Published on January 5, 2009 | by LawNews
Prof. Scott Horton Writes on Presidential Pardons in The American Lawyer
The easy pardons have already been made. But President George W. Bush is ready to use his power to make history.
By Scott Horton
Distinguished Visiting Professor of Law
The American Lawyer
January 1, 2009
For George Washington there was an obvious time for potentially controversial pardons, and that was the day he left office. Washington pardoned the instigators of the Whiskey Rebellion as his last official act. He had good reason to keep a low profile. The Federalists hated the decision. They thought it would fuel uprisings by moonshine-swilling frontiersmen-and they were right.
The tradition of controversial pardons has continued ever since. Gerald Ford’s pardon of Richard Nixon remains the benchmark, but George H.W. Bush’s pardon of 75 people caught up in the Iran-contra scandal, and Bill Clinton’s pardon of fugitive billionaire and Clinton Library supporter Marc Rich registered high on the scale.