Tag: Justice Samuel Chase

Impeachment as Congressional Contempt of the Constitution

 

The Framers did not intend the impeachment power to give Congress supremacy, in the form of being able to harass and paralyze the Courts or the president over policy differences, let alone raw political will. Nevertheless, Congress has acted, almost from the beginning, with selective contempt for the Constitution, both legislatively and in its employment of the impeachment power. There is really nothing new under the sun, including what the current majority party in the House of Representatives is doing…and it is still contemptuous of the Constitution.

Take a step back from the current tempest in the Congressional teapot and consider the facts laid out in 1992 by Chief Justice William Rehnquist in Grand Inquests: the Historic Impeachments of Justice Samuel Chase and President Andrew Johnson. The Chief Justice published this very approachable book the year that William Jefferson Clinton beat President Bush the First. Taking his book as a guide to the subject and the actors, some focused searching on the internet yields plenty of historical data and documents. Consider just the first major impeachment, along with a prelude, at the dawn of the 19th Century.

As soon as two parties formed and fought for the presidency, upon President Washington declining to run for a third term, they set about violating the Constitution with the Alien and Sedition Acts, outlawing political speech that the party in power disliked. In that context, with factions at each other’s throats, Congress impeached, tried, and removed a federal judge, then targeted a Supreme Court justice, Samuel Chase.