Masters Thesis

Gerald Ford’s Clemency Board: Revisited and Reassessed

Intended mainly as a vehicle for rehabilitating draft evaders after the Vietnam War, the Presidential Clemency Board (“PCB”) was largely an orphan of the Ford presidency. Created in the wake of the Nixon pardon as an unpopular compromise between those who opposed any sort of clemency and those who urged a general amnesty, the PCB was plagued by attacks from both the right and the left, internal dissent, and numerous administrative difficulties. Little has been written about the PCB in the four decades since it concluded its work, and those historians who have evaluated it have reached the conclusion that it was largely unsuccessful. Using recently-available records and notes of Ford’s advisors and PCB participants, this thesis will demonstrate that while the PCB did little to accomplish its stated goal of “healing the nation” and was boycotted by the draft evaders who were its primary intended beneficiaries, it was nonetheless a bureaucratic achievement of some note and an incidental success for its least important beneficiaries, common soldiers who had been cast aside by American society.