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SUSPENSION UPON IMPEACHMENT
On September 14, John Rutledge and Gouverneur Morris moved “that persons impeached be suspended from their office until they be tried and acquitted. (II: 612) Madison objected that the President was already made too dependent on the legislature by the power of one branch to try him in consequence of an impeachment by the other. Suspension he argued, “will put him in the power of one branch only," which can at any moment vote a temporary removal of the President in order "to make way for the functions of another who will be more favorable to their views.” The motion was defeated, three states to eight. (II: 613).
No further changes were made with respect to the impeachment provision or the election of the President. On September 15, the Constitution was agreed to, and on September 17 it was signed and the Convention adjourned. (II: 650)
AMERICAN IMPEACHMENT CASES
1. SENATOR WILLIAM BLOUNT (1797-1799)
a. Proceedings in the House
The House adopted a resolution in 1797 authorizing a select committee to examine a presidential message and accompanying papers regarding the conduct of Senator Blount. The committee reported a resolution that Blount "be impeached for high crimes and misdemeanors,” which was adopted without debate or division. 6. Articles of Impeachment
Five articles of impeachment were agreed to by the House without amendment (except a "mere verbal one").3
Article I charged that Blount, knowing that the United States was at peace with Spain and that Spain and Great Britain were at war with each other, "but disregarding the duties and obligations of his high station, and designing and intending to disturb the peace and tranquillity of the United States, and to violate and infringe the neutrality thereof," conspired and contrived to promote a hostile military expedition against the Spanish possessions of Louisiana and Florida for the purpose of wresting them from Spain and conquering them for Great Britain. This was alleged to be "contrary to the duty of his trust and station as a Senator of the United States, in violation of the obligations of neutrality, and against the laws of the United States, and the peace and interests thereof."
Article II charged that Blount knowing of a treaty between the United States and Spain and "disregarding his high station, and the stipulations of the ... treaty, and the obligations of neutrality," conspired to engage the Creek and Cherokee nations in the expedition against Louisiana and Florida. This was alleged to be contrary to Blount's duty of trust and station as a Senator, in violation of the treaty and of the obligations of neutrality, and against the laws, peace, and interest of the United States.
Article III alleged that Blount, knowing that the President was empowered by act of Congress to appoint temporary agents to reside among the Indians in order to secure the continuance of their friendship and that the President had appointed a principal temporary agent, “in the prosecution of his criminal designs and of his conspiracies" conspired and contrived to alienate the tribes from the President's agent and to diminish and impair his influence with the tribes, “contrary to the duty of his trust and station as a Senator and the peace and interests of the United States."
15 ANNALS OF CONG. 440-41 (1797). 2 1d. 459. 3 Id. 951.
Article IV charged that Blount, knowing that the Congress had made it lawful for the President to establish trading posts with the Indians and that the President had appointed an interpreter to serve as assistant post trader, conspired and contrived to seduce the interpreter from his duty and trust and to engage him in the promotion and execution of Blount's criminal intentions and conspiracies, contrary to the duty of his trust and station as a Senator and against the laws, treaties, peace and interest of the United States.
Article V charged that Blount, knowing of the boundary line between the United States and the Cherokee nation established by treaty, in further prosecution of his criminal designs and conspiracies and the more effectually to accomplish his intention of exciting the Cherokees to commence hostilities against Spain, conspired and contrived to diminish and impair the confidence of the Cherokee nation in the government of the United States and to create discontent and disaffection among the Cherokees in relation to the boundary line. This was alleged to be against Blount's duty and trust as a Senator and against impeachment was dismissed. c. Proceedings in the Senate
Before Blount's impeachment, the Senate had expelled him for “having been guilty of a high misdemeanor, entirely inconsistent with his public trust and duty as a Senator.” 4 At the trial a plea was interposed on behalf of Blount to the effect that (1) a Senator was not a "civil officer," (2) having already been expelled, Blount was no longer impeachable, and (3) no crime or misdemeanor in the execution of the office had been alleged. The Senate voted 14 to 11 that the plea was sufficient in law that the Senate ought not to hold jurisdiction. The impeachment was dismissed.
2. DISTRICT JUDGE JOHN PICKERING (1803–1804)
a. Proceedings in the House
A message received from the President of the United States, regarding complaints against Judge Pickering, was referred to a select committee for investigation in 1803. A resolution that Pickering be impeached "of high crimes and misdemeanors" was reported to the full House the same year and adopted by a vote of 45 to 8.7 6. Articles of Impeachment
A select committee was appointed to draft articles of impeachment.8 The House agreed unanimously and without amendment to the four articles subsequently reported. Each article alleged high crimes and misdemeanors by Pickering in his conduct of an admiralty proceeding by the United States against a ship and merchandise that allegedly had been landed without the payment of duties.
