September 8, 1974: Gerald Ford Reprieves Richard Nixon From 'Watergate Scandal'
September 8, 1974 will always be a memorable day in the history of the United States of America. But it was also an executive decision that was marred by controversies and criticisms. A day, when the then President of the United States Gerald Ford showed mercy to his predecessor Richard Nixon who was defamed and came under global scanner for the alleged offences he might have been party to when he was in White House.
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Later on, President Gerald Ford had to justify his act of pardon in front of the then House Judiciary Committee. He justified his action by mentioning that it was done to bring an end to the divisions created in the country following the then infamous Watergate scandal.
After Nixon resigned from the post of President in August 9, 1974, America got its 38th President in the form of Gerald Ford. Ford’s position was unique in the sense that he was both the first President, and prior to that, the first Vice-President of the United States without going through the process of regular elections. Ford also had an extremely clean image and was regarded as a decent man by all political quarters. He will be always hold a special place in American History for pardoning his predecessor Richard Nixon as mentioned earlier.
The Watergate Scandal
The term “Watergate” is associated with a series of political scandals in between the years 1972 to 1974. This terminology is linked to the famous Watergate Hotel, located in Washington D.C. The hotel eventually became a notorious ground for scandalous and corrupt incidents though being considered as one of the most opulent properties in Washington.
The Watergate scandal is known for a background that is full of mystery and enigma. The Vietnam event of 1960s along with the Pentagon Papers that got published in 1970 are some of the events associated with the Watergate scandal.
However the entire chain of this scandal started with the arrests of the burglars in 1972. Though, President Nixon got re-elected for a second term in 1973, things had already started becoming pretty bad. And by the beginning of 1974, the entire country was discussing and speculating about Watergate.
Whenever there will be any discussions on the most interesting political leaders in the world during the 20th century, Richard Milhous Nixon’s name will definitely feature in them for sure. Nixon started his political journey way back in 1947 when he got elected in the U.S. House of Representatives.
The year 1952 saw Nixon being selected as the running vice-presidential mate of Dwight Eisenhower. However, his name appeared in one of the controversies at that time leading to the notorious Checkers Speech.
It was for eight long years that the people of the United States had Nixon serving as their Vice-President till John F. Kennedy defeated him in the election held in 1960. That was a big political setback for Nixon but he recovered from it when he was selected as the Presidential candidate for the Republican Party in 1968.
The year was full of disturbance and uneasiness and was also witness to two assassinations in the U.S. political arena. On January 20, 1969, Nixon took oath to become America’s 37th President. It was in the same year that he made his much-publicized speech on the War of Vietnam that is referred to as “Silent Majority Speech.”
The delivery reflected his opinion that a majority of the people of the United States backed his programs and policies. His beliefs must have found support from various quarters as he emerged victorious with an unprecedented margin. In January, 1973, he took his oath for a second consecutive term.
The eruption of Watergate scandal took place when it came to public domain that Nixon along with his associates was involved in certain unlawful activities when he was campaigning for his reelection and tried to hide the proofs of such illegal acts. An impeachment motion was brought by the Congress against him thereafter. Eventually, Nixon had to succumb to pressures from common people and was the first president in America to put down his papers.
Aftermath of Watergate Scandal
Nixon formally drew an end to his presidential term on August 9. He left the White House along with his other family members in a helicopter. Immediately after his departure, Gerald Ford, the then Vice President, was sworn in as the 38th President of the country. After assuming his office, the new President addressed the nation on television where he said, “My fellow Americans, our long national nightmare is over.”
Just eight months before, Spiro Agnew was replaced by Ford as the country’s Vice-President. Agnew got involved in a different political scandal that had nothing to do with Nixon’s Watergate controversy. He was compelled to put down his papers when he faced humiliation after being charged with offenses like political corruption and evading income tax.
Just 30 days after Nixon’s resignation, Gerald Ford granted the ex-president of America a “full, free and absolute” pardon for all offenses committed by him while he was in White House. It was an act of pardon that came under massive criticism during that time.
Many years later in 2001 Gerald Ford was awarded by the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation for pardoning Nixon in 1974. The foundation added that by showing mercy to Nixon, Ford gave preference to the love for his nation over his personal political career.
Gerald Ford quit politics after he lost the presidential election in 1976 to Jimmy Carter of the Democratic Party. He was 93 years old when he passed away on December 26, 2006.
Image Source: By Thomas J. O’Halloran Via Wikimedia Commons