Ford Pardons Nixon
By Patrick Mondout
Washington D.C., September 8, 1974
Exactly a month after President Nixon announced he would resign the
presidency, President Ford pardoned him "for all offenses against the
United States which he, Richard Nixon, has committed or may have committed
or taken part in..."
It is hard now to remember the mood of the country following Watergate.
Many were still extremely upset with Nixon and turned their anger toward
Ford. Indeed, the issue of the pardon dogged Ford for the rest of his
presidency and was an issue in the 1976 election.
We at Super70s.com believe President Ford, whatever his motives, was
correct in his decision to put the whole sordid affair to rest with the
pardon. In our opinion, very little would have been gained by a
prosecution of Nixon and it is hard to imagine a more appropriate
punishment for a man who spent most of his life attempting to become a
"Great Man" than to have to resign the presidency in disgrace.
Nixon was punished and the nation was able to move on.
Transcript of Ford's Televised Speech
Ladies and gentlemen: I have come to a decision which I felt I
should tell you and all of my fellow American citizens, as soon as I was
certain in my own mind and in my own conscience that it is the right thing
to do. [Listen to an excerpt from the speech:
I have learned already in this office that the difficult decisions
always come to this desk. I must admit that many of them do not look at
all the same as the hypothetical questions that I have answered freely and
perhaps too fast on previous occasions.
My customary policy is to try and get all the facts and to consider the
opinions of my countrymen and to take counsel with my most valued friends.
But these seldom agree, and in the end, the decision is mine. To
procrastinate, to agonize, and to wait for a more favorable turn of events
that may never come or more compelling external pressures that may as well
be wrong as right, is itself a decision of sorts and a weak and
potentially dangerous course for a President to follow.
I have promised to uphold the Constitution, to do what is right as God
gives me to see the right, and to do the very best that I can for America.
I have asked your help and your prayers, not only when I became
President but many times since. The Constitution is the supreme law of our
land and it governs our actions as citizens. Only the laws of God, which
govern our consciences, are superior to it.
As we are a nation under God, so I am sworn to uphold our laws with the
help of God. And I have sought such guidance and searched my own
conscience with special diligence to determine the right thing for me to
do with respect to my predecessor in this place, Richard Nixon, and his
loyal wife and family.
Theirs is an American tragedy in which we all have played a part. It
could go on and on and on, or someone must write the end to it. I have
concluded that only I can do that, and if I can, I must.
There are no historic or legal precedents to which I can turn in this
matter, none that precisely fit the circumstances of a private citizen who
has resigned the Presidency of the United States. But it is common
knowledge that serious allegations and accusations hang like a sword over
our former President's head, threatening his health as he tries to reshape
his life, a great part of which was spent in the service of this country
and by the mandate of its people.
After years of bitter controversy and divisive national debate, I have
been advised, and I am compelled to conclude that many months and perhaps
more years will have to pass before Richard Nixon could obtain a fair
trial by jury in any jurisdiction of the United States under governing
decisions of the Supreme Court.
I deeply believe in equal justice for all Americans, whatever their
station or former station. The law, whether human or divine, is no
respecter of persons; but the law is a respecter of reality.
The facts, as I see them, are that a former President of the United
States, instead of enjoying equal treatment with any other citizen accused
of violating the law, would be cruelly and excessively penalized either in
preserving the presumption of his innocence or in obtaining a speedy
determination of his guilt in order to repay a legal debt to society.
During this long period of delay and potential litigation, ugly
passions would again be aroused. And our people would again be polarized
in their opinions. And the credibility of our free institutions of
government would again be challenged at home and abroad.
In the end, the courts might well hold that Richard Nixon had been
denied due process, and the verdict of history would even more be
inconclusive with respect to those charges arising out of the period of
his Presidency, of which I am presently aware.
But it is not the ultimate fate of Richard Nixon that most concerns me,
though surely it deeply troubles every decent and every compassionate
person. My concern is the immediate future of this great country.
In this, I dare not depend upon my personal sympathy as a long-time
friend of the former President, nor my professional judgment as a lawyer,
and I do not.
As President, my primary concern must always be the greatest good of
all the people of the United States whose servant I am. As a man, my first
consideration is to be true to my own convictions and my own conscience.
My conscience tells me clearly and certainly that I cannot prolong the
bad dreams that continue to reopen a chapter that is closed. My conscience
tells me that only I, as President, have the constitutional power to
firmly shut and seal this book. My conscience tells me it is my duty, not
merely to proclaim domestic tranquility but to use every means that I have
to insure it.
I do believe that the buck stops here, that I cannot rely upon public
opinion polls to tell me what is right.
I do believe that right makes might and that if I am wrong, 10 angels
swearing I was right would make no difference.
I do believe, with all my heart and mind and spirit, that I, not as
President but as a humble servant of God, will receive justice without
mercy if I fail to show mercy.
Finally, I feel that Richard Nixon and his loved ones have suffered
enough and will continue to suffer, no matter what I do, no matter what
we, as a great and good nation, can do together to make his goal of peace
[At this point, the President began reading from the proclamation
granting the pardon.]
"Now, therefore, I, Gerald R. Ford, President of the United
States, pursuant to the pardon power conferred upon me by Article II,
Section 2, of the Constitution, have granted and by these presents do
grant a full, free, and absolute pardon unto Richard Nixon for all
offenses against the United States which he, Richard Nixon, has committed
or may have committed or taken part in during the period from July
(January) 20, 1969 through August 9, 1974."
[The President signed the proclamation and then resumed reading.]
"In witness whereof, I have hereunto set my hand this eighth day
of September, in the year of our Lord nineteen hundred and seventy-four,
and of the Independence of the United States of America the one hundred
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President's Men (motion picture). 1976.
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