Term Paper: Impeachment of Samuel Chase

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[. . .] Whether he was removed from the bench or not may not have been the goal. It may have been an angry retaliatory measure that would blemish his record for all of history. In the United States impeachments are viewed as extremely serious and very negative on one's reputation. The U.S. public not only places a professional black mark in their minds when someone is impeached, but also tends to view the impeached person as flawed.

Under the Constitution, the House of Representatives has the power to impeach a government official, in effect serving as prosecutor. The Senate then holds the impeachment trial, essentially serving as jury and judge, except in the impeachment of a president when the chief justice presides." In the case of Samuel Chase, because he was not a president but a judge, the president presided. In this case Thomas Jefferson was the largest instigator of Chase's impeachment and worked hard to cause it to happen. He believed that chase used his power to bully and mistreat outside of the boundaries that his position afforded him.

There were several articles that were charged against Samuel Chase when the impeachment was completed. They were adopted on December 4, 1804 and the senate action took place on March 1, 1805. The seven articles of the impeachment included:

Article 1: During the treason trial of John Fries, Chase "conduct[ed] himself in a manner highly arbitrary, oppressive, and unjust."

Article 2: "Prompted by a similar spirit of persecution and injustice" during the libel trial of James Callendar, and with the intent to oppress and procure a conviction, Chase overruled an objection to seating as a juror a person who had made already up his mind that the defendant was guilty.

Article 3: During the Callendar trial, "with the intent to oppress and procure a conviction," Chase excluded testimony of a material defense witness on the pretense that the witness could not prove the truth of the whole of the allegedly libelous material, even though the charge embraced more than one fact.

Article 4: Chase's conduct throughout the Callendar trial was marked by "manifest injustice, partiality, and intemperance" by: (1) requiring defense counsel to submit in writing to the court all questions they planned to ask a witness; (2) refusing to postpone the trial despite a proper request based on the absence of a material defense witness; (3) being rude and contemptuous of defense counsel and falsely insinuating that they wished to excite public fears; (4) making repeated and vexatious interruptions of defense counsel, inducing them to abandon their cause and their client; and (5) expressing undue concern, "unbecoming even a public prosecutor," for the conviction of the accused.

Since 1789 only 17 federal officers have been impeached by the House, 14 of which were tried by the Senate. Three were dismissed before trial because the individual had left office, 7 ended in acquittal and 7 in conviction. All of those convicted were federal judges. " Samuel Chase was one of the seven impeachments that ended in an acquittal much to the dismay of those who brought the charges about.

Historically the resignation of a person in the middle of an impeachment stops the impeachment process. There are several reasons that this has come to be the case with the most important one being the obvious. When an official resigns they remove themselves form the office and that is the goal of an impeachment trial. If the person removes himself or herself from office first there is no need to continue with the impeachment. It was what Richard Nixon did and it is what people pushed President Bill Clinton to do though he refused. Chase also refused. He chose instead to take his chances with the trial following his impeachment. While he was acquitted in the trial the impeachment stays on his record forever. It is perhaps a bit unfair that one who refuses to run, or give up and leave office, but instead chooses to stay and defend himself is still scarred by the impeachment. Those who leave office and stop the process do not have the black mark of impeachment on their record. Chase refused to leave for several reasons. Chase was well-known as an intellectual as well as a bully of sorts. To give in and leave his seat on the bench to avoid an impeachment would have been a weak move given what his entire career had stood for. In addition to his desire to avoid looking like his enemies won and ran him out of the office he was said to truly love his career as a judge and did not want to give it up. He seemed to reveal in the power it gave him as well as the ability to debate great issues that came before him and Chase was not one to skulk away under the threat of impeachment even though it would give him a black mark on his record. He was confident that even if the impeachment was granted he would beat the charges at the trial. He refused to give up a position that he seemed to live for just to avoid the initial steps to try him.

An impeachable offense is whatever a majority of the House of Representatives considers it to be at a given moment in history." The phrase is the subject of continuing debate, pitting broad constructionists, who view impeachment as a political weapon, against narrow constructionists, who regard impeachment as being limited to offenses indictable at common law." When Chase was acquitted the Narrow constructionists of the time believed it to be a major victory for their side. They argued at the time that the charges brought against him were not indictable charges.

