By Joel D. Joseph
Mr. Joseph has represented more than 60 members of Congress, Democrats and Republicans, in federal litigation.
Mark Meadows is not the first former Congressman to be held in contempt by Congress. He is the second: Sam Houston, the namesake of Houston, Texas, was held in contempt by Congress in 1832. The difference between the two proceedings is that Houston was arrested by the Sergeant-at-Arms and Meadows is roaming free while awaiting possible indictment by Justice Department attorneys. Congress should have Meadows arrested by the Sergeant-at-Arms and compelled to testify rather than letting him off the hook with a misdemeanor charge.
The crimes that Meadows committed were far more serious than those committed by Sam Houston. Meadows conspired with President Trump and others to overthrow the government. Houston only assaulted one Congressman, and then only in self-defense.
Before Sam Houston made his way to Texas he served as a congressman from Tennessee and served two terms as that state's governor. After his governorship, Houston spent time in Washington, D.C., advocating on behalf of the Cherokee Indians and denouncing corruption in the Bureau of Indian Affairs. In 1882, Congressman William Stanbery from Ohio made slanderous accusations about Houston and the Cherokees on the floor of Congress.
One morning Houston was leaving a boarding house on Independence Avenue and he saw Stanbery walking down the street. A confrontation occurred between the two men over Stanbery's statement. Stanbery pulled a pistol, put it to the chest of Houston, pulled the trigger, but the pistol misfired. Fate saved Houston's life but jeopardized Stanbery's. Houston then viciously beat Congressman Stanbery with his hickory walking cane.
The U.S. Congress, by a vote of 149 to 25, ordered the arrest of Sam Houston, charging him with assaulting and demeaning a member of Congress. Houston was arrested by the House of Representatives Sergeant-at-Arms. Houston was then tried before Congress. He was represented by Francis Scott Key, a noted attorney who also wrote the Star-Spangled Banner. Houston and Key spent days in boisterous oratory stating their position--that Houston was defending his honor; that Stanbery was the aggressor; and in any event, Stanbery deserved a severe caning.
The night before his summation to the jury, Houston got drunk with some friends, which included the Speaker of the House, who was also the presiding judge. Hung over as Houston was, he rallied the next morning for to give a brilliant performance. He spoke for almost an hour, quoting Shakespeare, Blackstone and the Apostle Paul. But after the trial was over, Houston was found guilty, reprimanded and ordered to pay a $5,000 fine. Houston refused to pay the fine, and rather than face more problems with Congress, left Washington that same year began a new potential career in Texas.
Houston served as the first and third president of the Republic of Texas and was one of the first two individuals to represent Texas in the United States Senate. He also served as the sixth governor of Tennessee and the seventh governor of Texas, the only individual to be elected governor of two different states in the United States.
A Texas political convention voted to secede from the United States in 1861. Houston proclaimed that Texas was once again an independent republic, but he refused to recognize that same convention's authority to join the Confederacy. After Houston refused to swear an oath of loyalty to the Confederacy, the legislature declared the governorship vacant. Sam Houston was a maverick long before Senator John McCain claimed that mantle.
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