Mandeville, LA – While researching the topic of impeachment I discovered a most fascinating piece of scholarship written in 1974 by Albert Broderick of Catholic University: The Citizen’s Guide To Impeachment. This is a well documented historical tell-all of the entire history of the Constitution’s impeachment power and how it was supposed to be used.
The eye opening first section deals with the impeachment clause being added to the Constitution without much debate and by who, nobody knows although we do know the date it was added. From there, Broderick walks us through the clause being described while the Constitution was being sold – during ratification – and then how the early Congresses viewed and used this power. Utterly fascinating, download it for the footnotes alone and be prepared for the upcoming impeachment trial of Barack Obama.
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An excerpt from the essay.
Citizens’ Guide to Impeachment of a President: Problem Areas
The draft of August 6th of the Committee on Detail changed the grounds for impeachment to “treason, bribery or corruption. ’40 On August 20th the Convention referred additional propositions to the Committee on De- tail, among them the proposal that major governmental officers “shall be
liable to impeachment and removal from office for neglect of duty, Malversation, or corruption”, and directions to devise “a mode for trying the supreme Judges in cases of impeachment. ‘
Consideration of the “treason, bribery or corruption” standard was post- poned by the Convention when it came up on August 27th. It was among those referred back to the fourth Committee of Eleven on August 31st. This committee reported back on September 4th recommending that the President’s impeachment be restricted to “Treason or Bribery. ‘ At the debate on this proposal, September 8th, Mason asked:
Why is the provision restrained to Treason & Bribery only? Treason as defined in the Constitution will not reach many great and dangerous offenses. Hastings is not guilty of Treason. Attempts to subvert the Constitution may not be Treason as above defined. As bills of attainder which have saved the Constitution are forbidden, it is the more necessary to the power of impeachments. Citizens’ Guide to Impeachment of a President: Problem Areas
Madison reports that Mason then “moved to add after ‘bribery’ [the words] or maladministration”. After Gerry seconded Mason, Madison demurred:
“So vague a term will be equivalent to a tenure during pleasure of the Senate.” But Morris rejoined : “It will not be put in force & can do no harm-An election every four years will prevent maladministration.” Still, without further debate or explanation on this point, Mason “withdrew ‘mal- administration’ & substitute[d] ‘other high crimes & misdemeanors against the state’.” This amendment passed 8 to 3.