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OpEdNews Op Eds    H1'ed 10/11/19

Here's What the Framers of the Constitution Had to Say About Impeachment

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Dr. FRANKLIN mentioned the case of the Prince of Orange, during the late war. An arrangement was made between France and Holland, by which their two fleets were to unite at a certain time and place. The Dutch fleet did not appear. Every body began to wonder at it. At length it was suspected that the stadtholder was at the bottom of the matter. This suspicion prevailed more and more. Yet, as he could not be impeached, and no regular examination took place, he remained in his office; and strengthening his own party, as the party opposed to him became formidable, he gave birth to the most violent animosities and contentions. Had he been impeachable, a regular and peaceable inquiry would have taken place, and he would, if guilty, have been duly punished, if innocent, restored to the confidence of the public.

Mr. KING remarked, that the case of the stadtholder was not applicable. He held his place for life, and was not periodically elected. In the former case, impeachments are proper to secure good behavior: in the latter, they are unnecessary, the periodical responsibility to electors being an equivalent security.

Mr. WILSON observed, that, if the idea were to be pursued, the senators, who are to hold their places during the same term with the executive, ought to be subject to impeachment and removal.

Mr. PINCKNEY apprehended, that some gentlemen reasoned on a supposition that the executive was to have powers which would not be committed to him. He presumed that his powers would be so circumscribed as to render impeachments unnecessary.

Mr. GOUVERNEUR MORRIS'S opinion had been changed by the arguments used in the discussion. He was now sensible of the necessity of impeachments, if the executive was to continue for any length of time in office. Our executive was not like a magistrate having a life interest, much less like one having an hereditary interest, in his office. He may be bribed by a greater interest to betray his trust; and no one would say that we ought to expose ourselves to the danger of seeing the first magistrate in foreign pay, without being able to guard against it by displacing him. One would think the king of England well secured against bribery. He has, as it were, a fee simple in the whole kingdom. Yet Charles II was bribed by Louis XIV. The executive ought, therefore, to be impeachable for treachery. Corrupting his electors, and incapacity, were other causes of impeachment. For the latter he should be punished, not as a man but as an officer, and punished only by degradation from his office. This magistrate is not the king, but the prime minister. The people are the king. When we make him amenable to justice, however, we should take care to provide some mode that will not make him dependent on the legislature.

It was moved and seconded to postpone the question of impeachments; which was negatived, Massachusetts and South Carolina, only, being ay.

On the question, Shall the executive be removable on impeachments? &c.,

Connecticut, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, Georgia, ay, 8; Massachusetts, South Carolina, no, 2.

As you can read, the framers were very worried about a president who might be vulnerable to bribery or loyalties to governments other than the U.S. It seems that even more than the impeachments of Andrew Johnson, Richard Nixon (halted by his resignation) and Bill Clinton, the impeachment of Donald Trump is totally in line with the reasons the framers inserted that option in the Constitution.

There were other discussions of impeachment during the Convention and in other venues, but this particular conversation that Madison so carefully recorded best summarizes their thinking and was the point where the decision most seriously turned.

If we are to claim any fidelity whatsoever to the thinkers who created our Constitution, we have no choice but to subject Trump to an impeachment inquiry and indictment in the House of Representatives, and a full and open trial in the Senate.

This article was produced by the Independent Media Institute

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Thom Hartmann is a Project Censored Award-winning New York Times best-selling author, and host of a nationally syndicated daily progressive talk program on the Air America Radio Network, live noon-3 PM ET. His most recent books are "The Last Hours of Ancient Sunlight," "Unequal Protection: The Rise of Corporate Dominance and the Theft of Human Rights," "We The People," "What Would Jefferson Do?," "Screwed: The Undeclared War Against the Middle (more...)

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