Contributor Post Created with Sketch. Framers’ Impeachment Fears Fulfilled, with a Twist

 

The current attempted coup by the unelected Deep State, now proudly proclaimed by the New York Times and leftist media people, was not anticipated by the framers of the Constitution of the United States.

The behavior now on display in Congress, on the other hand was anticipated and ultimately written off as a necessary risk that could be corrected in short order by the voters either affirming or punishing the legislators. We have this, rather than a parliamentary no-confidence vote because of the eventual balance struck, dividing power across three branches of government and within the legislature between two chambers.

We were on our way to something like a prime minister or very weak executive in the Constitutional Conventionn. Then one man, Gouverneur Morris, came to the floor of the convention and made the case for a truly independent executive. We know his remarks from Madison’s notes:

MADISON
Thursday, July. 19. in Convention.
On reconsideration of the vote rendering the Executive re-eligible a 2d. time,[52]

Mr. Martin moved to reinstate the words “to be ineligible a 2d. time”.
Mr. Governeur Morris. […]

He finds too that the Executive is not to be re-eligible. What effect will this have? 1. it will destroy the great incitement to merit public esteem by taking away the hope of being rewarded with a reappointment. It may give a dangerous turn to one of the strongest passions in the human breast. The love of fame is the great spring to noble & illustrious actions. Shut the Civil road to Glory & he may be compelled to seek it by the sword. 2. It will tempt him to make the most of the Short space of time allotted him, to accumulate wealth and provide for his friends. 3. It will produce violations of the very constitution it is meant to secure. In moments of pressing danger the tried abilities and established character of a favorite Magistrate will prevail over respect for the forms of the Constitution. The Executive is also to be impeachable. This is a dangerous part of the plan. It will hold him in such dependence that he will be no check on the Legislature, will not be a firm guardian of the people and of the public interest. He will be the tool of a faction, of some leading demagogue in the Legislature. These then are the faults of the Executive establishment as now proposed.

Alexander Hamilton, in selling the draft constitution, addressed the issues around impeachment power:

FEDERALIST PAPERS
Federalist No. 65
The Powers of the Senate Continued
From the New York Packet.
Friday, March 7, 1788.
Author: Alexander Hamilton

To the People of the State of New York:

THE remaining powers which the plan of the convention allots to the Senate, in a distinct capacity, are comprised in their participation with the executive in the appointment to offices, and in their judicial character as a court for the trial of impeachments. As in the business of appointments the executive will be the principal agent, the provisions relating to it will most properly be discussed in the examination of that department. We will, therefore, conclude this head with a view of the judicial character of the Senate.

[…]

A well-constituted court for the trial of impeachments is an object not more to be desired than difficult to be obtained in a government wholly elective. The subjects of its jurisdiction are those offenses which proceed from the misconduct of public men, or, in other words, from the abuse or violation of some public trust. They are of a nature which may with peculiar propriety be denominated POLITICAL, as they relate chiefly to injuries done immediately to the society itself. The prosecution of them, for this reason, will seldom fail to agitate the passions of the whole community, and to divide it into parties more or less friendly or inimical to the accused. In many cases it will connect itself with the pre-existing factions, and will enlist all their animosities, partialities, influence, and interest on one side or on the other; and in such cases there will always be the greatest danger that the decision will be regulated more by the comparative strength of parties, than by the real demonstrations of innocence or guilt.

The delicacy and magnitude of a trust which so deeply concerns the political reputation and existence of every man engaged in the administration of public affairs, speak for themselves. The difficulty of placing it rightly, in a government resting entirely on the basis of periodical elections, will as readily be perceived, when it is considered that the most conspicuous characters in it will, from that circumstance, be too often the leaders or the tools of the most cunning or the most numerous faction, and on this account, can hardly be expected to possess the requisite neutrality towards those whose conduct may be the subject of scrutiny.

Federalist No. 66

Objections to the Power of the Senate To Set as a Court for Impeachments Further Considered

From the New York Packet.
Tuesday, March 11, 1788.
Author: Alexander Hamilton

To the People of the State of New York:

A REVIEW of the principal objections that have appeared against the proposed court for the trial of impeachments, will not improbably eradicate the remains of any unfavorable impressions which may still exist in regard to this matter.

[…]

The FIRST of these objections is, that the provision in question confounds legislative and judiciary authorities in the same body, in violation of that important and well established maxim which requires a separation between the different departments of power. The true meaning of this maxim has been discussed and ascertained in another place, and has been shown to be entirely compatible with a partial intermixture of those departments for special purposes, preserving them, in the main, distinct and unconnected. This partial intermixture is even, in some cases, not only proper but necessary to the mutual defense of the several members of the government against each other. An absolute or qualified negative in the executive upon the acts of the legislative body, is admitted, by the ablest adepts in political science, to be an indispensable barrier against the encroachments of the latter upon the former. And it may, perhaps, with no less reason be contended, that the powers relating to impeachments are, as before intimated, an essential check in the hands of that body upon the encroachments of the executive. The division of them between the two branches of the legislature, assigning to one the right of accusing, to the other the right of judging, avoids the inconvenience of making the same persons both accusers and judges; and guards against the danger of persecution, from the prevalency of a factious spirit in either of those branches. As the concurrence of two thirds of the Senate will be requisite to a condemnation, the security to innocence, from this additional circumstance, will be as complete as itself can desire.

