Legal History Term Paper

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impeachment of Samuel Chase. The writer provides an overview of what an impeachment is and how it is implemented. The writer takes the reader on an exploratory journey through the life of Samuel Chase and discusses the impeachment proceedings that he was subjected to. The writer ends the paper with the conclusion of the impeachment attempt. There were seven sources used to complete this paper.

Mention the name Monica Lewinski and it brings immediate recognition. It is the name of the intern whom then President William Jefferson Clinton had an affair with. That affair and the disclosure of the affair led to a snowball of disaster for the president that ended in an impeachment. Mention the name Richard Nixon and it brings an immediate recognition of another former president who violated public trust. He was about to face impeachment proceedings when he resigned from the presidency. These are very famous cases but they are not the only cases of impeachment that have ever been heard in America. Many years ago, when the nation was still in its infancy there was another impeachment hearing. The impeachment proceedings of Samuel Chase occurred during the 18th century and provided a blueprint for future American proceedings.


Before one can understand the proceedings, outcome and impact of the impeachment of Samuel Chase one first must have an understanding of what an impeachment is and how it is conducted. Many people believe that an impeachment can only be conducted against a president but this is not true.

Many people also view the term impeachment and believe it to mean criminal prosecution. This is also false. The trial itself has to do with the senate house and criminal offenses can still be pursued at a later date if a body decided that it warrants the investigation and criminal charges being brought forth. An impeachment is a proceeding in which a legislative branch of the government brings accusations against a civil official. That official can be chiefs of states (such as presidents, cabinet members or judges). Many people mistakenly believe that the term impeachment applies to the entire proceeding and outcome of the accusations at hand. This is untrue. The term impeachment actually refers only to the indictment of the person in question. One can compare this to a criminal process to understand it more clearly. In a criminal proceeding there are times when it is questionable whether or not the prosecution has enough evidence to charge the defendant with. The indictment in this case is when the prosecution puts the evidence in front of a grand jury. The grand jury then decides if there is enough evidence to have a trial. There does not have to be enough evidence to convict the defendant, only enough to hold a trial. An impeachment works the same way. The evidence, or accusations are presented and the deciding body determines whether there is enough evidence of those accusations to investigate further. The process of presenting the evidence and sharing the evidence is the process of impeachment. " In the United States the power to impeach resides solely with the House of Representatives; the power to try an impeachment case resides solely with the Senate. In some countries, including Belgium, France, India, and Italy, and in some states of the United States, a court conducts the trial. In a few countries, including the Republic of China (Taiwan) and Cuba, impeachment proceedings may be brought by an executive body against civil officials. Although in most countries impeachment is a device for removing civil officers, in some countries, notably England, it applies also in theory to private citizens to commoners, for treason or other high crimes and misdemeanors; to peers, for any crime. "

The impeachment process of Samuel Chase was done using the United States procedure though the procedure itself was a knock off from the long-standing British procedure. Impeachment was first invented in ancient Greece and it was called eisangleia. It was a primitive procedure at the time but it laid the foundation for what is used today. During the late 14th century the procedure began to evolve to its modern standard. Between the 100's and the 1800's the impeachment process was used liberally in Britain. 1806 was the last attempt in Britain to impeach when an unsuccessful attempt to remove Lord Melville was tried. The writers of the United States Constitution adopted impeachments and their processes. The writers used the British procedure and modified it to suit the new nation. The modifications were designed to discourage the use of impeachment, which at that time was a common practice in England. Those who used it across the ocean were also using it often times as political warfare, and the constitution authors wanted to prevent that from happening. "Six clauses in the federal Constitution embody the law: Article I, sections 2 and 3; Article II, sections 2 and 4. The House indicts, the Senate tries, and the chief justice of the United States presides over the inquiry in case of impeachment of the president. Traditionally, the House, after drawing up and voting on articles of impeachment that specify the charges and their factual bases, assigns congressional "managers" (prosecutors) to present the case before the Senate." The members of senate are sworn in as the jurors and the trial begins. Unlike a trial however, that requires a unanimous vote, a trail following an impeachment only requires a two-thirds vote to find the defendant guilty as charged. The person can still be tried as a criminal and the president does not have the right to pardon one who has been impeached and then found guilty.


Samuel Chase was a judge as well as one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence. He began his public life in 1765 when elected to the provincial legislature. He was nicknamed the "Torch of Revolution" because of his protests against interference by the British Parliament. He led the Sons of Liberty demonstration. His enemies called him a mob ringleader and a foulmouthed inflaming son of discord." In 1773 he joined the leaders of the anti-proprietary party in the Fee Bill debates, but, uncharacteristically, as attorney for Anthony Stewart, this "ringleader of mobs" attempted to prevent the burning of the tea ship Peggy Stewart. "He spent 1774 as a member of the first Maryland Convention and Committee of Correspondence. In 1775 he served in the Council of Safety and in 1776 he was serving in the Maryland Constitutional Convention. He was reappointed to Congress in 1776 on July 4 and signed the Declaration of Independence. Throughout his career Chase sparked debates and incited controversy often. He was well loved by those who shared his values and beliefs but those who opposed him were strong in their dislike of his methods and beliefs. He opposed the Ratification of the Federal Constitution and then became an Associate Judge of the Supreme Court. While acting as an associate Judge Samuel Chase was impeached. The House of Representatives prompted the impeachment. The chief instigator of the impeachment of the judge was Thomas Jefferson. Chase was acquitted and returned to his position as a judge until he died in 1811.

Chase's impeachment came as no surprise at the time it happened and if it were happening today it would not come as a surprise either. Chase offended many people while rising to the bench and also while he was a judge on the bench. He alienated political people as well as those needed by his side. Those who liked him and unfortunate by those who did not like him described his personality as strong. There was much controversy as to the basis of his impeachment. Many believed it was political retaliation for the many people he had offended along his career path, but those who voted to impeach believed there were offenses that were indictable and they voted to take it to trial and let the senate house decide the truth.

Chase was not a shrewd businessman in his life and was declared insolvent by 1789. This was something that his enemies used against him in their public attacks on his character. However it did not stop him from becoming a judge or performing his duties before and after the acquittal following his impeachment. He was appointed as a judge in the 1990's. His career on the bench turned out to be one of the most volatile in history. It was the very nature of his career, and the fact that he gained so many political enemies that contributed to his impeachment according to his supporters. Those who have studied history believe that his ability to antagonize important people in high places did nothing to prevent his problems and probably contributed to their eager pursuit of the impeachment of the associate judge. Though he was acquitted of the charges, he was impeached which leaves a historical black mark on his record. Some historians…

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