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to decide as to the true meaning and intent of the statute; this belongs to the Courts. He may differ from the Supreme Court as to the interpretation of a law or a clause of the Constitution, or he may think a statute unwise or inexpedient; still, whatever has been enacted in accordance with the forms prescribed by the Constitution must be executed in good faith by the President. For this purpose he is clothed with great power; the army and navy are under his orders. Either directly or indirectly all executive offices are filled by men of his selection. It is his duty, therefore, to see that none are appointed to office but those who are honest and capable.
Section 4.-The President, Vice-president, and all civil officers of the United States shall be removed from office on impeachment for, and conviction of, treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors.
The other instances in which impeachments are alluded to in the Constitution are these: The House of Representatives shall have the sole power of impeachment; The Senate shall have the sole power to try impeachments; When the President of the United States is tried, the Chief Justice shall preside; In trials for impeachments, the Senate shall be on oath or affirmation, and the concurrence of two thirds shall be necessary for conviction; Judgment shall not extend further than to removal from office and disqualification to hold and enjoy an office of honor, trust, or profit under the United States; The party convicted may also be tried and punished according to law; The President has power to grant reprieves and pardons for offenses against the United States, except in cases of impeachment; The trial of all crimes, except in cases of impeachment, shall be by jury.
Who may be
While it is clear that the House of Representatives only can prefer articles of impeachment and the Senate only can try impeachments, it is not clear who may be impeached. The present section prescribes a minimum punishment for all "civil officers" on conviction, but the Constitution nowhere defines "civil officers," nor does it say that others are not liable to impeachment. The term civil is
here supposed to be used in distinction from military and naval. Some understand that members of Congress are not included under the designation "civil officers," as Section 3, Article II, provides that the President shall commission all the officers of the United States." As members of Congress are not commissioned by the President it is inferred that they are not "officers" in the sense of the Constitution.
Articles of impeachment were brought against William Blount, United States Senator from Tennessee, in 1797. The day after the resolution to impeach passed the House, Mr. Blount was expelled from the Senate, by a vote of twenty-five to one. Action, however, was taken by both Houses for going on with the impeachment. Articles of impeachment were agreed to January 29th, 1798, and the Senate summoned Mr. Blount to appear and answer in the December following. At that time the Senate formed itself into a Court, and counsel for the defendant appeared and filed a plea that the Senate could not impeach one who was not then a Senator, and who was not an officer of the United States when the offenses charged were committed. The question of jurisdiction was then argued, and the court decided,1 fourteen to eleven, that they had no jurisdiction, and so the case ended. The decision is supposed to have been on the ground that a Senator is not a "civil officer" of the United States.
It appears that all "civil officers" may be impeached for "high crimes and misdemeanors," and, if convicted, they shall be removed from office, and may be disqualified for any office under the government. It does not appear that they may not be impeached for other and lesser offenses, and punished in the same manner, or otherwise, not exceeding that.
"It was the opinion of the framers and early administrators of our government that all the civil officers were impeachable for minor malfeasances in office, not amounting to high crimes or misdemeanors at law, and punishable in any manner not exceeding removal from, and disqualification for, office." 2 Mr. Madison's language in regard to removal from office has already been quoted: "The wanton removal of meritorious
1 Annals of Congress, 5th Congress.
2 Farrar, page 436.
officers would subject him (the President) to impeachment and removal from his high trust."
Cases of Impeachment.
Besides the case of Senator Blount, there have been six instances of impeachment. The first was that of Judge John Pickering, of the District Court of New Hampshire, in March, 1803. The second was that of Judge Samuel Chase, of the Supreme Court, in March, 1804. James H. Peck, District Judge of Missouri, was impeached in April, 1830; West H. Humphries, District Judge of Tennessee, in May, 1862; Andrew Johnson, President of the United States, in February, 1868; and William W. Belknap, Secretary of War, in March, 1876.
The charge against Senator Blount was an attempt to carry into effect a hostile expedition in favor of the English against the Spanish possessions in Florida and Louisiana, and to enlist some of the Indian tribes in the same.
