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Fri Mar 2, 2018, 09:15 PM

Presidents Can Be Impeached Because Benjamin Franklin Thought It Was Better Than Assassination

Older article concerned mostly with Bill Clinton, but still worth reading about what the founding fathers thought of impeachment.

The Founding Fathers wrote impeachment—originally a Roman political institution—into the constitution for the purpose of removing an official who had “rendered himself obnoxious,” in the words of Benjamin Franklin. Without impeachment, Franklin argued, citizens’ only recourse was assassination, which would leave the political official “not only deprived of his life but of the opportunity of vindicating his character.”

It would be best, Franklin argued, “to provide the Constitution for the regular punishment of the Executive when his misconduct should deserve it, and for his honorable acquittal when he should be justly accused.”

The founders also debated on the criteria for impeachment, settling on treason, bribery and high crimes and misdemeanors against the state. “High crimes and misdemeanors” was another term that originated in British law, Chafetz writes. Ultimately, he writes, impeachment on these grounds was better for the country than than assassination. “The Constitution’s impeachment procedures make the removal of the chief magistrate less violent, less disruptive, and less error-prone than assassination.”

https://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/american-presidents-can-be-impeached-because-benjamin-franklin-thought-it-was-better-assassination-180961500/

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Reply Presidents Can Be Impeached Because Benjamin Franklin Thought It Was Better Than Assassination (Original post)
ProudLib72 Mar 2018 OP
The Velveteen Ocelot Mar 2018 #1
PoliticAverse Mar 2018 #2
marylandblue Mar 2018 #6
Major Nikon Mar 2018 #16
elleng Mar 2018 #3
ProudLib72 Mar 2018 #7
poboy2 Mar 2018 #4
BigmanPigman Mar 2018 #5
PoliticAverse Mar 2018 #8
ProudLib72 Mar 2018 #10
marylandblue Mar 2018 #9
cos dem Mar 2018 #12
sl8 Mar 2018 #11
ProudLib72 Mar 2018 #14
sl8 Mar 2018 #15
sl8 Mar 2018 #13
Hekate Mar 2018 #17

Response to ProudLib72 (Original post)

Fri Mar 2, 2018, 09:19 PM

1. Well, Trump has certainly rendered himself obnoxious.

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Response to ProudLib72 (Original post)

Fri Mar 2, 2018, 09:22 PM

2. The meaning of "high crimes and misdemeanors"....

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/High_crimes_and_misdemeanors

Since 1386, the English parliament had used the term “high crimes and misdemeanors” to describe one of the grounds to impeach officials of the crown. Officials accused of “high crimes and misdemeanors” were accused of offenses as varied as misappropriating government funds, appointing unfit subordinates, not prosecuting cases, not spending money allocated by Parliament, promoting themselves ahead of more deserving candidates, threatening a grand jury, disobeying an order from Parliament, arresting a man to keep him from running for Parliament, losing a ship by neglecting to moor it, helping “suppress petitions to the King to call a Parliament,” granting warrants without cause, and bribery.

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Response to PoliticAverse (Reply #2)

Fri Mar 2, 2018, 09:28 PM

6. Losing a ship? Trump lost an entire fleet.

He said it was to North Korea when it was really going to India. Impeach!

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Response to PoliticAverse (Reply #2)

Fri Mar 2, 2018, 10:54 PM

16. What about a blowjob?

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Response to ProudLib72 (Original post)

Fri Mar 2, 2018, 09:22 PM

3. rendered himself obnoxious,

DONE!

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Response to elleng (Reply #3)

Fri Mar 2, 2018, 09:33 PM

7. This is the difference 250 years makes

Today we think of assassination as a horrible alternative. Really it is no alternative we would consider. But in 1776, apparently, assassination seemed to be acceptable. At least there were instances when it was deemed appropriate if no other means of deposition were available. Think of all the French aristocracy who died when the French emulated our rebellion against the British Crown. We kept up relations, even applauded them (for awhile anyway).

It is, indeed, funny to think of "obnoxiousness" as being a flaw to be dealt with through assassination, yet there you have it from the mouth of Benjamin Franklin.

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Response to ProudLib72 (Original post)

Fri Mar 2, 2018, 09:24 PM

4. guilty as charged.

 

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Response to ProudLib72 (Original post)

Fri Mar 2, 2018, 09:27 PM

5. I wonder why "assassination" and not "execution"?.

It seems that at the time executions were a fairly common way for leaders to be punished while assassination seems to be done by an unknown assailant acting on his own or with a very small group.

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Response to BigmanPigman (Reply #5)

Fri Mar 2, 2018, 09:33 PM

8. "Execution" comes after a legal process, same as impeachment.

