September 8 in the Gilder Lehrman Collection: Ford Pardons Nixon

Pardoning a President

Gerald Ford, A Proclamation: Pardon of Richard Nixon, September 8, 1974. (The Gilder Lehrman Institute, GLC00054 p2)A month after Richard Nixon became the only US president to resign from his office, incoming President Gerald Ford pardoned him 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 January 20, 1969 through August 9, 1974.”

Before his resignation, Nixon was in the process of being impeached for crimes associated with the Watergate break-in, with an unfavorable outcome for him looking highly likely. 

The Gilder Lehrman Collection has a signed copy of President Ford’s pardon letter, dated September 8, 1974, along with his signed statement before the Subcommittee on Criminal Justice for the Committee on the Judiciary of the House of Representatives, given on October 17, 1974, in which Ford defends Nixon’s pardon at length, stating that he “wanted to do all [he] could to shift our attentions from the pursuit of a fallen President to the pursuit of the urgent needs of a rising nation,” and quotes Alexander Hamilton, who wrote that “a well-timed pardon may restore the tranquility of the commonwealth.”

Presdient Ford admits in his statement before the Congress that “[he] can also understand why people are moved to question [his] action” and that “some may still question [his] authority.”