Clan Boyd Society, International
Boyd, Revolutionary Soldier from South Carolina
for Revolutionary Soldier Balances Scales of Justice
Family history research often
uncovers interesting tidbits about one's ancestors. Revolutionary
Soldier, David Boyd, is a case in point. Boyd supported the patriot cause
as a soldier from SC & VA. He initially fought as part of a VA
unit and later helped the Americans under several officers in strategic
areas of fighting in SC and GA. He served under Col. Pinckney in
the First Regiment and was transferred to Col. Clarke and sent to Augusta.
During 1779, he was a footman with Capt. Hugh Whiteside and a
After the Revolution, David Boyd settled in Old Washington County, GA. His property was later cut into Montgomery and Tattnall counties. This veteran's unusual story begins in 1791, and concerns an argument with a neighbor. The History of Old Montgomery County, GA to 1918 by Robert S. Davis, Jr. mentions a January 1792 court case in which Boyd was tried for "cattle stealing." The cow in question belonged to John Moses, one of David Boyd's neighbors.
According to the court records mentioned in Davis's compilation of Montgomery County records, Boyd and Moses had the same livestock brand and had an argument some time prior to the theft charge. In January 1792, a jury of his peers found David Boyd guilty of having the cow in his herd, but asked the judge for mercy during the sentencing phase of the trial. Jury members included: William Cooksey, Reuben Dickson, Isaac Brown, Richard Bassett, Alexander Tenner, David Glenn (foreman), David Fluker, Simon Salter, John Evans, William Collens, John Campbell, and William W. Murrey.
The exact verdict read: "We find the Prisoner guilty but we heartily recommend him to mercy."
Instead of showing mercy,
the judge, whose name is not listed anywhere on the court documents housed
in the Telamon Cuyler Collection at the University of GA, sentenced
David Boyd to serve almost a month in jail, as well as other punishments.
Those other measures of punishment included 2 hours in the stocks and pillory
at the end of the jail time and a beating on the back with 39 lashes before
returning to jail for this procedure to be repeated over 2 successive days
for a total of 117 lashes and 6 hours in the stocks. The judge ruled
that Boyd should also be branded on the shoulder with an R, for "rustler."
Following these indignities, David Boyd was to pay
David Boyd requested a pardon from Governor Edward Telfair, firmly maintaining his innocence and his desire to prevent such public humiliation for his family and himself. Forty-eight men, who knew him well, attested to David Boyd's innocence in this criminal activity as they compiled a separate petition requesting a pardon. The Robert S. Davis, Jr. book about Montgomery County erroneously excludes several names of petitioners. The Telamon Cuyler Collection at UGA does have the complete list of 48 petitioners, who asked Governor Edward Telfair for mercy in David Boyd's case in 1792.
One of the 1792 petitioners who signed on behalf of Boyd was Jared Irwin, who 4 years later would serve the first of his two terms as Gov. of GA. Although Jared Irwin did later bestow land grants upon David Boyd, there is no known record of any pardon that either Irwin or Telfair ever gave to David Boyd. When Boyd descendants learned of this ordeal endured by their ancestor, they sought to right an injustice of over 200 years ago. After compiling documentation to augment their claims, they petitioned the GA Board of Pardons and Paroles for a pardon for their ancestor.
Modern-day petitioners maintained that David Boyd's 8th Amendment protections against cruel and unusual punishment and excessive fines had been denied him by the judge's sentencing. The Bill of Rights went into effect in GA on 15 December 1791 and Article VI, Section 2 of the US Constitution bound states to enforce Constitutional law.
While one could argue that news of the ratification of the Bill of Rights probably traveled slowly in 1792, the expectations of the individual protections secured in these first ten Amendments had been long-awaited. Georgians knew that there would be an amendment protecting against cruel and unusual punishment. The judge in this case should have sentenced David Boyd within Constitutional limits.
The State Board of Pardons and Paroles members reviewed evidence submitted to them and after 2 years granted a posthumous pardon to David Boyd. This is only the 4th such pardon granted by the Board in its 56-year existence, and the only pardon ever granted by it for a criminal conviction in the 1700s (GA State Board of Pardons and Paroles).
