COMMENTARY ON LAWYERING, LANGUAGE, AND POLITICS
Sunday, July 23, 2017
The Impeachable Offense - Lawfare
The entire discussion at the 1787 Constitutional Convention on the suject of impeachment:
The clause referring to the Senate, the trial of impeachments agst. the President, for Treason & bribery, was taken up.
Col. Mason. Why is the provision restrained to Treason & bribery only? Treason as defined in the Constitution will not reach many great and dangerous offences. Hastings is not guilty of Treason. Attempts to subvert the Constitution may not be Treason as above defined— As bills of attainder which have saved the British Constitution are forbidden, it is the more necessary to extend: the power of impeachments. He movd. to add after "bribery" "or maladministration". Mr. Gerry seconded him—
Mr Madison So vague a term will be equivalent to a tenure during pleasure of the Senate.
Mr Govr Morris, it will not be put in force & can do no harm— An election of every four years will prevent maladministration.
Col. Mason withdrew "maladministration" & substitutes "other high crimes & misdemeanors" <agst. the State">
On the question thus altered
N. H— ay. Mas.— ay Ct. ay. (N. J. no) Pa no. Del. no. Md ay. Va. ay. N. C. ay. S. C. ay.* Geo. ay. [Ayes—8; noes—3.]
Editor's Note: In 1974, a law professor named Charles L. Black published an extraordinary brief volume, entitled, Impeachment: A Handbook. It is the finest text on the subject I have ever read. With the subject of impeachment on many people's minds these days, we received permission from Yale University Press to republish the portion of Black's book that discusses the parameters of the impeachable offense. I also asked Jane Chong to write an essay applying the lessons of Black's book to our time. I recommend that readers take the time to read Black's book in its entirety, along with Jane's exceedingly thoughtful treatment of its importance in the age of Donald Trump.