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A Short History of Presidential Pardons

By his own definition George W. Bush is a terrorist and turned the United States into a hostile country.

presidential pardon
by OZinOH

The US President uses a pardon to ease the punishment of a crime committed by someone or a body. The pardon has changed considerably since its beginning of the original definition specified by the Constitution. The President can only pardon for crimes against laws that are directly under his authority as a chief executive.

Early Uses of the Pardon
The model of US pardon is inspired from the English system. An English king had the authority and royal freedom to pardon almost every type of crime committed against the Crown.

The makers of US Constitution took incorporated this definition and their version into this document. The section they included extended an important quantity of power to the President to grant pardons and amnesty for criminal offences except cases of impeachment.

The first case involving the presidential pardon involved President George Washington who used it to repress 1974s Whiskey Rebellion. American colonials had strongly disagreed with the whiskey tax rebelling against it. The disruptive rebellion was crushed by the government troops. Later, some of the participants of the rebellion were pardoned by the President.  

The first major case using presidential pardon made a history in 1866. The court case took place when Andrew Johnson was the acting president. While waiting for the trial regarding the crimes he had committed in the Civil War, President Johnson was asked by Alexander Hamilton Garland for a pardon. The President granted him a pardon after reviewing the case. The pardon later became an example for the scope of pardon and the legal effects on people who request for pardons.

An Arkansas attorney named Garland used the pardon to continue practice law. When he was banned from practicing by the lawmakers, he appealed for a pardon as a reason to allow him to practice.

The 1865s Test Act required people to take oath that they never aided the enemies of US. The lawmakers tried to stop Garland from practice because he was a sympathizer of Confederates. Garland insisted that he was pardoned from the president without any trial for crimes he might have committed.

The Supreme Court supported Garland. The reason reaches back to the first definition of pardon; which is that the scope of pardon is unlimited except the cases of impeachment. It was felt by the justices that this covered every crime under law which could be applied anytime during legal proceedings.

Recent Pardons
Some pardons are famous. Some recent presidents used their authority to grant prominent public pardons.

In 1977, President Jimmy Carter granted a pardon to all people who avoided military during Vietnam War.

In 1974, President Gerald Ford granted pardon to the former President Richard Nixon for his crimes during his presidential term.

Learn in details, the history of Presidential Executive Orders and also the detailed history of Presidential Pardons


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