the decency of President Abraham Lincoln.

On April 14, 1865, having steered the US through the horrors of civil war, he issued a pardon for Patrick Murphy, a mentally disabled private in the union army who had been sentenced to death for desertion.

He then headed to Ford's Theatre in Washington, to watch a performance of Tom Taylor's 'Our American Cousin', during which he was shot dead by John Wilkes Booth.

But while Lincoln's standing is not in doubt – amid today's fierce partisan divisions, his unifying heroics are more venerated than ever – this neat portrayal of his final hours has been exposed as a sham.

Thomas Lowry, an amateur historian who said he had found the dated pardon among archived papers and then built a book, and a career, around it, has confessed to amending the document.

The pardon, it turns out, was in fact issued by Lincoln on April 14, 1864 – while the civil war raged on and exactly a year before he was to be assassinated during Act III, Scene II....

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