Arguing from the general principle of the independence of the three departments of government it would seem that the question as to the power of the President to pardon persons adjudged by one of the federal courts to be in contempt should be answered in the negative, for clearly to give the power to the executive is to place in his hands a weapon with which he may completely nullify the court's power to enforce its decrees. To this it may be replied, however, that, having the direction of the armed forces of the nation he has the power in any event, and the Constitution vesting in him the general power "to grant reprieves and pardons for offenses against the United States, except in cases of impeachment," it would seem to follow that the power to remit the punishment of those convicted by the federal courts of contempt is given.

16 Cf. Harvard Law Review, XIII, 615, article, "Constitutional Regulation of Contempt of Court," by Wilbur Larremore. 17 4 Stat. at L. 487. 18 Cf. Ex parte Robinson, 6 McLean, 355.

With reference to this, however, there is a distinction to be made between criminal and so-called civil contempts. In civil contempts the defendant is fined or imprisoned in order to obtain for a suitor his private rights. Punishment for criminal contempts, upon the other hand, is imposed to uphold and vindicate the dignity of the court. Though the Supreme Court has never passed directly upon this point, there would seem to be no doubt but that the pardoning power of the President extends at least to persons punished for criminal contempts. In 1902 in Re Nevitt19 the circuit court of appeals for the eighth circuit held that the President might pardon criminal contempts, and intimated that the same was true as to civil contempts. But this would seem to be a doubtful doctrine. Attorneys-General Gilpin and Mason have both held that the President may pardon criminal contempts,20 and in a number of cases the Supreme Court has treated as criminal actions, cases involving criminal contempts.21

Where the point has been raised in the state courts, they have with unanimity held that the governor has the power in question.22

19 117 Fed. Rep. 448.

20 Dixon's Case, 3 Op. Atty.-Gen. 662; 4 Op. Atty.-Gen. 453. See Columbia Review, III, 45.

21 Ex parte Kearney, 7 Wh. 38; 5 L. ed. 391; New Orleans v. Steamship Co., 20 Wall. 387; 22 L. ed. 354.

22 See Sharp v. State, 49 S. W. Rep. 752, where the authorities are cited.