The pardon power, as received by the Colonies from English law

I think it’s entirely possible President Trump may be issuing a blanket pardon soon, so I wanted to know what the the Framers’ understanding of the pardon power was.  They were British, and British law was their model.  To understand what the Framers meant in giving the President the pardon power, we need to see what their English forebears had taught them.

Controversies over the pardon power go back to 1309, but for the Framers the relevant period is from 1678 to 1688, from the reign of Charles II to the Glorious Revolution.  Parliament impeached Charles’s closest adviser, Lord Danby, in lieu of impeaching the king himself, which they couldn’t do.  Charles pardoned him before he could be tried.  Prior to this incident, the pardon power had been considered absolute.

The debate on the Bill of Rights of 1688 included efforts to restrict the pardon power, all of which were defeated.  Then, in 1700 the Act of Settlement prohibited pardons which prevented impeachment actions by Parliament.  The Act left intact the power to pardon subsequent to sentence.

The foregoing is derived from The President’s Power to Pardon; A Constitutional History by William F. Duker, William and Mary Law Review, Vol. 18, Issue 13.

It seems to me that at the end of the day the FBI is going to be a shadow of its former self.  The head of the FBI will have as much power as a Police Commissioner does under the mayor.  There are city cops, and state cops, and there are federal cops.  But they’re  all just cops.

And we should take J. Edgar Hoover’s name off the building.

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