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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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Framers of US Constitution Preamble Founding Fathers 1787
Framers of US Constitution Preamble Founding Fathers 1787
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There has been much discussion about what the framers of the Constitution thought about impeachment of the president, particularly given the wide range of impeachable things Trump has done, and the debate around whether impeaching him is consistent with the thoughts of the men who wrote the Constitution's impeachment clause. (At the time, they'd not yet settled on the term "president" so they referred to the president at the "executive" or "magistrate.")

Here are the framers' own words, recorded by the hand of James Madison, in Philadelphia on Friday, July 20, 1787, during the Constitutional Convention, emphasis added:

Mr. PINCKNEY observed, he ought not to be impeachable whilst in office.

Mr. DAVIE. If he be not impeachable whilst in office, he will spare no efforts or means whatever, to get himself reëlected. He considered this as an essential security for the good behavior of the executive.

Mr. WILSON concurred in the necessity of making the executive impeachable whilst in office.

Mr. GOUVERNEUR MORRIS. He can do no criminal act without coadjutors, who may be punished. In case he should be reëlected, that will be a sufficient proof of his innocence. Besides, who is to impeach? Is the impeachment to suspend his functions? If it is not, the mischief will go on. If it is, the impeachment will be nearly equivalent to a displacement, and will render the executive dependent on those who are to impeach.

Col. MASON. No point is of more importance than that the right of impeachment should be continued. Shall any man be above justice? Above all, shall that man be above it who can commit the most extensive injustice? When great crimes were committed, he was for punishing the principal as well as the coadjutors. There had been much debate and difficulty as to the mode of choosing the executive. He approved of that which had been adopted at first, namely, of referring the appointment to the national legislature. One objection against electors was the danger of their being corrupted by the candidates, and this furnished a peculiar reason in favor of impeachments whilst in office. Shall the man who has practised corruption, and by that means procured his appointment in the first instance, be suffered to escape punishment by repeating his guilt?

Dr. FRANKLIN was for retaining the clause, as favorable to the executive. History furnishes one example only of a first magistrate being formally brought to public justice. Every body cried out against this as unconstitutional. What was the practice before this, in cases where the chief magistrate rendered himself obnoxious: Why, recourse was had to assassination, in which he was not only deprived of his life, but of the opportunity of vindicating his character. It would be the best way, therefore, to provide in the Constitution for the regular punishment of the executive, where his misconduct should deserve it, and for his honorable acquittal, where he should be unjustly accused.

Mr. GOUVERNEUR MORRIS admits corruption, and some few other offences, to be such as ought to be impeachable; but thought the cases ought to be enumerated and defined.

Mr. MADISON thought it indispensable that some provision should be made for defending the community against the incapacity, negligence, or perfidy of the chief magistrate. The limitation of the period of his service was not a sufficient security. He might lose his capacity after his appointment. He might pervert his administration into a scheme of peculation [enriching himself with public money] or oppression. He might betray his trust to foreign powers. The case of the executive magistracy was very distinguishable from that of the legislature, or any other public body holding offices of limited duration. It could not be presumed that all, or even the majority, of the members of an assembly would either lose their capacity for discharging, or be bribed to betray, their trust. Besides the restraints of their personal integrity and honor, the difficulty of acting in concert for purposes of corruption was a security to the public. And if one or a few members only should be seduced, the soundness of the remaining members would maintain the integrity and fidelity of the body. I n the case of the executive magistracy, which was to be administered by a single man, loss of capacity, or corruption, was more within the compass of probable events, and either of them might be fatal to the republic.

Mr. PINCKNEY did not see the necessity of impeachments. He was sure they ought not to issue from the legislature, who would in that case hold them as a rod over the executive, and by that means effectually destroy his independence. His revisionary power, in particular, would be rendered altogether insignificant.

Mr. GERRY urged the necessity of impeachments. A good magistrate will not fear them. A bad one ought to be kept in fear of them. He hoped the maxim would never be adopted here, that the chief magistrate could do no wrong.