It was the Board's belief that in the "best interest of justice," this Pardon should be granted. State Pardon and Paroles Board members did not address the issue of violation of 8th Amendment freedoms, nor was David Boyd 's innocence or guilt examined. The Pardon states that:
"While the determination and definition of cruel and unusual rests with the climate of the times, it could be argued that the sentence set forth to be inflicted upon David Boyd was indeed cruel and unusual punishment. It is fact that records pertaining to the final disposition of this case were destroyed by fire in Sandersville, Georgia by General William Tecumseh Sherman in 1864 and no record exists as to whether or not the aforementioned sentence was indeed carried out."
On 25 June 1999, David Boyd received a "full and unconditional pardon" from the State Board of Pardons and Paroles. This action was "in compliance with the Constitutional and statuary authority" of the Board. Board members who signed this historic document included Chairman Walter S. Ray and members Bobby K. Whitworth, Garfield Hammonds, Jr., Dr. Betty Ann Cook, and Dr. Eugene P. Walker (Pardon).
Although the 4th great grandson who initiated this pardon effort now feels that he can eat steak without feelings of guilt, the road to achieving a pardon for his ancestor was a rocky one. Friends and relatives had a field day teasing this descendant about his "cattle thief." Jesting by friends included their renting cows and having cheese mailed to the descendant. Gift of a black and white large plywood milk cow also initiated a request for a bill of sale from the descendant. True irony lies in the fact that the descendant's name is Russell.
As for David Boyd, whether punishment was administered, or not, he lived in what became Montgomery, then Tattnall county until his death in the early 1820s. On 20 December 1793 appearing before Montgomery County Justice of the Peace, Owen Fort, David gave a sworn affidavit stating that he saw Francis Spiva deliver to Spiva's son-in- law, Sands Stanley, a slave girl named Lucey. Apparently David's sworn word still carried some merit.
This transaction and the registration of David Boyd's brand on 2 Nov 1795, are on file in an early GA brand book located at the GA Historical Society in Savannah, GA. David Boyd registered his brand as a "Swallowfork & under (word is unclear) in the left ear; and a Swallowfork in the right ear." Boyd apparently realized the value of having a registered brand that was uniquely his (GA brand book).
An affidavit by Dyer C. Sykes
sworn on 18 May 1856, before Tattnall County's justice of the peace,
Council Anderson, stated that David Boyd and his wife, Sarah Cauthorn
Boyd, had been well-known to him. Sykes made this statement to corroborate
the pension claims of David Boyd's two surviving children, Aden Boyd and
Blansett Jones, who sought a pension as orphans of a deceased Revolutionary
Soldier. Their pension application was denied since they were both adults
with families of their own at the time of said application. Dyer Sykes
affirmed that David Boyd and his wife Sarah had died in Tattnall
County within a few weeks of each other in 1823 or 1824 (#R1085). The 1820
Federal Census includes the last documented census entry for David Boyd's
household in Tattnall County, GA (Tattnall County, GA US
While this Revolutionary Soldier's story is unique, one might ask why a Pardon was even sought for a conviction of so long ago. The answer is simple. Petitioners made efforts to obtain a Pardon for David Boyd because they believed that no stone should be left unturned in securing a good name. To ignore this travesty of justice was not even an option. Finally, a Revolutionary Soldier's good name has been vindicated and the scales of justice are once again balanced after 207 years. Now, they pray that David Boyd may rest in peace. He is gone, but his story will never be forgotten.
Linda Ward Meadows
Article VI, Section 2 of the US Constitution, 1789.
Boyd, David. SC & VA Pension #R1085.
Davis, Robert S., Jr. (1992).
The History of Old Montgomery County, GA to
Eighth Amendment, United States Constitution, 15 Dec 1791.
GA Brand Book. GA Historical
Society, Savannah, GA. (Reference acquired by
GA State Board of Pardons and Paroles. "David Boyd Pardon." 25 June 1999.
GA State Board of Pardons and
Paroles letters and conversations with Walt
Hargrett Library's Telamon
Cuyler Collection, MS 1170, Box 42, Jan. 1,
Tattnall County, GA 1820
US Census Index .Page 1. Line #296. [On-line].