when last i wrote, we left off just prior to the last two paragraphs of section 3 article 1 of the u.s. constitution. the second to the last paragraph reads as such:
The Senate shall have the sole Power to try all Impeachments. When sitting for that Purpose, they shall be on Oath or Affirmation. When the President of the United States is tried, the Chief Justice shall preside: And no Person shall be convicted without the Concurrence of two thirds of the Members present.
but what does it mean???
in federalist paper #65, alexander hamilton speaks about the dangers of an elected body determining the veracity of the charges against the official. he says:
A well-constituted court for the trial of impeachments is an object not more to be desired than difficult to be obtained in a government wholly elective. The subjects of its jurisdiction are those offenses which proceed from the misconduct of public men, or, in other words, from the abuse or violation of some public trust. They are of a nature which may with peculiar propriety be denominated POLITICAL, as they relate chiefly to injuries done immediately to the society itself. The prosecution of them, for this reason, will seldom fail to agitate the passions of the whole community, and to divide it into parties more or less friendly or inimical to the accused. In many cases it will connect itself with the pre-existing factions, and will enlist all their animosities, partialities, influence, and interest on one side or on the other; and in such cases there will always be the greatest danger that the decision will be regulated more by the comparative strength of parties, than by the real demonstrations of innocence or guilt.
The delicacy and magnitude of a trust which so deeply concerns the political reputation and existence of every man engaged in the administration of public affairs, speak for themselves. The difficulty of placing it rightly, in a government resting entirely on the basis of periodical elections, will as readily be perceived, when it is considered that the most conspicuous characters in it will, from that circumstance, be too often the leaders or the tools of the most cunning or the most numerous faction, and on this account, can hardly be expected to possess the requisite neutrality towards those whose conduct may be the subject of scrutiny.
in other words, the members of the constitutional convention gave this task to the senate because the senate was not an elected body. the members' appointment by the legislature of each state meant that this body was less likely to be beholden to whims of political factions and more likely to adhere to the guidelines of the law, deeming it "sufficiently independent":
Where else than in the Senate could have been found a tribunal sufficiently dignified, or sufficiently independent? What other body would be likely to feel CONFIDENCE ENOUGH IN ITS OWN SITUATION, to preserve, unawed and uninfluenced, the necessary impartiality between an INDIVIDUAL accused, and the REPRESENTATIVES OF THE PEOPLE, HIS ACCUSERS?
recently there is an email recently circulating titled "how long does the usa have?" and it basically says that because we were founded as a democracy we are bound to commit suicide as a nation soon. i've seen other versions of it in the past, but here's the current incarnation of it:
the whole premise of this argument is flawed in that we were not founded as a democracy as this whole series is pointing out. but it is interesting in what it shows in the stats for the 2000 u.s. presidential elections.
you see, our founding fathers recognized the tinder box that could be ignited if there were a perceived (let alone actual) bias in the execution of the trial of impeachment. for this reason alone, they wanted a large number of persons deciding the fate of the accused and they did not want this to fall to the supreme court with hamilton stating that "...the supreme court would have been an improper substitute for the senate, as a court of impeachments."
the last paragraph of section 3 is as follows:
Judgment in Cases of Impeachment shall not extend further than to removal from Office, and disqualification to hold and enjoy any Office of honor, Trust or Profit under the United States: but the Party convicted shall nevertheless be liable and subject to Indictment, Trial, Judgment and Punishment, according to Law.
it's like this: the founding fathers KNEW the person who had been impeached would find him (or her) self ostracized for all eternity and so did not want to officially punish the impeached more than to remove him (or her) from office. it is important to note that the impeached would still be punishable for the crime committed to be impeached and so if the judicial branch were to be involved it may prejudice the judges against the impeached.
mr. hamilton gives further explanation in federalist paper #66 and i certainly encourage all of you to read it for yourself. however, other than to quote the following from the last paragraph:
So far as might concern the misbehavior of the Executive in perverting the instructions or contravening the views of the Senate, we need not be apprehensive of the want of a disposition in that body to punish the abuse of their confidence or to vindicate their own authority. We may thus far count upon their pride, if not upon their virtue.
section 4. very succinct.
essentially the state legislatures will determine the times and places for elections and appointments of senators and representatives. the u.s. congress may at some point in time make a ruling as to the regulations of the elections, but not the appointing of senators.
further, congress must meet at least once per year on the first monday in december unless they appoint a different day by law.
that's all for today's lesson. lesson four will cover sections 5-7 and will be published before week's end (sunday).
please feel free to share your thoughts and questions.