Mr. KING expressed his apprehensions that an extreme caution in favor of liberty might enervate the government we were forming. He wished the House to recur to the primitive axiom, that the three great departments of government should be separate and independent; that the executive and judiciary should be so as well as the legislative; that the executive should be so equally with the judiciary. Would this be the case if the executive should be impeachable? It had been said that the judiciary would be impeachable. But it should have been remembered, at the same time, that the judiciary hold their places not for a limited time, but during good behavior. It is necessary, therefore, that a form should be established for trying misbehavior. Was the executive to hold his place during good behavior? The executive was to hold his place for a limited time, like the members of the legislature. Like them, particularly the Senate, whose members would continue in appointment the same term of six years, he would periodically be tried for his behavior by his electors, who would continue or discontinue him in trust according to the manner in which he had discharged it. Like them, therefore, he ought to be subject to no intermediate trial, by impeachment. He ought not to be impeachable unless he held his office during good behavior -- a tenure which would be most agreeable to him, provided an independent and effectual forum could be devised . But under no circumstances ought he to be impeachable by the legislature. This would be destructive of his independence, and of the principles of the Constitution. He relied on the vigor of the executive, as a great security for the public liberties.

Mr. RANDOLPH. The propriety of impeachments was a favorite principle with him. Guilt, wherever found, ought to be punished. The executive will have great opportunities of abusing his power, particularly in time of war, when the military force, and in some respects the public money, will be in his hands. Should no regular punishment be provided, it will be irregularly inflicted by tumults and insurrections. He is aware of the necessity of proceeding with a cautious hand, and of excluding, as much as possible, the influence of the legislature from the business. He suggested for consideration an idea which had fallen, (from Colonel Hamilton,) of composing a forum out of the judges belonging to the states; and even of requiring some preliminary inquest, whether just ground of impeachment existed.

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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. www.thomhartmann.com 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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8 people are discussing this page, with 24 comments  Post Comment


Gary Brumback

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I totally and absolutely disagree with your misplaced loyalty to "the thinkers who created our constitution" and for the following seven factual reasons:

1. Bush Jr was right just once, when he said the constitution was just a (expletive) piece of paper.

2. The framers were framers all right. They framed America into forever being subjugated by the wrongdoing and evildoing power elite.

3. The framers/founders founded nothing. They invaded a country already occupied by people and proceeded to have these people slaughtered and their land stolen.

4. The framers/founders aided and abetted the stealing of Africans from their homeland and selling them as slaves to owners of stolen land.

5. The framers/founders came from a habitually war-torn country and brought the habit with them.

6. The people of the deep state and of the thoroughly corrupted Congress, all of whom profit from the business of war, are the people wanting to impeach Trump, who has said he wants to end what he rightly calls endless and senseless wars. These people are the people who should be expelled/impeached or arrested for committing treasonous acts.

7. People who want to impeach Trump but who do not want to be held accountable for their part in committing international war crimes, thus not joining the International Criminal Court, are being hypocritical and worse.

These seven reasons are based on facts, facts that most Americans do not know, want to know or admit.


Submitted on Saturday, Oct 12, 2019 at 12:13:15 PM

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MLKJr once told us that "our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter"


What can matter more than being good ancestors of the future and stopping the people who are taking America to Hell in a handbasket and the rest of the world, too?


Our loyalty should be to creating a new People's America, one in which

power is more evenly distributed and the American people at large have more control over how and by whom they are governed!

Submitted on Saturday, Oct 12, 2019 at 12:52:05 PM

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nelswight

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Howto go, Gary!

I'd love to know where you grew up. I've heard that phrase "Hell in a handbasket" all my life, and wondered if it was only Mainiac language

like here in MAINE.

Submitted on Saturday, Oct 12, 2019 at 2:05:51 PM

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My wife and I were born and reared in little New Castle, Indiana. So, we were "Hoosiers" for better or worse (Indiana has a very pock marked history, like, e.g., when the buffoon guv of the State was gleeful that Howard Zinn had died and promptly banned Zinn's A People's History of the United States from all public schools).

"Going to Hell in a handbasket" is a time-worn phrase, probably dating back a millennium or more and referring to captured and decapitated losers in wars (see, Is America Going to Hell in a Handbasket? By Gary Brumback Cyrano's Journal, March 29, 2013)

So, yes, the phrase does have a maniacal origin.


Submitted on Saturday, Oct 12, 2019 at 4:40:28 PM

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Anton Grambihler

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I grew up in South Dakota and my Dad used the "Hell in a handbasket" expression.

His Dad immigrated to Potosi, WI from Germany and then on to Dakota Territory when it opened up for homesteading.


Submitted on Saturday, Oct 12, 2019 at 6:00:06 PM

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At this point, I am writing to myself.

My envisioning a People's America is not out of my hat. It's out of my head, which created after years of toil, a plan for rescuing America from its power elite.

