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“VIOLATIONS OF THE PUBLIC TRUST” COMMONPLACE THROUGHOUT U.S. HISTORY
by Michael Gaddy, ©2015
(Aug. 11, 2015) — Some folks I’m sure turn to TV or some other form of the media for their dose of laughter, but for me I get all the mirth I need from some of the emails in my inbox. Yesterday was no exception. I received an email from a very well intentioned lady patriot in Florida. She was somewhat apoplectic that the American people were being stonewalled by the US government on an important issue. I do not find humor the system is criminal but in the fact she believes there is a form of recourse left to the people.
This Sunshine state patriot bemoaned the fact Larry Klayman, of a group called Freedom Watch, was stating a recently filed lawsuit by Freedom Watch “has been stonewalled by: The Justice Department, The Defense Department, The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and the National Security Agency (NSA).” Really! And what in the past history of this country would leave anyone to believe our government cares about the truth or the rule of law?
While troubled that anyone in this country could be surprised at an act of despotism by what we call “our government,” I was quickly brought back to a state of amusement when she claimed in her email “Save Our Country…Save the Constitution…Impeachment is the only Answer.” I could not have laughed any harder if she would have said Cancer could be cured with liberal doses of Chocolate Chip Cookies and Kool-aide.
Are we so naïve as to believe there exists in our government even the ghost of a system of checks and balances? What would lead anyone to believe that one branch of a despotic government would turn on the source of its power? What in our complete history would lead anyone to believe impeachment would ever work or be a deterrent to blatant disregard of tyranny and oppression?
Thomas Jefferson said “…impeachment the Constitution has provided is not even a scarecrow.” Sure, the Nationalists, specifically Alexander Hamilton, praised impeachment as a remedy to violations of the public trust by those in power. But, realistically, if everyone in government were to be removed for “violations of the public trust” there would be no one left in government. (My dream)
Jefferson sought the impeachment of Supreme Court Justice Samuel Chase for “tending to prostitute the high judicial character with which he was invested, to the low purpose of an electioneering partizan.” Justice Chase was accused of using his position on the bench to promote his political views and refused to dismiss obviously biased jurors, and limited damaging witnesses and their testimony in order to protect his political compatriots. A majority found Chase guilty on three of the eight indictments but that fell short of the necessary two-thirds needed to convict. Chase remained in the court until his death. Jefferson lost all faith in impeachment proceedings from that point forward.
In 1868, in the irony of ironies, impeachment proceedings were begun by a tyrannical congress against President Andrew Johnson, ostensibly for defending the Constitution. Johnson vetoed the Reconstruction Act of 1867 which kicked the Southern States out of the Union and established Martial Law in the South. This was done because the Southern states refused to ratify the 14th Amendment. When this happened, a Republican in Congress (Senator Doolittle of Wisconsin, described as a “conservative republican”) stated “The people of the South have rejected the constitutional amendment and therefore we will march upon them and force them to adopt it at the point of a bayonet and establish military power over them until they do adopt it.” (Is it just me or does this sound like the majority of the current Republicans running for president (and Hillary) if you substitute any Middle East country for the South?)
President Andrew Johnson called the Reconstruction Act of 1867 “absolute despotism” and “a bill of attainder against 9 million people.” He stated in his veto message “Such a power has not been wielded by any monarch in England for over 500 years.” Johnson would pose this question in the text of his veto: “Have we the power to establish and carry into execution a measure like this; certainly not if we are bound by the Constitution and the limitations which it imposes.”
Other pertinent excerpts from President Johnson’s veto of the Reconstruction Act of 1867:
“The military is being used to coerce the people into adopting principles and measures that they are opposed to, and which they have an undeniable right to exercise their own judgment.”
“The bill is without precedent and without authority, in palpable conflict with the Constitution, and utterly destructive to those principles of liberty and humanity for which our ancestors on both sides of the Atlantic have shed much blood and expended so much treasure.”
“The purpose and object of the bill is to change the entire structure and character of the State governments and to compel them by force to the adoption of organic laws [14th amendment], and regulations, which they are unwilling to accept if left to themselves. If they do not form a constitution with prescribed articles in it and afterwards elect a legislature, which will act upon certain measures in a prescribed way [subjugation], neither blacks nor whites can be relieved from the slavery, which the bill imposes upon them.” (Emphasis mine)
We should remember the Republican controlled Congress refused to seat those who had been duly elected to their positions in Congress by the people of the South on December 4, 1865. This, in itself, is a violation of Article V of the Constitution which states “…no State, without its consent, shall be denied its equal Suffrage in the Senate.”
The impeachment of President Johnson fell one vote short in the US Senate on March 16, 1868. In typical political theatrical style, the vote was tied until one so-called Radical Republican made his decision based on the Constitution and not political party loyalty. Despite threats and warnings from his fellow Republicans, Senator Edmund G. Ross from Kansas stood and quietly said “not guilty,” making the vote 35-19, denying the required two-thirds for impeachment. This may have been the last time in the history of our country any politician stood on constitutional principles instead of political party affiliation and career enhancement. Perhaps that is why history has all but forgotten his name and there is no monument to him in Washington!
Our most recent adventure involving impeachment was in 1998-99. One need go no farther than Chief Impeachment Counsel, David Schippers’ book: Sellout: The inside Story of President Clinton’s Impeachment. Schippers is famous for this quote about Clinton.
“The President… has lied under oath in a civil deposition, lied under oath in a civil grand jury. He lied to the people. He lied to his cabinet. He lied to his top aides. And now he has lied under oath to the Congress of the United States. There is no one left to lie to.”
Obviously, the Republican leadership in the US Senate did not believe Clinton’s lies rose to the level for impeachment. According to Schippers, he was told by the Republican triumvirate of Trent Lott, Ted Stevens and Kay Bailey Hutchison when he first met them reference the impeachment trial in the Senate, Clinton would not be impeached. Subsequently, this Republican controlled Senate hamstrung Schippers by limiting the trial to five weeks, refused to hear live witness testimony and limited depositions of prosecution witnesses to three.
History tells us that one is just as likely to be impeached for honoring the Constitution as for violating it.
So, if there is anyone who truly believes “impeachment is the only answer,” they need to cut back on their meds. Jefferson was right: “Impeachment is… not even a scarecrow.”
In Rightful Liberty