Of presidential pardons — drug offenders and polygamists
Published: April 30, 2014 02:06PM
Updated: May 6, 2014 02:43PM
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U.S. President Barack Obama speaks about the deadly tornadoes that tore through several states before making a statement during a joint news conference with Philippine President Benigno Aquino III at Malacanang Palace in Manila, the Philippines, Monday, April 28, 2014. Obama is assuring Filipinos that a new security agreement doesn't mean the U.S. is trying to reestablish military bases in their country. The president says a deal signed Monday to give the U.S. military greater access to Philippine bases will help strengthen security in the region. He said it also will allow for a faster response to natural disasters. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

A recent column by Gene Healy in the Washington Examiner included this interesting paragraph.

<freeform><p style=”margin-left:40px”><i>Indeed, as law professors Charles Shanor and Marc Miller explain in a 2001 article, “at least a third of all United States presidents [starting with] the earliest administrations, have used systematic pardons,” granting clemency to whole classes of offenders, groups as diverse as pirates, Confederate rebels, Mormon bigamists and wartime draft dodgers. </i></p></freeform>

Healy’s column was a defense of President Obama’s plan to grant clemency to or otherwise release from prison some nonviolent drug offenders. He was trying to point out that U.S. presidents have used the power to grant pardons and reprieves for certain types of offenders and in cases of injustices.

The “Mormon bigamists” is a reference to actions taken by presidents Benjamin Harrison and Grover Cleveland. Harrison issued pardons in 1891 and 1893. One of the polygamists he pardoned in 1891 was Joseph F. Smith, who went on to be president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Cleveland issued a general pardon to Mormon polygamists in 1894.

— Nate Carlisle

Twitter: @natecarlisle