If I can get certain members of the super-rich and/or the lesser-rich to contract with one or more of five special organizations (identified in my book) to build and operate "Democracy Pow!er" in its two parts, a US Chamber of Democracy and a People's Reignbow Coalition, and they pursue the plan to its prescribed conclusion, there will be a new People's America. If not, well, you know what's coming sooner or later this century.

Anyone who is interested can get a free peek by going to Amazon Books, type Gary Brumback's "911!" book and keep going till you can "Look Inside."


Submitted on Saturday, Oct 12, 2019 at 4:21:45 PM

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Undo 1913 changes to stop the wars.

1. Eliminate the USA Income Tax.

2. Return the USA Senators to being selected by the State Legislatures.

3. Eliminate the Federal Reserve.

Submitted on Saturday, Oct 12, 2019 at 5:55:27 PM

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Those changes would help. Who will do the changing?

Submitted on Saturday, Oct 12, 2019 at 6:11:47 PM

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Good Question! I do not know the answer.


I have written to State and Federal elected officials of all states and parties, but it has had no effect. Hardly ever a response and then it is usually "If the subject comes up, I will give your thoughts consideration."

Submitted on Saturday, Oct 19, 2019 at 10:35:06 PM

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I don't understand where Thom is coming from, but your replying comment; IMHO, only reiterates the flat-out TRUTH.

Submitted on Saturday, Oct 12, 2019 at 2:10:30 PM

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Nels, I always appreciate your comments, then, now and forever more!


Pls tell this ignoramus what IMHO means.

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In My Humble Opinion (or maybe HORRIBLE)

Submitted on Saturday, Oct 12, 2019 at 9:00:50 PM

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Paul from Potomac

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Hartmann has some excellent ideas once in a while, but this piece was better left unwritten. If Trump's enemies find fault with Trump, then they need to work together to defeat him in November. He makes too many mistakes, but the Democrats prove that they simply cannot rule. The complete disregard for the office of the president and the pathetic notions of decency within their own offices have destroyed democracy. Many here would agree that few, if any, detractors have arguments worthy of support. Let he who has not sinned throw the first stone. Since they cannot admit to the truth, the reigns of power will not be theirs next fall.

Submitted on Saturday, Oct 12, 2019 at 2:24:47 PM

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Well-spoken, Paul!


I am no crystal baller but I think Trump may win in a landslide. Biden is a corrupt and feeble joke. Bernie is going over the hill. Heart attack. Tragic death of his daughter-in-law and his support of a very expensive and faulty jet fighter built in his home state. Warren may have an outside chance but the outside is very far away.


The downside to a Trump victory is probably Pence again.

Submitted on Saturday, Oct 12, 2019 at 4:51:44 PM

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Paul, if you'll forgive the observance, I feel that you always have your 'S', 'H'.

'i' and 'T' together; your diet must be great,

Submitted on Saturday, Oct 12, 2019 at 7:34:28 PM

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Rob, we have here very interesting commentaries but just from 3 people! Can you somehow drum up more interest or do we just have to be patient.


And Rob, what is your reaction to Hartman's article?

Submitted on Saturday, Oct 12, 2019 at 4:53:56 PM

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Either this is a lesson in distraction, divide and conquer with a complete disregard for any realities that we face today as individual citizens and as a Constitutional Republic.

I will quote here something I ran across after reading this Thom Hartmann's article and dismissing it as well for what it is but more importantly what it is not! It is from The Saker's web site and was addressing the situation/s we face and possible run for President in this current climate and realities we face regarding Tulsi Gabbard, the DNC and other political parties.

The Saker on October 07, 2019 ·at 3:44 pm EST/EDT

Honestly?

Dunno!

I like her a lot (no, not for her good looks only!) and I like 99% of what she says.
Then there was this: Tulsi Gabbard which was a big letdown.

Also, I think that her fundamental mistake is to try to use the Dem party (just like I always regretted that Ron Paul used the GOP).
I wish folks like Dennis Kucinich, Ralph Nader, Ron Paul, Rand Paul, Mike Gravel, Tulsi Gabbard and others to form a party with a few, very basic but crucial ideas:
1) restore full civil rights inside the USA
2) withdraw as many troops from abroad as possible
3) declare a policy of non-intervention
4) declare a policy of absolute respect for international law
5) drop countries like Israel and Saudi Arabia from any aid, especially military or intel
6) inject money into the US economy, but not only (or even primarily) to big corporations
7) restore the sovereignty of the US people over banking, finance, etc.
Right now I consider the USA to be an occupied country, by at least two (similar but not identical) foes: Zionists and bankers.

I want the people of this country to get it back again.
So "full sovereignty" would be my choice for a slogan and core program.

