The Constitution: Article Two (Part One)

So as Article One created the Legislative Branch, Article Two creates the executive branch.  Notably this branch contains the President and Vice President, but it also contains the cabinet and their departments as well as a few other smaller government offices.

Section One

This section sets up the Presidency.  Who it is, how long he/she is in there, and how they are elected. Continue reading “The Constitution: Article Two (Part One)”

The Constitution: Impeachments

When I first started this essay series, I really had no real understanding of what an Impeachment meant.   I assumed that it was akin to governmental criminal trial, that you weren’t “impeached” till they found you guilty.  And that it was only for Presidents.

Most of that was wrong.  Reading the mentions in Article One’s sections 2 & 3 had me doing some research into what exactly is an impeachment and what is the result of it.  Turns out it was a lot different then the image I had in my head.

Impeachments are basically administrative reviews in our government.  This is one of the many governmental transfers from our time as a colony of Great Britian, where impeachment was a power of Parliament. A committee is formed in the House to look into and investigate claims that are impeachable offenses (which honestly tend to be a little vague and on occasion partisan).  After the investigation, the House can either decide there isn’t any evidence (or perhaps not enough) or they feel there is enough and Impeach the person in question.  So basically being ‘impeached’ is being accused of doing something that goes against the office you hold, or laws.

Once the House impeaches the officer, it then goes over to the Senate.  Impeachments are supposed to be high priority over any other business the Senate might be looking into, and they prepare to hear the evidence on the impeachment.  In order to be found guilty, the Senate must vote with a 2/3 majority.

There have been several impeachments over the years, the most known are probably the 2 presidential impeachments:  Andrew Johnson and William Jefferson Clinton. Also within the Watergate Scandal, Impeachment was implied.

In 1868, Andrew Johnson was impeached by the House for breaking the Tenure of Office Act, which had been passed the year before overriding Johnson’s veto.  The law restricted the President’s ability to remove office holders (like cabinet members) from office without the okay  of Congress. This was also part of an ongoing feud between him and congress over the reconstruction plan for the south.  The President wanted to accept all the states back immediately while Congress preferred to wait and have them under military law till they proved they could be loyal.  (personally, I side with Johnson on this).  Johnson wanted to remove his Secretary of War, who was a Republican and indicted under Lincoln’s tenure.  When he did, the House began to investigate him for breaking the law. This law would later be thrown out by the Supreme Court and later Congress in 1887 itself for being unconstitutional.  He ended up being acquitted and going on to serve as Senator before his death in 1885.

Bill Clinton’s Impeachment trial is probably more familiar to more of us, as it happened only recently in history.  Clinton was impeached by the House on December 18, 1998 on charges of perjury and obstruction of justice brought on by an investigation by Ken Starr into the President’s behavior during a recent sex assault trial brought by one of Clinton’s former employees.. The trial was hotly debated and Clinton ended up being acquitted by a single vote.

Richard Nixon was never impeached, although it is considered that had he not resigned and turned over the office to Gerald Ford (who pardoned him) he would have had to go through an impeachment trial.  So in effect, his presidency was ended by the threat of impeachment rather then the impeachment itself.

So that explains why I knew of it as being a way to remove a President from office.  But it turns out its a way to remove other governmental officials from office. There have been 19 federal impeachments.  The Majority of those impeached by the House of Representatives were judges.   Only four were not.  These were the aforementioned Presidents, a Cabinet Secretary and a US Senator.  Only 8 of the 19 were convicted, the rest were acquitted.

Notable impeachments include:

  • William Blount, a US Senator  in 1799.  He was the first person tried by the Senate on impeachment and was acquitted as the Senate decided that they didn;t have jurisdiction in this matter as members of the house and Senate did not classify as officers and also because both houses had the option to remove members of their own house by 2/3rds vote.
  • John Pickering, a judge in 1804.  He was the second impeachment, and the first to be found guilty of the charges and removed from office.
  • William Belknap, a former Secratary of War in 1876.  Was acquitted because the Senate believed that due to his retirement, they did not have jurisdiction.
  • Alcee Hastings, a judge in 1989.   Hastings was found guilty  of conspiracy and obstruction of justice for taking a 150,000 bribe for reducing the sentencing of people who came before him in court.  Earlier these charges had been put against him in criminal court and he was acquitted of them.  However the House wasn’t as sure, and impeached him with over 17 articles of impeachment.  He was removed from office.  However, he was not banned from public office and later served as a representative.  Ironically, he was able to vote in Clinton’s impeachment trial during his time in the Senate.
  • G. Thomas Porteous, Jr.  A judge in 2010.  Porteous was the most recent Impeachment by the Senate.  He was found guilty of taking bribes form lawyers while overseeing their cases.  He was removed from office.

