On March 1, 1847, Michigan officially became the first English-speaking government in the world to outlaw capital punishment.
According to Michigan & Capital Punishment by Eugene G. Wanger, Michigan’s bold — and often debated — move inspired nations such as Canada, Mexico, England, Scandinavia and the majority of Europe to follow suit in later years.
Former Gov. Lewis Cass, former Sen. William T. Howell, human rights advocate Sojourner Truth and internationally renowned Michigan judge and legal scholar Thomas M. Cooley were among the most aggressive proponents for the abolition of the death penalty in Michigan.
March 1 is observed as International Death Penalty Abolition Day.
Senator Feingolds “Declaration in the United States Congress marking the first International Abolition Day”, Congressional Record, March 1, 2000.
For more background, see Critical Moment : The Death Penalty in Michigan by Fred David.
Andrea K. Farmer, “March 1st in Michigan History : State abolishes capital punishment’, Detroit Free Press, February 25, 2007.
Zlati Meyer, “This week in Michigan history: Death penalty abolished”, Detroit Free Press, February 23, 2014.