Yeah, I know. Ain't gonna happen. And I am not a politician, so what do I truly know?

I fear for the US, I really do. Yes, I fear MORE for the rest of the planet, but I also really fear for the USA.

In truth, this country does not need a different President.

This country needs a profound regime change.

My 2cts, cheers

The Saker

Although I occasionally check Thom's site it is not one that I frequent as there are many others in tune with reality and actual facts on the ground.

Submitted on Saturday, Oct 12, 2019 at 7:56:39 PM

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wONDERFULLY right on, George. I loved the Saker-tale and even more his comments.

Thorough regime change and use your list of acceptable leaders as well as

Kshama, too.

Submitted on Saturday, Oct 12, 2019 at 8:45:42 PM

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Agree, George. I am a fan of the Saker, too, aks Ron Unz I believe.

Submitted on Sunday, Oct 13, 2019 at 12:03:41 PM

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Here is Matt Taibbi imparting some much needed caution to the Trump Derangement Syndrome crowd about why they should be careful what they wish for.

click here

Submitted on Saturday, Oct 12, 2019 at 11:48:43 PM

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Yes, indeed, the Constitution itself became the 'ultimate safeguard' against a dictatorial British King - the Founders all became 'Wanted Men', subject to torture and hanging if captured by British Forces in the Colonies, but they signed the Constitution, which ended the tyranny of imperial rule. Apparently, the Democrat super majority in the House has a majority who favor 'impeaching Trump', who surely has 'enriched' (violation of 'Emoluments - Clause') himself and his family tremendously from the bountiful 'favors' of his high office while at the same time sinking the nation deeply into endless trillion dollar deficits caused specifically by his excessive and burdensome corporate tax cuts and tax cuts for the wealthy adding to his national debt exceeding twenty two trillion dollars on the backs of the American people but their House Speaker Pelosi, instead of holding a real impeachment hearing on a real article of impeachment in the Democrat controlled Judiciary Committee has decided on a time consuming and wasteful 'inquiry' mostly in the Intelligence Committee to determine if Trump 'should really be impeached'?. Perhaps the message for Pelosi must be - if you're not 'in the forefront', 'step aside', let others lead where you 'dare not go'.

Submitted on Sunday, Oct 13, 2019 at 12:20:44 AM

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Reply to Lance Ciepiela:   New Content

Lance, if I understand you clearly you agree with Hartman about the sanctity of the constitution and the "founding fathers."

Submitted on Sunday, Oct 13, 2019 at 11:59:38 AM

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Lance Ciepiela

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Follow Me on Twitter (Member since Apr 4, 2008), 53 fans, 58 articles, 139 quicklinks, 4558 comments, 214 diaries
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Reply to Gary Brumback:   New Content

Thank you Gary - 'indeed'. Apparently, Pelosi is way 'too timid' to ever impeach a Republican president. Obviously 'on her watch' is not about 'leadership' - it's really about letting the two Republican presidents that she failed to impeach run 'rampant' on her watch.

Submitted on Sunday, Oct 13, 2019 at 3:14:01 PM

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Judith Zitko

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I am a long time fan of Thom and watch his show nearly daily since 2011 when I first discovered him on Free Speech TV, shortly after I discovered I had Free Speech TV. :) I have learned so much from him and his brilliant listeners. Seems anytime he needs an expert, he's got one in his listening audience. When I discovered him, I recognized the truth and over time realized how politically ignorant and malinformed/misinformed I'd been for a very long time. I consider myself to be a strong Progressive now and I used to vote Republican calling myself "independent" which to me these days is anyone who doesn't pay close attention and is confused by the misinformation by our media. They are either too busy or too lazy or just don't care about politics and probably do as I did a few weeks before a major election,, virtually flip a coin to select who I'd vote for. This is why we're where we're at. I've told my children and grandchild that what happens in politics affects literally every fact of their lives from the air they breathe, the water they drink, the food they eat, the education they receive, the jobs and pay they earn and on and on. The media blitz was perpetrated by the oligarchs who want to destroy democracy and have the means to buy and corrupt the information that so many rely on. The truth is constantly attacked by the propagandists and liars, the lies and untruths are blamed on the truth tellers so it's no wonder people are so confused and why so many just don't show up, like 100 million in 2016 sat out or were kicked off the voter rolls by the GOP, disenfranchised by the thousands of polling stations pulled from democratic leaning districts and so forth.

Submitted on Tuesday, Oct 15, 2019 at 7:16:51 PM

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