Here is the Video clip of
President Ford's speech. Text transcript below.
It follows the full text transcript of
Gerald Ford's speech on the pardon of Richard
Nixon, delivered from the Oval Office at Washington D.C. -
September 8, 1974.
I have come to a
decision which I felt I should tell you and all
of my fellow American citizens, as soon as I was
certain in my own mind and in my own conscience
that it is the right thing to do.
I have learned already in this office that the
difficult decisions always come to this desk. I
must admit that many of them do not look at all
the same as the hypothetical questions that I
have answered freely and perhaps too fast on
My customary policy is to try and get all the
facts and to consider the opinions of my
countrymen and to take counsel with my most
valued friends. But these seldom agree, and in
the end, the decision is mine. To procrastinate,
to agonize, and to wait for a more favorable
turn of events that may never come or more
compelling external pressures that may as well
be wrong as right, is itself a decision of sorts
and a weak and potentially dangerous course for
a President to follow.
I have promised to uphold the Constitution, to
do what is right as God gives me to see the
right, and to do the very best that I can for
I have asked your help and your prayers, not
only when I became President but many times
since. The Constitution is the supreme law of
our land and it governs our actions as citizens.
Only the laws of God, which govern our
consciences, are superior to it.
As we are a nation under God, so I am sworn to
uphold our laws with the help of God. And I have
sought such guidance and searched my own
conscience with special diligence to determine
the right thing for me to do with respect to my
predecessor in this place, Richard Nixon, and
his loyal wife and family.
Theirs is an American tragedy in which we all
have played a part. It could go on and on and
on, or someone must write the end to it. I have
concluded that only I can do that, and if I can,
There are no historic or legal precedents to
which I can turn in this matter, none that
precisely fit the circumstances of a private
citizen who has resigned the Presidency of the
United States. But it is common knowledge that
serious allegations and accusations hang like a
sword over our former President's head,
threatening his health as he tries to reshape
his life, a great part of which was spent in the
service of this country and by the mandate of
After years of bitter controversy and divisive
national debate, I have been advised, and I am
compelled to conclude that many months and
perhaps more years will have to pass before
Richard Nixon could obtain a fair trial by jury
in any jurisdiction of the United States under
governing decisions of the Supreme Court.
I deeply believe in equal justice for all
Americans, whatever their station or former
station. The law, whether human or divine, is no
respecter of persons; but the law is a respecter
The facts, as I see them, are that a former
President of the United States, instead of
enjoying equal treatment with any other citizen
accused of violating the law, would be cruelly
and excessively penalized either in preserving
the presumption of his innocence or in obtaining
a speedy determination of his guilt in order to
repay a legal debt to society.
During this long period of delay and potential
litigation, ugly passions would again be
aroused. And our people would again be polarized
in their opinions. And the credibility of our
free institutions of government would again be
challenged at home and abroad.
In the end, the courts might well hold that
Richard Nixon had been denied due process, and
the verdict of history would even more be
inconclusive with respect to those charges
arising out of the period of his Presidency, of
which I am presently aware.
But it is not the ultimate fate of Richard Nixon
that most concerns me, though surely it deeply
troubles every decent and every compassionate
person. My concern is the immediate future of
this great country.
In this, I dare not depend upon my personal
sympathy as a long-time friend of the former
President, nor my professional judgment as a
lawyer, and I do not.
As President, my primary concern must always be
the greatest good of all the people of the
United States whose servant I am. As a man, my
first consideration is to be true to my own
convictions and my own conscience.
My conscience tells me clearly and certainly
that I cannot prolong the bad dreams that
continue to reopen a chapter that is closed. My
conscience tells me that only I, as President,
have the constitutional power to firmly shut and
seal this book. My conscience tells me it is my
duty, not merely to proclaim domestic
tranquility but to use every means that I have
to insure it.
I do believe that the buck stops here, that I
cannot rely upon public opinion polls to tell me
what is right.
I do believe that right makes might and that if
I am wrong, 10 angels swearing I was right would
make no difference.
I do believe, with all my heart and mind and
spirit, that I, not as President but as a humble
servant of God, will receive justice without
mercy if I fail to show mercy.
Finally, I feel that Richard Nixon and his loved
ones have suffered enough and will continue to
suffer, no matter what I do, no matter what we,
as a great and good nation, can do together to
make his goal of peace come true.
[At this point, the President began reading from
the proclamation granting the pardon.]
"Now, therefore, I, Gerald R. Ford, President of
the United States, pursuant to the pardon power
conferred upon me by Article II, Section 2, of
the Constitution, have granted and by these
presents do grant a full, free, and absolute
pardon unto Richard Nixon for all offenses
against the United States which he, Richard
Nixon, has committed or may have committed or
taken part in during the period from July
(January) 20, 1969 through August 9, 1974."
[The President signed the proclamation and then
"In witness whereof, I have hereunto set my hand
this eighth day of September, in the year of our
Lord nineteen hundred and seventy-four, and of
the Independence of the United States of America
the one hundred and ninety-ninth."