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Founders / Framers Minute: Article 1, Section 2, Clause 5

The House has the exclusive power to impeach.

Founders / Framers Minute: Article 1, Section 2, Clause 5

Founders / Framers Minute

Article 1, Section 2, Clause 5


“The House of Representatives shall chuse their Speaker and other Officers; and shall have the sole Power of Impeachment.”

by Cornel Rasor

This clause engendered quite a bit of debate regarding impeachment. The power to choose a Speaker and other officers was generally agreed upon without dissent. The dangers of abusing the power of impeachment were debated at length. For the purposes of the constitution, impeachment is the leveling of charges against an official. There are 4 sections in the constitution that deal with impeachment. The three others are located at, Art 1, Sec 3, Cl 6-7, Art 2, Sec 4 and Art 3, Sec 1.

Concern centered around several issues. If the legislature could impeach an executive, might he, in fear of losing office cater to the House which had sole power to impeach? Or might he cower in front of the Senate which could actually try him? There was discussion about having the executive be unimpeachable and hold office as judges do, subject to good behavior.

John Dickinson even attempted to assure “that the Executive be made removeable by the National Legislature on the request of a majority of the Legislatures of individual States.” James Madison was in opposition to this idea. His main concern was that this might subject the executive to the “intrigues” of the states.

The final decision to give the Senate the power to try impeachments was after the fact applauded by attorney Luther Martin who at the founding was a prominent anti-federalist. During the impeachment trial of Justice Samuel Chase for whom he was the defense attorney, he said:

“I see two honorable members of this Court, (Messrs. Dayton and Baldwin,) who were with me in Convention, in 1787, who as well as myself, perfectly knew why this power was invested in the Senate. It was because, among all our speculative systems, it was thought this power could no where be more properly placed, or where it would be less likely to be abused. A sentiment, sir, in which I perfectly concurred, and I have no doubt but the event of this trial will show that we could not have better disposed of that power.”

Concluding, the House has the exclusive power to impeach and as such the separation of powers was maintained in this exclusivity.

Founders / Framers Minute 1: Article I, Section 1

Founders / Framers Minute 2: Article I, Section 2, Clause 1-2

Founders / Framers Minute 3: Article I, Section 2, Clause 3a

Founders / Framers Minute 4: Article I, Section 2, Clause 3b

Founders / Framers Minute 5: Article I, Section 2, Clause 4


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1 Comment on Founders / Framers Minute: Article 1, Section 2, Clause 5

  1. “The final decision to give the Senate the power to try impeachments was after the fact applauded by attorney Luther Martin who at the founding was a prominent anti-federalist.”

    What constitutes applauding in that case, and what does anti-federalist mean according to the author of this article titled: Founders / Framers Minute: Article 1, Section 2, Clause 5 ?

    From Luther Martin’s notes taken during the Con Con Con Job of 1787:

    Page 13 Luther Martin Secret Proceedings:

    “One party, whose object and wish it was to abolish and annihilate all State governments, and to bring forward one general government, over this extensive continent, of monarchical nature, under certain restrictions and limitations. Those who openly avowed this sentiment were, it is true, but few; yet it is equally true, Sir, that there were a considerable number, who did not openly avow it, who were by myself, and many others of the convention, considered as being in reality favorers of that sentiment; and, acting upon those principles, covertly endeavoring to carry into effect what they well knew openly and avowedly could not be accomplished. ”

    The (or a) Senate is an oligarchs construction. This was once common knowledge. So the oligarchs construct a despotic chair in which a despot will sit, and command a standing army, and if there will be a check on the power of that despot that check will be commanded by the oligarchs in the Senate, and Luther Martin applauds that construction by those oligarchs?

    Page 4 Luther Martin Secret Proceedings

    “The members of the convention from the States, came there under different powers; the greatest number, I believe, under powers nearly the same as those of the delegates of this State. Some came to the convention under the former appointment, authorizing the meeting of delegates merely to regulate trade. Those of the Delaware were expressly instructed to agree to no system, which should take away from the States that equality of suffrage secured by the original articles of confederation. Before I arrived, a number of rules had been adopted to regulate the proceedings of the convention, by one of which was to affect the whole Union. By another, the doors were to be shut, and the whole proceedings were to be kept secret; and so far did this rule extend, that we were thereby prevented from corresponding with gentlemen in the different States upon the subjects under our discussion; a circumstance, Sir, which, I confess, I greatly regretted. I had no idea, that all the wisdom, integrity, and virtue of this State, or of the others, were centered in the convention. I wished to have corresponded freely and confidentially with eminent political characters in my own and other States; not implicitly to be dictated to by them, but to give their sentiments due weight and consideration. So extremely solicitous were they, that their proceedings should not transpire, that the members were prohibited even from taking copies of resolutions, on which the convention were deliberating, or extracts of any kind from the journals, without formally moving for, and obtaining permission, by vote of the convention for that purpose.

