On this day in 1974, a month after Richard Nixon resigned the presidency amid the scandal of his involvement with the Watergate break-in, President Gerald Ford signed Proclamation 4311 which gave Nixon "an absolute pardon" for any federal crimes "he committed or may have committed or taken part in" during his presidency.
Having built a strong reputation for integrity and decency in Congress, Ford expected the pardon to be unpopular, but he thought the public would see how Nixon's resignation was punishment enough. He never expected the overwhelming negative reactions from his decision.
For Ford, the pardon was an act of mercy to give peace to Nixon ...and the United States. The pardon cost Ford the 1976 election. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, in his 1999 book Years of Renewal looked back on the pardon as "a courageous and humane act which was necessary" to heal the nation.
Despite making the decision that cost him the election to Jimmy Carter, the noble Ford said in retrospect, "I remain convinced that pardoning Nixon was the right thing to do."
Faced with crisis, let mercy glow.