Today’s Illustration: The Real Story Behind It!

gerald ford pardon of Nixon

The President of the United States
“shall have Power to grant Reprieves and Pardons for Offences against the United States.”

When:  September 8, 1974

Who: President Gerald Ford, who had already replaced Vice President Spiro Agnew in 1973 — Ford’s reason for the pardon and theme — “A Time To Heal” [Ford, Gerald R. (1979). A Time to Heal: The Autobiography of Gerald R. Ford. San Francisco: Harper & Row. pp. 196–99]

What: The pardon of ex-president Richard Nixon

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“Nixon had been guilty of obstruction of justice (and) abuse of power, causing the American people to have no respect for him or respect for the office of the presidency . . . ” —  Barbara A. Perry
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In 1972, five men were arrested after breaking into the “Watergate Hotel” in Washington, D.C.   That is where the Democratic National Committee had its headquarters.
Nixon claimed he had nothing to do with the break-in of the Democratic Headquarters.
A once private and unknown presidential office recording revealed that indeed he did know about it and covered it up.
President Ford granted Richard Nixon a “full, free and absolute” presidential pardon.
In the next election cycle, Gerald Ford lost to Jimmy Carter.
“The pardon itself is amazingly broad, absolving the former President of any culpability for breaking the law during the entirety of his presidency.” [1]
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“Nixon wrote that (General) Haig had come to him on the thirty-first, said that he’d reviewed the transcript and had to agree with Buzhardt and St. Clair, and had said, ‘ I just don’t see how we can survive this one.” . . . . .
Haig raised the possibility that Nixon’s inevitable successor, Ford, could pardon Nixon, in return for Nixon’s agreement to leave . . . .
August 2 was a Friday, and that night Nixon met with his family, who urged him to keep fighting — that is, not to resign.  This bolstered the response Nixon had previously suggested in a note to himself: ‘End career as a fighter.'” 
The statement put out by the president on Monday, accompanying the transcript of the June 23, 1972, conversations, showed his still fighting.  Nixon admitted that the new evidence ‘may further damage my case.’ but reminded the public that he had always insisted on a full investigation of Watergate, and that ‘I am firmly convinced that the record, in its entirety, does not justify the extreme step of impeachment and removal of a President.”
“It’s pretty grim,” (Hugh ) Scott told Nixon, estimating that the president could count on only about fifteen solid votes for him in the Senate. “I don’t have many alternatives, do I,” Nixon responded.  He realized that he would have to resign. . . . .
There would no pardons for any Watergate defendants, Haig said . . . .
The next morning, August 9, Nixon made a final, emotional speech to the White House staff.  Awaiting him outside was a helicopter.  the plan was for him to take this to an airfield where he and his family would transfer to Air Force One.  . . . . While he was in the air, a statement would be release saying that he had resigned the presidency as of that hour.
Nixon’s speech to the White House staff was more than emotional, it was heart-rendering . . . .The speech rambled on and them Nixon decided he had said enough, shook some hands, and walked outside. . . . Nixon then walked to the waiting helicopter accompanied by his family. At the door of the helicopter, Nixon turned and raised both hands above his head, his fingers forming a V in each one, as if in triumph. “
[excerpt from pg 420-425 “Exit The President” — chapter titled — The Real Final Days“]
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August 8, 1974

Good evening.

This is the 37th time I have spoken to you from this office, where so many decisions have been made that shaped the history of this Nation. Each time I have done so to discuss with you some matter that I believe affected the national interest.

In all the decisions I have made in my public life, I have always tried to do what was best for the Nation. Throughout the long and difficult period of Watergate, I have felt it was my duty to persevere, to make every possible effort to complete the term of office to which you elected me.

In the past few days, however, it has become evident to me that I no longer have a strong enough political base in the Congress to justify continuing that effort. As long as there was such a base, I felt strongly that it was necessary to see the constitutional process through to its conclusion, that to do otherwise would be unfaithful to the spirit of that deliberately difficult process and a dangerously destabilizing precedent for the future.

But with the disappearance of that base, I now believe that the constitutional purpose has been served, and there is no longer a need for the process to be prolonged.

I would have preferred to carry through to the finish whatever the personal agony it would have involved, and my family unanimously urged me to do so. But the interest of the Nation must always come before any personal considerations.

From the discussions I have had with Congressional and other leaders, I have concluded that because of the Watergate matter I might not have the support of the Congress that I would consider necessary to back the very difficult decisions and carry out the duties of this office in the way the interests of the Nation would require.

I have never been a quitter. To leave office before my term is completed is abhorrent to every instinct in my body. But as President, I must put the interest of America first. America needs a full-time President and a full-time Congress, particularly at this time with problems we face at home and abroad.

To continue to fight through the months ahead for my personal vindication would almost totally absorb the time and attention of both the President and the Congress in a period when our entire focus should be on the great issues of peace abroad and prosperity without inflation at home.

Therefore, I shall resign the Presidency effective at noon tomorrow. Vice President Ford will be sworn in as President at that hour in this office.