An impeachment trial does not end up like a criminal case does.  They are only given the power to remove a person from their position in the government and disqualify them from future office, not to sentence them for their crimes, which would have to be seen to under a civilian criminal court.

During most cases, the Vice President resides over the trial as leader of the Senate.  However, during Presidential impeachments it is left to the Chief Justice. The prosecutors are members of the House, choose to represent them in the case.  The Senate acts like the jury.

The House has looked into over 60 impeachments, but only 19 have actually been passed on to the Senate.

Further Reading/Sources

The Impeachment of Bill Clinton (Wikipedia)

Impeachment in the United States (Wikipedia)

The Impeachment Trial of Alcee L. Hastings (Senate.gov)

Briefing on Impeachment (Senate.gov)

Complete list of Impeachment trials by Federal Senate (Senate.gov (same link as above, only more specific)

Impeachment:  US House of Representatives  (House.gov)

This Day In History

When looking at my daily email about events in history on this day, I found out today in 1776, The Second Continential Congress voted to adopt the resolution of Independence from Great Britian.

The resolution was presented by Richard Henry Lee on June 7th, but due to some lingering doubts from some of the colonies, they decided to wait to vote on July 2nd.  In the meantime they set a group off the write up a declaration.  This group included John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Roger Sherman, Robert Livingston, and of course Thomas Jefferson.  In the end Jefferson was selected to be the primary author (which is why he often gets credit but we don’t often hear about Sherman or Livingston).  They managed to present the declaration to Congress on June 28 for review.  Not bad, writing a document that will literally change the world in only three weeks.

Since I think most Americans (and probably alot of non-americans) can remember something about Adams Franklin and Jefferson (and not just that two are on our money) I googled the other two.

Roger Sherman is the only man to sign all the starter papers for the US  (The Continnental Association (which I just learned about today), The Declaration of Independence, The Articles of Confederation, and the Consitution.  He was greatly involved in the reorganization of the Connneticicut government and worked on developing guidelines for ambassadors, particularly those to Canada.  And according to Wikipedia, his Great-great grandson helped create the CIA.

Robert Livingston was the first Secratary of State (then called Secretary of Foriegn Affairs), and later as Ambassador to France.  It was then that he helped negociate the Louisana purchase, so a third of the country can thank him for being American and not French.  He also developed the first steamboat. He got the honor of swearing George Washington in as President.

On July 1st, Congress, like congress today, choose to debate the issue.  Unlike congress now, they unanimously voted for it, with only New York abstaining.  John Adams, according to History.com, thought that this would be the day we would celebrate.  In the end however, we celebrate the day they actually presented the Declaration to the public, July 4th.


Another key document was also signed today.  In 1964, Lyndon B. Johnson signed into law The Civil Rights Act.  It was something that John F. Kennedy had fought for and that Lyndon Johnson picked up after Kennedy was killed in 1963.  Still, I’m not entirely sure how someone uses 75 pens to sign ‘Lyndon B. Johnson’.  Even if he spelled out his middle name and the name of the country.

The Civil Rights Act prohibited discrimination against race in employment, education, and in public places such as buses, schools, parks, and pools.

 

The Amendments: Twenty-Two

SECTION 1

No person shall be elected to the office of the President more than twice, and no person who has held the office of President, or acted as President, for more than two years of a term to which some other person was elected President shall be elected to the office of President more than once. But this Article shall not apply to any person holding the office of President when this Article was proposed by Congress, and shall not prevent any person who may be holding the office of President, or acting as President, during the term within which this Article becomes operative from holding the office of President or acting as President during the remainder of such term.

SECTION 2

This article shall be inoperative unless it shall have been ratified as an amendment to the Constitution by the legislatures of three-fourths of the several States within seven years from the date of its submission to the States by the Congress.

(Source)

Continue reading “The Amendments: Twenty-Two”

The Amendments: Twelve

This amendment is a bit long, so I’m going to put a read-more cut before it. This amendment affects the Electoral college, so if you are interested in that, considering upcoming events, this is a good one to look into.