    “But, Sir, it was to no purpose that the futility of their objections were shown, when driven from the pretense, that the equality of suffrage had been originally agreed to on principles of expediency and necessity; the representatives of the large States persisting in a declaration, that they would never agree to admit the smaller States to an equality of suffrage. In answer to this, they were informed, and informed in terms that most strong, and energetic that could possibly be used, that we never would agree to a system giving them the undue influence and superiority they proposed. That we would risk every possible consequence. That from anarchy and confusion, order might arise. That slavery was the worst that could ensue, and we considered the system proposed to be the most complete, most abject system of slavery that the wit of man ever devised, under pretense of forming a government for free States. That we never would submit tamely and servilely, to a present certain evil, in dread of a future, which might be imaginary; that we were sensible the eyes of our country and the world were upon us. That we would not labor under the imputation of being unwilling to form a strong and energetic federal government; but we would publish the system which we approved, and also that which we opposed, and leave it to our country, and the world at large, to judge between us, who best understood the rights of free men and free States, and who best advocated them; and to the same tribunal we could submit, who ought to be answerable for all the consequences, which might arise to the Union from the convention breaking up, without proposing any system to their constituents. During this debate we were threatened, that if we did not agree to the system propose, we never should have an opportunity of meeting in convention to deliberate on another, and this was frequently urged. In answer, we called upon them to show what was to prevent it, and from what quarter was our danger to proceed; was it from a foreign enemy? Our distance from Europe, and the political situation of that country, left us but little to fear. Was there any ambitious State or States, who, in violation of every sacred obligation, was preparing to enslave the other States, and raise itself to consequence on the ruin of the others? Or was there any such ambitious individual? We did not apprehend it to be the case; but suppose it to be true, it rendered it the more necessary, that we should sacredly guard against a system, which might enable all those ambitious views to be carried into effect, even under the sanction of the constitution and government. In fine, Sir, all those threats were treated with contempt, and they were told, that we apprehended but one reason to prevent the States meeting again in convention; that, when they discovered the part this convention had acted, and how much its members were abusing the trust reposed in them, the States would never trust another convention.”

    For those who may skim past paragraphs the following may be worth knowing:

    ” That slavery was the worst that could ensue, and we considered the system proposed to be the most complete, most abject system of slavery that the wit of man ever devised, under pretense of forming a government for free States. ” Luther Martin gag in place, so much for freedom of speech at the “founding” no less.

    As to the claim that Luther Martin was inti-something:

    June 14, 1788

    Patrick Henry:
    “Mr. Chairman, it is now confessed that this is a national government. There is not a single federal feature in it. It has been alleged, within these walls, during the debates, to be national and federal, as it suited the arguments of gentlemen.

    “But now, when we have heard the definition of it, it is purely national.”

    Like calling a marxist communist a “liberal democrat,” the words documented as spewing forth from criminal frauds is at least routine: the criminal frauds, traitors, routinly call themselves something that they are not. Those criminal, treasonous frauds, routinely call themselves something that appears to be good on the surface, so as to routinly get away with murder, and worse crimes.

    To the citizens of the United States by Thomas Paine
    November 15, 1802

    “But a faction, acting in disguise, was rising in America; they had lost sight of first principles. They were beginning to contemplate government as a profitable monopoly, and the people as hereditary property. It is, therefore, no wonder that the “Rights of Man” was attacked by that faction, and its author continually abused. But let them go on; give them rope enough and they will put an end to their own insignificance. There is too much common sense and independence in America to be long the dupe of any faction, foreign or domestic.

    “But, in the midst of the freedom we enjoy, the licentiousness of the papers called Federal (and I know not why they are called so, for they are in their principles anti-federal and despotic), is a dishonor to the character of the country, and an injury to its reputation and importance abroad. They represent the whole people of America as destitute of public principle and private manners.

    “As to any injury they can do at home to those whom they abuse, or service they can render to those who employ them, it is to be set down to the account of noisy nothingness. It is on themselves the disgrace recoils, for the reflection easily presents itself to every thinking mind, that those who abuse liberty when they possess it would abuse power could they obtain it; and, therefore, they may as well take as a general motto, for all such papers, we and our patrons are not fit to be trusted with power.”

    “There are but two modes by which men are connected in society, the one which operates on individuals, this always has been, and ought still to be called, national government; the other which binds States and governments together (not corporations, for there is no considerable nation on earth, despotic, monarchical, or republican, that does not contain many subordinate corporations with various constitutions) this last has heretofore been denominated a league or confederacy. The term federalists is therefore improperly applied to themselves, by the friends and supporters of the proposed constitution. This abuse of language does not help the cause; every degree of imposition serves only to irritate, but can never convince. They are national men, and their opponents, or at least a great majority of them, are federal, in the only true and strict sense of the word.”
    A Farmer publishing:
    New Constitution Creates A National Government; Will Not Abate Foreign Influence; Dangers Of Civil War And Despotism

    “He was pleased that, thus early in debate, the honorable gentleman had himself shown that the intent of the Constitution was not a confederacy, but a reduction of all the states into a consolidated government. He hoped the gentleman would be complaisant enough to exchange names with those who disliked the Constitution, as it appeared from his own concessions, that they were federalists, and those who advocated it were anti-federalists.”
    FRIDAY, June 20, 1788
    Melancton Smith

    So…someone today who is greatly concerned with encroachments against the self-evident rights of people in America might be called many names, such as a supporter of a federation of independent states under the common law, or federalist.

    Then again someone might want to fund their private, corporate, nation-state, and to do so they may need to perpetuate a fraud or two; under oath no less.

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