The point was to give people a codified way to remove a President from office.

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Response to PoliticAverse (Reply #8)

Fri Mar 2, 2018, 09:39 PM

10. Yes, I suspect it has to do with "legality"

In the absence of legal proceedings, there is only assassination. Franklin must have been thinking about British rule when he chose that particular phrasing. And it should be obvious that he was trying to compare the new system of the US (democratic and legal) to that of the British (tyranny and illegal). I think it was his way of saying, "Our way is better". I don't know how much of the discussion on assassination was truly tongue in cheek, though.

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Response to BigmanPigman (Reply #5)

Fri Mar 2, 2018, 09:34 PM

9. Execution is a legal process, assassination is not

If there is no legal way to remove a President, then any attempt at execution would by definition be an assassination. At least Franklin may have thought that way about the execution of Charles I, which was legally questionable.

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Response to BigmanPigman (Reply #5)

Fri Mar 2, 2018, 09:43 PM

12. My guess, execution implies a trial, resulting in conviction.

If you define the chief executive as being "unable to be tried" in the conventional sense, then without impeachment, there is no conviction.

You could go back to Cromwell and Charles I to think about whether ad-hoc trials of the executive are a good thing or a bad thing. In this case, of course, one could say Charles was executed, because he was tried and convicted. But was the trial itself legal?

In our case, I'm not sure exactly what the best way to handle this is, but I do think there should be a mechanism by which some entity (Congress? voters?) can determine that the executive should stand trial for conventional lawbreaking (meaning conventional jury trial), in addition to the existing impeachment process.

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Response to ProudLib72 (Original post)

Fri Mar 2, 2018, 09:40 PM

11. Looks like the Smithsonian might have a transcription error.

I think "justly accused" should be "unjustly accused".

Scanned image of Elliot's Debates, Volume 5, pg 341:
https://memory.loc.gov/cgi-bin/ampage?collId=lled&fileName=005/lled005.db&recNum=362&itemLink=?%230050363&linkText=1

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Response to sl8 (Reply #11)

Fri Mar 2, 2018, 10:25 PM

14. Oh ho! That Mr. Madison did not possess sufficient foresight, did he?

A week on DU would set him straight, I guarantee.

I think you ought to make a post of that passage. While the whole page is interesting, that passage in particular stands out to me as an example of how the founding fathers could never have imagined our current situation.

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Response to ProudLib72 (Reply #14)

Fri Mar 2, 2018, 10:51 PM

15. Done, thanks. n/t

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Response to ProudLib72 (Original post)

Fri Mar 2, 2018, 09:59 PM

13. Chafetz' "Impeachment and Assassination", referenced in OP's source

From http://www.minnesotalawreview.org/articles/impeachment-and-assassination/


Minnesota Law Review

Impeachment and Assassination
By Josh Chafetz. Full text here.


In 1998, the conservative provocateur Ann Coulter made waves when she wrote that President Clinton should be either impeached or assassinated. Coulter was roundly—and rightly—condemned for suggesting that the murder of the president might be justified, but her conceptual linking of presidential impeachment and assassination was not entirely unfounded. Indeed, Benjamin Franklin had made the same linkage over two hundred years earlier, when he noted at the Constitutional Convention that, historically, the removal of “obnoxious” chief executives had been accomplished by assassination. Franklin suggested that a proceduralized mechanism for removal—impeachment—would be preferable.

The Article for the first time takes Franklin’s comments seriously, viewing impeachment as closely tied to assassination. The Article first unpacks Franklin’s statement by analyzing what were, for Franklin and his contemporaries, two paradigm cases of just killings of chief magistrates: those of Julius Caesar and Charles I. From these cases, it draws an understanding of the substantive law of presidential impeachment—or, put differently, it argues that we ought to understand impeachable offenses as (what might otherwise be) assassinable offenses. The Constitution’s innovation in executive removal lay in pairing this older substantive law with new procedures meant to domesticate it and to mitigate the drawbacks associated with political murder.

The Article then traces the interaction of these substantive and procedural features at two key moments for the American presidency: the assassination of Abraham Lincoln followed closely by the impeachment of Andrew Johnson, and the impeachment of Bill Clinton. The Article then concludes by briefly discussing the impeachability of Richard Nixon.


Article PDF:
http://www.minnesotalawreview.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/06/Chafetz_MLR.pdf

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Response to ProudLib72 (Original post)

Fri Mar 2, 2018, 10:58 PM

17. I love this explanation! And I love hearing from Ben Franklin. Thanks, ProudLib. nt

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