formal process in which an official is accused of unlawful activity
Impeachment is a formal process in which an official is accused of unlawful activity, the outcome of which, depending on the country, may include the removal of that official from office as well as criminal or civil punishment.
- May I now pass on to this Congress advice which I received recently from a fellow Vermonter—Either impeach him or get off his back.
- The only honest answer is that an impeachable offense is whatever a majority of the House of Representatives considers [it] to be at a given moment in history; conviction results from whatever offense or offenses two-thirds of the other body considers to be sufficiently serious to require removal of the accused from office.
- Gerald Ford, remarks in the House (April 15, 1970), Congressional Record, vol. 116, p. 11913.
- Dr. FRANKLIN mentioned the case of the Prince of Orange [William V], during the late war. An arrangement was made between France and Holland, by which their two fleets were to unite at a certain time and place. The Dutch fleet did not appear. Every body began to wonder at it. At length it was suspected that the stadtholder was at the bottom of the matter. This suspicion prevailed more and more. Yet, as he could not be impeached, and no regular examination took place, he remained in his office; and strengthening his own party, as the party opposed to him became formidable, he gave birth to the most violent animosities and contentions. Had he been impeachable, a regular and peaceful inquiry would have taken place, and he would, if guilty, have been duly punished,—if innocent, restored to the confidence of the public.
- Dr. Franklin was for retaining the clause [on impeachment], as favorable to the executive. History furnishes one example only of a first magistrate being formally brought to public justice. Every body cried out against this as unconstitutional. What was the practice before this, in cases where the chief magistrate rendered himself obnoxious? Why, recourse was had to assassination, in which he was not only deprived of his life, but of the opportunity of vindicating his character. It would be the best way, therefore, to provide in the Constitution for the regular punishment of the executive, where his misconduct should deserve it, and for his honorable acquittal, where he should be unjustly accused.
- In the case of impeachments, which are the groans of the people,… and carry with them a greater supposition of guilt than any other accusation, there all the Lords must judge.
- John Hatsell, Precedents of Proceedings in the House of Commons (1769), vol. 4, appendix 3, p. 343. This quotation is used in a footnote by Raoul Berger, Impeachment: The Constitutional Problems, p. 51 (1973).
- Having found, from experience, that impeachment is an impracticable thing, a mere scare-crow, they consider themselves secure for life; they sculk from responsibility to public opinion, the only remaining hold on them, under a practice first introduced into England by Lord Mansfield.
- The power of impeachment is, of course, solely entrusted by the Constitution to the House of Representatives. However, the Executive Branch is clearly obligated, both by precedent and by the necessity of the House of Representatives having all of the facts before reaching its decision, to supply relevant information to the Legislative Branch, as it does in aid of other inquiries being conducted by committees of the Congress, to the extent compatible with the public interest.
- Richard Nixon, letter to the Hon. Emanuel Cellar, chairman of the House Committee on the Judiciary, (May 19, 1970); reported in Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: Richard Nixon (1970), p. 441. This letter concerned H. Res. 920, a resolution for the impeachment of Justice William O. Douglas.
- Conditions may, and are not unlikely to arise, some day, when the exercise of the power to impeach and remove the President may be quite as essential to the preservation of our political system as it threatened to become in this instance destructive of that system. Should that day ever come, it is to be hoped that the remedy of impeachment, as established by the Constitution, may be as patriotically, as fearlessly, and as unselfishly applied as it was on this occasion rejected.
- Edmund G. Ross, History of the Impeachment of Andrew Johnson … 1868 (1896, reprinted 1965), p. 173. Ross voted against conviction of Johnson for lack of evidence, though he knew it was political suicide. Dictionary of American Biography, vol. 8, pp. 175–76.