As I recall the high hopes for America with which we began this second term, I feel a great sadness that I will not be here in this office working on your behalf to achieve those hopes in the next 21/2 years. But in turning over direction of the Government to Vice President Ford, I know, as I told the Nation when I nominated him for that office 10 months ago, that the leadership of America will be in good hands.

In passing this office to the Vice President, I also do so with the profound sense of the weight of responsibility that will fall on his shoulders tomorrow and, therefore, of the understanding, the patience, the cooperation he will need from all Americans.

As he assumes that responsibility, he will deserve the help and the support of all of us. As we look to the future, the first essential is to begin healing the wounds of this Nation, to put the bitterness and divisions of the recent past behind us, and to rediscover those shared ideals that lie at the heart of our strength and unity as a great and as a free people.

By taking this action, I hope that I will have hastened the start of that process of healing which is so desperately needed in America.

I regret deeply any injuries that may have been done in the course of the events that led to this decision. I would say only that if some of my Judgments were wrong, and some were wrong, they were made in what I believed at the time to be the best interest of the Nation.

To those who have stood with me during these past difficult months, to my family, my friends, to many others who joined in supporting my cause because they believed it was right, I will be eternally grateful for your support.

And to those who have not felt able to give me your support, let me say I leave with no bitterness toward those who have opposed me, because all of us, in the final analysis, have been concerned with the good of the country, however our judgments might differ.

So, let us all now join together in affirming that common commitment and in helping our new President succeed for the benefit of all Americans.

I shall leave this office with regret at not completing my term, but with gratitude for the privilege of serving as your President for the past 51/2 years. These years have been a momentous time in the history of our Nation and the world. They have been a time of achievement in which we can all be proud, achievements that represent the shared efforts of the Administration, the Congress, and the people. . . . . . . . . . . . . .

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√  Pardon: Forgiveness Of The Offense

“The granting of a pardon to a person who has committed a crime or who has been convicted of a crime is an act of clemency, which forgives the wrongdoer and restores the person’s Civil Rights. At the federal level, the president has the power to grant a pardon, and at the state level the governor or a pardon board made up of high-ranking state officials may grant it.”

A president or governor may grant a full (unconditional) pardon or a conditional pardon. The granting of an unconditional pardon fully restores an individual’s civil rights forfeited upon conviction of a crime and restores the person’s innocence as though he or she had never committed a crime. This means that a recipient of a pardon may regain the right to vote and to hold various positions of public trust.

A conditional pardon imposes a condition on the offender before it becomes effective. Typically this means the commutation of a sentence. For example, the president has the power under the Pardon Clause to commute a death sentence on the condition that the accused serve the rest of his or her life in prison without eligibility for Parole, even though a life sentence imposed directly by a court would otherwise be subject to parole. [2]

√  Commutation: Lowering Of The Penalty

Pardon vs. Commutation:

“pardon wipes out the conviction while a commutation leaves the conviction intact but wipes out the punishment.”

Pardon is an “executive forgiveness of crime”; commutation is an “executive lowering of the penalty.”

Barnett: “Commutation is a form of clemency, used often by governors. A famous example is Illinois Gov. Ryan commuting the death sentences of everyone on death row . . . .On the other hand, a pardon is granted for a number of reasons: because the punishment doesn’t fit the crime, the person is innocent or the prosecutors abused their discretion. [3]

Pardon Vs Commutation – What Is A Commutation Of Sentence?
A commutation of sentence is a reduction, either totally or partially, of a sentence currently being served. [4]

commutation reduces or eliminates a sentence it does not change the fact of conviction and it is not an exoneration in the sense that it is equivalent to a declaration of innocence.  It leaves the conviction in place as well as the attendant civil liabilities.

A pardon is a forgiveness of the conviction and is granted when the president is satisfied that the person has accepted responsibility for the crime and has lived a law-abiding lifestyle for a significant period of time. Like a commutation, it does not equal innocence but it is a more significant form of clemency because it can eliminate some of the civil liabilities attendant to a conviction (restrictions on voting rights, sitting on a jury; obtaining certain licensing and the right to bear arms for example).  It does not erase the conviction in the formal sense in that the individual’s criminal history will reflect the conviction and the pardon. [5]

√  Exoneration: Not Guilty
“An exoneration says, you were never guilty.”

√  Clemency: Various Forms Of Mercy
“Clemency under the criminal justice system is the act by an executive member of the government of extending mercy to a convicted individual. In the United States, clemency is granted by a governor for state crimes and by a president for federal crimes. Clemency can take one of three forms: a reprieve, a commutation of sentence, or a pardon.” [6]

√  Reprieve: Delay In Punishment
“a temporary delay in imposition of the death penalty (a punishment which cannot be reduced afterwards) by the executive order of the Governor of the state.