Article I charged that Judge Pickering, “not regarding, but with intent to evade" an act of Congress, had ordered the ship and merchandise delivered to its owner without the production of any certifi
* Id. 43-44. 618. 2319 (1799). • 12 ANNALS OF CONG. 460 (1803). 718, 642. • 13 ANNALS OF CONG. 380 (1803). .10. 794-95.
cate that the duty on the ship or the merchandise had been paid or secured, “contrary to [Pickering's] trust and duty as judge. and to the manifest injury of [the] revenue.” 10
Article II charged that Pickering, "with intent to defeat the just claims of the United States," refused
to hear the testimony of witnesses produced on behalf of the United States and, without hearing testimony, ordered the ship and merchandise restored to the claimant“contrary to his trust and duty, as judge of the said district court, in violation of the laws of the United States, and to the manifest injury of their revenue." 11
Article III charged that Pickering, "disregarding the authority of the laws, and wickedly meaning and intending to injure the revenues of the United States, and thereby to impair the public credit, did absolutely and positively refuse to allow the appeal of the United States on the admiralty proceedings, "contrary to his trust and duty as judge of the said district court, against the laws of the United States, to the great injury of the public revenue, and in violation of the solemn oath which he had taken to administer equal and impartial justice.” 12 Article IV charged:
That whereas for the due, faithful, and impartial adminis-
to the honor and dignity of the United States.13 c. Proceedings in the Senate
The Senate convicted Judge Pickering on each of the four articles by a vote of 19 to 7.14 d. Miscellaneous
The Senate heard evidence on the issue of Judge Pickering's sanity, but refused by a vote of 19 to 9 to postpone the trial.18
3. JUSTICE SAMUEL CHASE (1804-1805)
a. Proceedings in the House
In 1804 the House authorized a committee to inquire into the conduct of Supreme Court Justice Chase. 16 On the same day that Judge Pickering was convicted in the Senate, the House adopted by a vote of
10 Id. 319. 11 Id. 320-21. 12 Id. 321-22. 13 Id. 322. 14 Id. 366–67. 15 Id. 362-63. 18 Id. 875.
73 to 32 a resolution reported by the committee that Chase be impeached of “high crimes and misdemeanors.17 6. Articles of Impeachment
After voting separately on each, the House adopted eight articles.18
Article I charged that, “unmindful of the solemn duties of his office, and contrary to the sacred obligation by which he stood bound to discharge them 'faithfully and impartially, and without respect to persons [a quotation from the judicial oath prescribed by statute]," Chase, in presiding over a treason trial in 1800, "did, in his judicial capacity, conduct himself in a manner highly arbitrary, oppressive and unjust” by:
(1) delivering a written opinion on the applicable legal definition of treason before the defendant's counsel had been heard;
(2) preventing counsel from citing certain English cases and U.S. statutes; and
(3) depriving the defendant of his constitutional privilege to argue the law to the jury and "endeavoring to wrest from the jury their indisputable right to hear argument and determine upon the question of law, as well as the question of fact” in reaching their verdict.
In consequence of this "irregular conduct” by Chase, the defendant was deprived of his Sixth Amendment rights and was condemned to death without having been represented by counsel "to the disgrace of the character of the American bench, in manifest violation of law and justice, and in open contempt of the rights of juries, on which ultimately, rest the liberty and safety of the people.” 19
Article II charged that, “prompted by a similar spirit of persecution and injustice." Chase had presided over a trial in 1800 involving a violation of the Sedition Act of 1798 (for defamation of the President, and, “with intent to oppress and procure the conviction” of the defendant, allowed an individual to serve on the jury who wished to be excused because he had made up his mind as to whether the publication involved was libelous.20
Article III charged that, "with intent to oppress and procure the conviction” of the defendant in the Sedition Act prosecution, Chase refused to permit a witness for the defendant to testify "on pretense that the said witness could not prove the truth of the whole of one of the charges contained in the indictment, although the said charge embraced more than one fact." 21
Article IV charged that Chase's conduct throughout the trial was "marked by manifest injustice, partiality, and intemperance”:
(1) in compelling defendant's counsel to reduce to writing for the court's inspection the questions they wished to ask the witness referred to in article III;
(2) in refusing to postpone the trial although an affidavit had been filed stating the absence of material witnesses on behalf of the defendant;
(3) in using "unusual, rude and contemptuous expressions” to defendant's counsel and in “falsely insinuating" that they wished
11 Id. 1180. 1 14 ANNALS OF CONG. 747-82 (1804). 19 d. 728-29. so Id. 729.