It was passed by Congress in December 1803, and ratified in June of 1804.  It relates to Article 1, Section II on the elections of Presidents and Vice Presidents as well as Amendments 20  & 22 , which actually edits part of this amendment.

Continue reading “The Amendments: Twelve”

Bookit Review: John Adams

Title: John Adams: The Man From Massachusetts
Author: Sam Goodyear
Publication date: 2014

My Grade: …

My Review:

To be honest, I am not sure how to review this novel.  However, I told myself I’d review each book I read this year, even the previously reads, so here is a review.  I got this book as part of my goal to read a biography on each of the presidents so I can retain some knowledge of what they did other than be President.  I’ve been getting them through Kindle Unlimited which so far has given me odd results.

The George Washington biography I last year was an odd biography, clearly meant for textbook format or discussion.  But it was informative. This one however was a short story, done in Adam’s point of view.  It was short, and at the end of the time spent reading I sat there wondering what I had just read.  It’s not a bio, its a short story so I will just say don’t pick this up if you are expecting to learn something.  It might be a good book to start younger kids on however.

I didn’t give it a grade mostly because it was so far from my expectations that I felt I couldn’t adequately judge this book.  I am also going to search out another biography to satisfy my Adams bio.

This Day In History

I looked up what important things happened today in history (other then it being my cousin’s birthday) and some pretty interesting things came up on the Google Search.  I took most of this information from History.com and the New York Times “On This Day” feature.

Washington

On February 4, 1789  George Washington was unanimously elected by the electoral College.  He’s the only president to do so.

Also, on this day 6 years earlier Britain formally acknowledged they were done with the Revolutionary War.

Confederate Congress

In 1861, The Confederate Congress (a provisional one anyway) opened for business, thus starting

 

Snow White

One of Disney’s most known films (probably because its one of the firsts) is released on this day in 1938

Yalta Conference

(1945)Basically this is the photo op picture we always see when talking about the end of WWII and they show us that picture of Roosevelt, Churchill and Stalin sitting out on the Lawn as if they are talking about the latest football game rather then what to do in the last months of the war.  It did however start to show that the Alliance was not as strong as it could have been, and the cracks that caused the ‘Cold War’ formed.

Palestine

Yasir Arafat helps found the Palestine Liberation Organization in 1969.

Patty Hearst

I don’t really know much about what happened here, but Patty Hearst may be one of the most famous kidnapped women in American history.  Today’s the anniversary of her kidnapping in 1974, so 41 years ago.  She eventually served a prison sentence for her involvement with the Symbionese LIberation Army’s activities.  She was pardoned in 2001 by President Clinton.

Yugoslavia

Its no more as of February 4, 2003.  Its now several different countries.

For more events, try this page.

Mr. Washington, I presume.

So as I said in my last post, I’ve made an attempt to start reading books about Presidents so I can say I know something they did while President besides be President.  I decided to start in order, because I might as well.  (A legitimate “because of reasons” responce).

So we start with George Washington, our first president.  Or rather our first president once we got the right constitution in order.

George Washington is a pretty well known President.  Its hard to forget the name of the guy who basically had to set up the office himself.  I found a book available through Kindle Unlimited and started to read, to see if I could learn anything different about our President.

It wasn’t exactly the most enlightening book I ever read as far as a bio went, but I got some new impressions.  Basically George Washington’s reasons for joining in the revolution had some tints of ego (the British Military wouldn’t accept him as an officer because he was American born.) and really all he wanted to do was settle down on his farm and make money.

What was interesting was his involvement in Western Pennsylvania.  He actually owned land in the Ohio River Valley, and wanted to build a canal into Virginia, this controlling the shipping of the area.  Smart Idea that never went anywhere (sadly for Washington).

But basically he would go home, set it to rights again and be happily ordering people to farm for him when Congress would whine and bring him back in again.

All Washington wanted was a break.  I think he probably hated congress as much as we do now.

Maybe I should have chosen a different book, and I’m sure that the following presidential summaries will be better if only because I’ll write them sooner after I read the book.

In summery

  • Washington wanted to join the British Army but they wouldn’t let him be an officer because he was American Born.
  • He basically designed the office of the Presidency because no one had been there before.
  • He hated the ideas of political parties, but Jefferson and Hamilton couldn’t let us have nice things
  • All he wanted to do was hang out with his wife and look after his properties in the quiet of Virginia.