Presidential Pardons
Print this article
Font Size
High-Profile Pardons
View ArticleView Article Comments
There have been a number of high-profile pardons, reprieves, and amnesties throughout U.S. history. George Washington granted the first presidential pardon (or amnesty) in U.S. history in his last day in office when he pardoned the leaders of the Whiskey Rebellion. Tom the Tinker is credited as the first person to receive a presidential pardon, because of his involvement in the Whiskey Rebellion.

President Andrew Jackson is the only president to have actually received a rejection from an individual of his pardon. George Wilson, a postal clerk, robbed a federal train and killed a guard during the presidency of Jackson. The court convicted him and sentenced him to death. Because of public sentiment against capital punishment, Jackson granted Wilson a pardon. However, Wilson refused it! The Supreme Court had to step in to decide if a person could refuse a presidential pardon, and it decided that a person is free to decline a pardon. In other words, a person must actually accept the pardon. Why would someone refuse a pardon? It sure doesn’t seem too logical. If only we could ask Wilson…

President Andrew Johnson granted amnesty to all Confederate soldiers after the Civil War, and he also granted pardons to Dr. Samuel Mudd, Edmund Spangler, and Samuel Arnold – all charged with conspiring to assassinate President Abraham Lincoln.

President Harry Truman commuted, i.e. lessened, Oscar Collazo’s death sentence to a life in prison sentence for his attempted assassination of Truman. Truman actually met the man that tried to kill him and granted him the commutation!

President Gerald Ford pardoned President Richard Nixon for Nixon’s misconduct in the Watergate scandal. President Jimmy Carter granted amnesty to all the Vietnam draft dodgers. And President Bill Clinton pardoned around 140 people in his last day in office, including Marc Rich, who committed tax evasion and illegal trading with Iran during the Iran hostage crises.

Now that you have a better picture of some of the high-profile pardons, we’ll conclude this article with some main points to keep in mind.