Judge Pickering was charged with great irregularities on the bench, as well as gross intemperance. He was undoubtedly insane at the time he was impeached, and did not appear in person or by counsel. The decision, on March 12th, 1804, was that he was guilty of the charges, by vote of nineteen to seven. vote of twenty to six he was removed from office.
Judge Chase was charged with improper conduct on the bench, as manifesting partiality, injustice, and oppression. There were eight articles of impeachment, on two of which eighteen Senators voted Judge Chase. "guilty," and sixteen "not guilty"; on the other six articles a majority voted "not guilty." He was, therefore, acquitted on every article. John Randolph was the leading manager on the part of the House to conduct the case.
Judge Peck was impeached for an abuse of his judicial power in punishing Mr. L. E. Lawless, an attorney, for contempt. The offense of Mr. L. was the publishing in a newspaper a criticism on a decision by Judge Peck, and he was punished by imprisonment for twenty-four hours, and suspension from eighteen months. The decision was in favor of Judge Peck, twenty-one Senators voting "guilty," and twenty-two "not guilty." Buchanan was the Chairman of the managers.
the bar for
Judge Humphries was impeached for aiding the rebellion, for ill-treating loyal men, confiscating their property, etc. He did not appear in
person or by counsel. The Senate pronounced him "guilty" on each of the seven articles, and by a unanimous vote he was removed from office, and disqualified from holding any office of honor, trust, or profit, under the United States. Mr. John A. Bingham was the Chairman of the managers.
President Johnson was impeached for removing Secretary Stanton from office in alleged violation of the act regulating the terms of certain civil offices, passed March 2d, 1867, and for affirming that the Thirty-ninth Congress was no Congress, etc., etc. The President had suspended the Secretary in August, 1867, but the Senate voted in January, 1868, not to concur in the suspension. In February the Secretary, who had resumed his office, was removed by the President. Three days afterwards the House of Representatives passed resolutions of impeachment. The articles were read to the Senate March 4th, and the trial ended May 26th. Thirty-five Senators voted "guilty," and nineteen "not guilty." Mr. John A. Bingham was the chief manager. Secretary Belknap was impeached for receiving money for an appointment to the post of trader at Fort Sill. The resolution of impeachment
was adopted March 3d, and the trial ended August 1st. Though the Secretary had resigned before the House took action, the Senate decided, thirty-seven to twenty-nine, that they had jurisdiction. The trial resulted in an acquittal, thirty-seven voting "guilty," and twenty-five "not guilty." The votes were nearly the same as to the guilt of the defendant and as to the jurisdiction of the Senate. Mr. Scott Lord was the chief manager.
Section 1.-The judicial power of the United States shall be vested in one Supreme Court, and in such inferior Congress may from time to time ordain and establish.
Courts as the
both of the Supreme and inferior Courts, shall hold their offices during good behavior, and shall, at stated times, receive for their services a compensation which shall not be diminished during their continuance in office.
The Judiciary is the third of the three great departments of the general government. The Constitution itself provides for one Supreme Court, but leaves to Congress to determine how many inferior courts should be established. The organization of the Supreme Court is also left to Congress.
At the first session of Congress, in 1789, an act to organize the Judiciary was passed. Two inferior Courts were established, called the Circuit Court and the District Court. While there were thus three distinct Courts, there were but two kinds of Judges-Supreme and District,' the Circuit Court being held by a Supreme Judge and a District Judge.
The country was divided into thirteen districts, in each of which a Judge was to be appointed, who was to hold a Court four times in each year. These districts were grouped into three circuits, in each of which a Circuit Court was to be held twice a year. The Supreme Court consisted of a Chief Justice and five Associate Justices. In 1807 the number of Associates was increased to six; in 1837 to eight; and in 1803 to nine. This Court was to hold two sessions each year at the seat of ov
As the population of the country increased, and new States were admitted into the Union, the number of inferior Courts was increased, till, in 1863, there were ten Circuits and about forty Districts. By the act of March 3d, 1863, the Supreme Court was composed of a Chief Justice and nine Associate Justices, the whole equal to the number of Circuits. But the act of July 23d, 1866, provided that no vacancy should be filled till the number of Associate Justices was reduced to six.
1 In February, 1801, an act was passed providing for the appointment of sixteen Circuit Judges, but the act was in force but a single year, having been rupealed in March, 1802.