Reasons for reprieves include the possibility of newly-discovered evidence (another’s involvement, evidence of mental impairment), awaiting the result of some last minute appeal, or concern of the Governor that there may have been some error in the record which he/she should examine. On occasion a reprieve has saved a man found to be innocent. Upon the expiration of the reprieve the date for execution can be reset and the death penalty imposed. A reprieve is only a delay and is not a reduction of sentence, commutation of sentence, or pardon.” [7]

Examples Of A Commutation & Pardon:

July 3, 2007 — — President Bush spared former White House aide I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby from a 30-month prison term in the CIA leak investigation, calling the sentence too harsh. . . .

By commuting the sentence, Bush was saying, “The crime wasn’t forgiven, but the penalty has been reduced.” In other words, Bush is saying the “punishment here does not fit the crime.”

“In this case, the president did not pardon Libby; rather, he waived his prison term.”

“A pardon would have exonerated [Libby] from the crime and all its disabilities. Under a pardon he would have been able to practice law.”

Schick V. Reed
In the 1974 U.S. Supreme Court case Schick v. Reed, the petitioner, Schick, was sentenced to death by a court-martial for murder.  President Eisenhower commuted his sentence to life imprisonment with no possibility of parole.  Thus, the President partially reduced Schick’s sentence by changing it from a death sentence to life in prison without parole.  In the face of a challenge to the commutation, whereby Schick asked to remove the “no parole” condition based on recent case law, the Supreme Court upheld the commutation with the “no parole” condition.  The Court reasoned that the commutation power cannot be modified, and that the “no parole” condition did not otherwise offend the Constitution. [3]

Other Examples:

Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich
Marc Rich
Oscar Lopez Rivera
Sheriff Joe Arpaio
Roger Stone
Michael Flynn
Gerald Ford’s Pardon of Richard Nixon

See: link

Key Words:

  • salvation
  • forgiven
  • transgressions
  • Calvary
  • penalty
  • justification
  • sinners
  • thief on the cross
  • works
  • grace
  • mercy
  • substitution
  • sacrifice
  • the cross
  • guilty
  • regrets
  • accountability
  • a sad day
  • a heart-rending day
  • false triumph
  • loss

Sermonic Examples:

The Pardon

An item in the May 2, 1985, Kansas City Times reminds us of a story you may be able to use in an evangelistic message. The item had to do with the attempt by some fans of O. Henry, the short-story writer, to get a pardon for their hero, who was convicted in 1898 of embezzling $784.08 from the bank where he was employed.
But you cannot give a pardon to a dead man. A pardon can only be given to someone who can accept it. Now, for the story.
Back in 1830 George Wilson was convicted of robbing the United States Mail and was sentenced to be hanged. President Andrew Jackson issued a pardon for Wilson, but he refused to accept it. The matter went to Chief Justice Marshall, who concluded that Wilson would have to be executed. “A pardon is a slip of paper,” wrote Marshall, “the value of which is determined by the acceptance of the person to be pardoned. If it is refused, it is no pardon. George Wilson must be hanged.” — [8]

George Wilson Refused a Pardon

About 1830, a man named George Wilson killed a government employee who caught him in the act of robbing the mails. Wilson was tried and sentenced to be hanged. The President of the United States, Andrew Jackson, sent Wilson a pardon. But, Wilson did a strange thing: he refused to accept the pardon.
No one seemed to know hat to do because of this, so Wilson’s case was sent to the U. S. Supreme Court. Chief Justice Marshall wrote the opinion: “A pardon is a slip of paper, the value of which is determined by the acceptance of the person to be pardoned. If it is refused, it is no pardon. George Wilson must be hanged.” And he was.
The cross of Christ is a revelation of God’s love for all people. We may do cowardly and disappointing things and bring deep pain to the Father’s heart, but in the cross we see that He never gives up on us. Something happened that day on Calvary that forever makes a difference in the relationship between people and God. Even when the love of Jesus was thrown in His face with spitting, mocking and cursing, it remained unbroken.
The death of Christ on the cross is the pardon God has sent. But before it becomes a pardon, we must accept it in faith and obedience. It is through the cross, and only through the cross that we can be saved from sin and its consequence of eternal separation from God in hell.
Have you accepted God’s pardon in Christ Jesus? If not, will you?  [9]

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President Andrew Jackson pardoned George Wilson after he received death sentences for endangering a life and committing robbery.

andrew jackson
President Andrew Jackson. 
America’s Library

In 1829, a man named George Wilson was convicted on multiple counts of robbing mail trains, and putting the life of the mail carrier in jeopardy.

But Wilson knew people in Washington, and those people convinced Jackson to issue a pardon. Jackson obliged and quickly forgave Wilson for his capital crimes, reducing his punishment from execution to a 22-year prison sentencing.

It seemed like a buttoned-up victory, but in a shocking twist of fate, Wilson refused to accept the pardon.

After a great deal of legal disputes, Wilson’s friends realized they couldn’t force him to accept the pardon, and Wilson was eventually hanged.

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RhetoricAndHomiletics,org is designed for those who who have an interest in preaching.

Some May Also Want To Check Out — All Things Church

Other Information & Links:




Randy Barnett, Carmack Waterhouse professor of legal theory at Georgetown University Law Center







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