For academics, there is no greater sin than the alteration of a historic document. That is precisely what amateur historian Thomas P. Lowry is accused of doing in writing a “5” over a date of a pardon by Abraham Lincoln – immediately gaining fame for finding the last official act before Lincoln’s assassination on April 14, 1865.
Lowry, 78, now insists that he was coerced into signing a confession — which he did without the aid of an attorney. For its part, the Archive says that he cannot be prosecuted because of the passage of the five-year statute of limitations.
The pardon was for Pvt. Patrick Murphy and records show that it was signed exactly one year before Lincoln’s assassination. Lowry confessed that he brought a fountain pen into the research room in 1998 and wrote a 5 over the 4 in 1864.
Trevor Plante, an Archives official, was always suspicious about the darker ink on the 5. The pardon became part of Lincoln lore but Plante could not get beyond the shade of ink. He then consulted a Lincoln collection of documents edited by Roy P. Basler in the 1950s and found the reprinted pardon with the date of April 14, 1864.
Ironically, the confession itself is now being challenged but the inspector general insists that “we have a written confession in his own hand.” Are you sure about that?
Source: Washington Post