During his trial Chase was at times indignant and at times acted like he was intellectually superior to those holding the proceedings. It was the character nature of his personality and he did nothing to hide it during his impeachment and his subsequent trial. Needing a two-thirds majority was something that his trial did not garner and he went back to the bench even more self assured and cocky then he had been before the impeachment process had started. In 1805 Chase was acquitted of all charges that had stemmed from his impeachment because the charges did not appear to be indictable.

CONCLUSION

There was a time years ago, in Britain when impeachments were used commonly for political warfare. When the United States forefathers adopted the ability to impeach they also modified it to make it more difficult to use. This was in the hopes that it would be hard to use it as a political weapon and it would only be attempted when there was a real offense or offenses committed. In the case of Samuel Chase many have argued that he was indeed the target of polital anger. Accused of various infractions including overuse of power he was first impeached and then taken to trial for the charges filed against him. The acquittal on the basis that the charges were not even indictable further cement the belief that his impeachment and subsequent trial were more for political warfare than any true impeachment reason. Chase ignred advice from friends to step down and instead, chose to stand tall and face the charges brought against him. While the impeachment will forever be on his record he believed it was better to accept that and prove his innocence than to step down in shame and prevent the world from hearing his side of the allegations. To stay and answer the charges takes bravery and confidence and Chase was often accused of having way too much of both of those traits. In the case of his impeachment and subsequent trial and acquittal those traits served him well.

References

Samuel Chase (1741-1811) http://www.mdarchives.state.md.us/msa/speccol/1545/grarem/chase.html

Samuel Chase http://www.altavista.com/r-ck_sm=9ac7e135&ref=100020080&uid=7703007adcaf247&r=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.rebelswithavision.com%2FSamuelChase.com%2F

The Senate's Impeachment Role http://www.senate.gov/learning/brief_5.html

IMPEACHMENT

http://gi.grolier.com/presidents/ea/side/impeach.html

Michael J. Gerhardt, The Federal Impeachment Process: A Constitutional and Historical Analysis (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1996).

U.S. Senate. Procedure and Guidelines for Impeachment Trials in the United States Senate, by Floyd M. Riddick and Robert Dove, S. Doc. 93-102, 93d Cong., 2d sess., 1974.

Buckner Melton, Jr., The First Impeachment: The Constitution's Framers and the Case of Senator William Blount (Macon, GA: Mercer University Press, 1998).

UNITED STATES IMPEACHMENTS

1789 TO PRESENT http://www.nacdl.org/TESTIFY/test0023.htm

Impeachment http://gi.grolier.com/presidents/ea/side/impeach.html

Buckner Melton, Jr., The First Impeachment: The Constitution's Framers and the Case of Senator William Blount (Macon, GA: Mercer University Press, 1998).

Impeachment http://gi.grolier.com/presidents/ea/side/impeach.html

Samuel Chase (1741-1811) http://www.mdarchives.state.md.us/msa/speccol/1545/grarem/chase.html

U.S. Senate. Procedure and Guidelines for Impeachment Trials in the United States Senate, by Floyd M. Riddick and Robert Dove, S. Doc. 93-102, 93d Cong., 2d sess., 1974.

Samuel Chase (1741-1811) http://www.mdarchives.state.md.us/msa/speccol/1545/grarem/chase.html

Samuel Chase http://www.altavista.com/r-ck_sm=9ac7e135&ref=100020080&uid=7703007adcaf247&r=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.rebelswithavision.com%2FSamuelChase.com%2F

The Senate's Impeachment Role http://www.senate.gov/learning/brief_5.html

UNITED STATES IMPEACHMENTS

1789 TO PRESENT http://www.nacdl.org/TESTIFY/test0023.htm

UNITED STATES IMPEACHMENTS1789 TO PRESENT http://www.nacdl.org/TESTIFY/test0023.htm

UNITED STATES IMPEACHMENTS

1789 TO PRESENT http://www.nacdl.org/TESTIFY/test0023.htm

The Senate's Impeachment Role http://www.senate.gov/learning/brief_5.html

Michael J. Gerhardt,… [END OF PREVIEW]

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