The U.S. Constitution gives the President of the United States the “power to grant reprieves and pardons for offenses against the United States, except in cases of impeachment.” (Article II, Section 2)
2 presidents granted no pardons: William Henry Harrison and James Garfield didn’t issue any pardons during their short presidencies. Harrison died in office just one month after his inauguration and record-holding 8,445 word inaugural address. Garfield served as president for just 199 days before he succumbed to an assassin’s bullet.
Most controversial pardon: The most famous and controversial presidential pardon was granted on September 8, 1974 by President Gerald Ford when he granted resigned president Richard Nixon “a full, free and absolute pardon” for offenses rising out of the Watergate scandal. Ford did it to bring healing to the nation that had been torn apart by the scandal. Many have attributed Ford’s 1976 electoral loss to Jimmy Carter to the outrage of many for Ford’s pardon.
Ford recognized for pardon: In 2001, Ford was recognized by the John F. Kennedy Library with its Profile in Courage award for issuing the pardon. Senator Edward Kennedy, who spoke at the 2001 event noted that:
I was one of those who spoke out against his action then. But time has a way of clarifying past events, and now we see that President Ford was right. His courage and dedication to our country made it possible for us to begin the process of healing and put the tragedy of Watergate behind us.
Video resource: For a two minute video on presidential pardons, click here.
Mike Purdy’s Presidential History Blog
© 2013 by Michael E. Purdy