Skip to comments.President Ford's Clemency Program for Draft Dodgers and Deserters
Posted on 12/27/2006 9:24:02 AM PST by Mike Bates
President Gerald R. Ford's Remarks Announcing a Program for the Return of Vietnam Era Draft Evaders and Military Deserters September 16, 1974
In my first week as President, I asked the Attorney General and the Secretary of Defense to report to me, after consultation with other Governmental officials and private citizens concerned, on the status of those young Americans who have been convicted, charged, investigated, or are still being sought as draft evaders or military deserters.
On August 19, at the national convention of Veterans of Foreign Wars in the city of Chicago, I announced my intention to give these young people a chance to earn their return to the mainstream of American society so that they can, if they choose, contribute, even though belatedly, to the building and the betterment of our country and the world.
I did this for the simple reason that for American fighting men, the long and divisive war in Vietnam has been over for more than a year, and I was determined then, as now, to do everything in my power to bind up the Nation's wounds.
I promised to throw the weight of my Presidency into the scales of justice on the side of leniency and mercy, but I promised also to work within the existing system of military and civilian law and the precedents set by my predecessors who faced similar postwar situations, among them Presidents Abraham Lincoln and Harry S. Truman.
My objective of making future penalties fit the seriousness of each individual's offense and of mitigating punishment already meted out in a spirit of equity has proved an immensely hard and very complicated matter, even more difficult than I knew it would be.
But the agencies of Government concerned and my own staff have worked with me literally night and day in order to develop fair and orderly procedures and completed their work for my final approval over this last weekend.
I do not want to delay another day in resolving the dilemmas of the past, so that we may all get going on the pressing problems of the present. Therefore, I am today signing the necessary Presidential proclamation and Executive orders that will put this plan into effect.
The program provides for administrative disposition of cases involving draft evaders and military deserters not yet convicted or punished. In such cases, 24 months of alternate service will be required, which may be reduced for mitigating circumstances.
The program also deals with cases of those already convicted by a civilian or military court. For the latter purpose, I am establishing a clemency review board of nine distinguished Americans whose duty it will be to assist me in assuring that the Government's forgiveness is extended to applicable cases of prior conviction as equitably and as impartially as is humanly possible.
The primary purpose of this program is the reconciliation of all our people and the restoration of the essential unity of Americans within which honest differences of opinion do not descend to angry discord and mutual problems are not polarized by excessive passion.
My sincere hope is that this is a constructive step toward a calmer and cooler appreciation of our individual rights and responsibilities and our common purpose as a nation whose future is always more important than its past.
At this point, I will sign the proclamation  that I mentioned in my statement, followed by an Executive order  for the establishment of the Clemency Board, followed by the signing of an Executive order  for the Director of Selective Service, who will have a prime responsibility in the handling of the matters involving alternate service.
Thank you very much.
NOTE: The President spoke at 11:21 a.m. in the Cabinet Room at the White House.
Been waiting 'till he died to post that one?
No, but it's relevant today.
It is relevant.
On September 8, 1974 he pardoned Richard Nixon, angering the Democrats to an unexpected degree.
In a hasty political maneuver six days later he attempted to save the November Congressional elections by placating the angry Democrats with the clemency program.
It didn't work.
You can't placate an angry Democrat. It's a fools errand.
On August 19, at the national convention of Veterans of Foreign Wars in the city of Chicago, I announced my intention to give these young people a chance to earn their return to the mainstream of American society so that they can, if they choose, contribute, even though belatedly, to the building and the betterment of our country and the world....and 20 days later, on September 8, 1974, Ford pardoned Nixon.
Ford Made Historic Speech On Draft Dodgers In Windy City
...Ford had been in office for just 10 days when he gave a speech at Chicago's Conrad Hilton. In it, he proposed giving earned clemency to the 50,000 or so draft dodgers who fled the country. Less than three weeks later - in another controversial move - Ford pardoned former President Richard Nixon.
Program: As It Happens
Broadcast Date: Jan. 21, 1977
Host: Alan Maitland, Interviewer: Barbara Frum
Guest(s): Jack Kalhoon
In his first act as president, Jimmy Carter pardons those who peacefully evaded the draft by travelling abroad or failing to register. Military deserters, however, have not been included in the blanket pardon. In the two-tiered system, deserters can apply for a limited pardon to be reviewed on a case by case basis. CBC Radio's Barbara Frum talks to one frustrated military deserter who would like to go home again.
In 1974, President Ford offered a partial amnesty for war resisters. Of the 350,000 eligible candidates, only 21,800 were granted clemency. Exile groups in Canada, Sweden, Britain and France boycotted the program. They particularly disliked the stringent process that required them to swear the oath of allegiance. This measure was particularly offensive because former president Richard Nixon, who was also pardoned under this umbrella package, was treated much easier despite his role in manipulating the democratic process in the Watergate affair.
The blanket pardon allowed draft dodgers without criminal records or charges to come freely back into the country without having to go through a legal process. As such, no true figure exists of how many draft dodgers took advantage of the amnesty. It is estimated, however, that only 15 per cent of the evaders went back to the United States.
Jimmy Carter's News Conference of February 13th, 1980
I have not called for and do not anticipate calling for a draft. The best way to prevent having a draft in the future and mobilization of our Nation's efforts, both natural and human efforts, is to be prepared. The registration which I have called for, and which I am sure the Congress will approve, will permit us to save 90 to 100 days, weeks or even months, in a mobilization effort, if it should be called for in the future. We are not advocating the draft; we are advocating registration for a draft.
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