So, the Senate was supposed to protect the executive’s place in the Constitution, and the House would be subject to the check of the voters. Yet, because this was before the explosion of an unconstitutional fourth branch, the administrative state and the national-security state, and before modern media, neither Hamilton nor any others quite anticipated how this could become a mere tool of party politics. The Framers did have a realistic view, informed by the Bible and all the history they could read, of man’s fallen, limited nature, and the impossibility of perfecting people or institutions created by imperfect beings. They gave us the best political founding document in human history. It is time for us to lace up our boots and do our bit.

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There are 7 comments.

  1. MarciN Member

    Clifford A. Brown: So, the Senate was supposed to protect the executive’s place in the Constitution, and the House would be subject to the check of the voters. Yet, because this was before the explosion of an unconstitutional fourth branch, the administrative state and the national-security state, and before modern media, neither Hamilton nor any others quite anticipated how this could become a mere tool of party politics. The Framers did have a realistic view, informed by the Bible and all the history they could read, of man’s fallen, limited nature, and the impossibility of perfecting people or institutions created by imperfect beings. They gave us the best political founding document in human history. It is time for us to lace up our boots and do our bit.

    Well said. 

    • #1
    • November 14, 2019, at 5:47 PM PST
    • 7 likes
  2. dnewlander Member

    It doesn’t help that the Senate is now an elected, and therefore political, body. Which was not the intention, as it was meant to represent the Sovereign States, not the populace. And not to be a “Super-duper House of Representatives”. 

    • #2
    • November 14, 2019, at 6:58 PM PST
    • 14 likes
  3. Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patrio… Member

    dnewlander (View Comment):

    It doesn’t help that the Senate is now an elected, and therefore political, body. Which was not the intention, as it was meant to represent the Sovereign States, not the populace. And not to be a “Super-duper House of Representatives”.

    I think that you make a good point about the change to an elected Senate, but I disagree with the suggestion that the old Senate was not “political.” The Senate is a political body whether its members are appointed by the states, or elected by the people of the states. The old system provided a Senate that tended to serve a different political interest, but that did not make Senators apolitical.

    • #3
    • November 15, 2019, at 9:44 AM PST
    • 1 like
  4. Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patrio… Member

    Clifford, good points.

    I have a follow-up question about the “Deep State.” It seems to me that the problem is tied to civil service protections, which limit the President’s ability to fire executive branch employees. I’m not an expert on the history of this, but I think that in the 1880s, a law was passed to switch the federal civil service from a “spoils” system to a “merit” system. The mechanism, as I understand it, was the imposition of rules prohibiting the firing of civil service employees.

    There are certainly problems with a system in which the President has unlimited authority to hire and fire federal workers, implicit in the very term that we use, “spoils” system. I suspect, however, that the cure for this problem is worse than the disease, because the alternative “merit” system turns into an entrenched bureaucracy. With a spoils system, if the rascals are misbehaving, at least there’s a quadrennial opportunity to throw them out.

    Perhaps the idea of a neutral, apolitical, merit-based civil service is naive.

    • #4
    • November 15, 2019, at 10:01 AM PST
    • 3 likes
  5. Phil Turmel Coolidge

    Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patrio… (View Comment):
    Perhaps the idea of a neutral, apolitical, merit-based civil service is naive.

    Precisely. And the “spoils” system is called that as an epithet, specifically to delegitamize the efforts of non-statists to prune a statist bureaucracy.

    • #5
    • November 15, 2019, at 12:17 PM PST
    • 1 like
  6. Bill Nelson Member

    They also had other fears.

    “The aim of every political Constitution, is or ought to be first to obtain for rulers men who possess most wisdom to discern, and most virtue to pursue, the common good of society; and in the next place, to take the most effectual precautions for keeping them virtuous whilst they continue to hold their public trust.”
    James Madison

     

    • #6
    • November 15, 2019, at 12:50 PM PST
    • 1 like
  7. WillowSpring Member

    Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patrio… (View Comment):
    Perhaps the idea of a neutral, apolitical, merit-based civil service is naive.

    Obama muddied the waters by magically ‘converting’ political appointees to career positions:

    https://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2017/sep/27/78-obama-appointees-burrowed-career-jobs-watchdog-/

    • #7
    • November 15, 2019, at 1:55 PM PST
    • 1 like