NixonPardonArticle II, Section 2 of the U.S. Constitution grants the President of the United States the “power to grant reprieves and pardons for offenses against the United States.” With a pen stroke, the chief executive can bestow clemency on anyone incarcerated in America, for any offense. Naturally, the very existence of such a power is controversial, and has been since before the dawn of the Republic (when the pardon authority was debated by the Constitution’s framers, some of whom wanted the U.S. Senate to share in the power; the founders – and subsequent Supreme Court rulings – have said nuh-uh). That doesn’t mean there haven’t been some historical hackles raised when the Commander-in-Chief dispensed what founder Alexander Hamilton called the “benign [good] prerogative.” Here are some of history’s eyebrow-raisers: 1. George Wilson: In 1829, Wilson and another man were handed death sentences for murder and robbery of mail trains. The accomplice was sent to the gallows in short order, but Wilson had friends in Washington, D.C. They friends President Andrew Jackson for clemency on behalf of Wilson, and “Old Hickory” gave in. The following year, Wilson was pardoned for his capital crimes; he would only have to serve a twenty-year prison term. That should have been good news for Wilson, but when he was presented with the pardon, Wilson bizarrely refused to accept it. After a surreal trip up the judicial ladder, the matter fell into the lap of the Supreme Court. The justices ruled that since the pardon was sort of property, there wasn’t any legal way to force Wilson to accept it. Wilson was hanged. 2. Brigham Young: One of the pioneers of the Mormon Church, Young fought against U.S. soldiers during a pre-American Civil War armed conflict in the 1850s, when federal forces tried installing non-Mormon officials in the territory that would later become Utah. Young thought about burning Salt Lake City to the ground and heading for Mexico, but decided instead to step down as territorial governor (although he continued to hold tightly onto the reins of the then-polygamy-practicing Mormon faith). President James Buchanan later pardoned Young for his role in the quasi-insurrection. 3. Every Soldier in the Confederacy: On Christmas Day, 1868, President Andrew Johnson proclaimed a general amnesty and unconditionally pardoned everyone who had fought for the Confederate States during the Civil War. The move was highly unpopular among many in the victorious (and still-hungry-for-vengeance) North, and further alienated Johnson (a Southern Democrat who had stayed loyal to the Union and had been picked by Abraham Lincoln as Vice President before the Great Emancipator was felled by Booth’s bullet) from his Republican-dominated Congress and cabinet. 4. Samuel Mudd, Edmund Spangler, and Samuel Arnold: Convicted of conspiracy in the assassination of Abraham Lincoln, all three served time, but received pardons in 1869 from Andrew Johnson. 5. Richard Nixon: Nixon resigned as president in disgrace on August 9, 1974, following the Watergate scandal. Less than a month later, President Gerald Ford, newly in office, gave his predecessor an unconditional and full pardon for any crimes he may have committed while in office. Many critics cried ‘foul’ over the pardon, saying it was evidence of a deal between Nixon and Ford (who had been appointed by Nixon as V.P. after the resignation of Spiro Agnew). Ford appeared on national television and said the pardon was the best way for the country to move past Watergate and Nixon’s actions. Many didn’t buy the explanation, and Ford’s own press secretary resigned over the matter. Ford admitted that the pardon killed his chance for reelection in the 1976, when Jimmy Carter won. 6. Peter Yarrow: Yarrow was a member of the 1960s folk music group Peter, Paul and Mary (and was famous for singing “Puff, the Magic Dragon”). Yarrow had droves of fans, but some were on the young side. He was convicted in 1970 of taking “improper liberties” with a 14-year-old girl, which cost him three months in jail. He was pardoned by Jimmy Carter on the president’s last day in office. Yarrow later said, “It was an era of real indiscretion and mistakes by categorically male performers. I was one of them. I got nailed. I was wrong. I’m sorry for it.” 7. George Steinbrenner: Many people know Steinbrenner only as the loud-mouthed, big-spending, Seinfeld-parodied owner of the New York Yankees. In 1974, however, “the Boss” was in hot water because of questionable connections to Richard Nixon’s 1972 presidential reelection campaign. Charged with 14 criminal counts, Steinbrenner pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice and making illegal campaign contributions. Steinbrenner paid out a $15,000 fine, and was suspended by Major League Baseball for 15 months. In the closing days of Ronald Reagan’s second term, he pardoned Steinbrenner for the offenses. 8. Junior Johnson: One of NASCAR’s earliest stars from the 1950s and 60s, Johnson later became a successful NASCAR team owner. But old legal problems still hung over him. In 1956, federal agents had caught the up-and-coming racing star working a North Carolina moonshine still. Johnson was handed a two-year sentence, eventually spening 11 months in federal prison. Once out, he returned to dominate the NASCAR circuit, but he was always bothered by the loss of his voting rights as a felon. In 1986, he received a pardon from Ronald Reagan. 9. Patty Hearst: The heiress to the Hearst Publishing empire spent nearly two years in prison for her part in a 1974 bank robbery, after being kidnapped and brainwashed by the domestic militant group, the Symbionese Liberation Army. In 1979, President Jimmy Carter commuted her sentence, while Bill Clinton gave Hearst a full pardon in 2001 on the last day of his presidency. 10. Roger Clinton: Bill Clinton’s half-brother pleaded guilty to cocaine distribution charges in 1984 and spent a year in prison. On his last day in office, Clinton issued a controversial 140 pardons, and his little brother made the list. Roger didn’t learn from his previous mistakes: in less than a month he had been arrested for drunk driving and disturbing the peace, later pleading guilty to a lesser charge. Here’s a partial list of U.S. chief executives, and the number of presidential pardons they granted during the time they were in office, in the years that followed the Second World War: Harry S. Truman (1945-1953): 1,913 Dwight D. Eisenhower (1953-1961): 1,110 John F. Kennedy (1961-1963): 472 Lyndon B. Johnson (1963-1969): 960 Richard M. Nixon (1969-1974): 863 Gerald R. Ford (1974-1977): 382 Jimmy Carter (1977-1981): 534 Ronald Reagan (1981-1989): 393 George H.W. Bush (1989-1993): 74 Bill Clinton (1993-2001): 396 George W. Bush (2001-2009): 189 Barack Obama (2009- ): 0