Document Type


Publication Date

Summer 2019


Impeachment is a British invention, employed by Parliament beginning in 1376 to resist the general tendency of the monarchy to absolutism and to counter particularly obnoxious royal policies by removing the ministers who implemented them. The invention crossed the Atlantic with the British colonists who would one day rebel against their mother country and create an independent United States of America. During the Constitutional Convention of 1787, the delegates decided that presidents and other federal officers could be impeached, but they recoiled from the severe and occasionally fatal punishments imposed by Parliament, and they wrestled over what conduct should be impeachable. Early in their deliberations they resolved that the sole punishment for impeachment would be removal from office and in some cases disqualification from future office-holding. But defining the nature of impeachable offenses proved more troublesome.



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