The 1787 Constitutional Convention – Impeachment Debated


September 8, 1787 (Click to read Madison’s notes)


The delegates fine-tuned the executive branch and debated language regarding impeachment of the president. The role of the Senate in money bills was also debate again.

Influences on the Delegates

Mason wanted a term added to the provisions of impeachment which would extend the grounds.

Colonel MASON. Why is the provision restrained to treason and bribery only? Treason, as defined in the Constitution, will not reach many great and dangerous offences. Hastings is not guilty of treason. Attempts to subvert the Constitution may not be treason, as above defined. As bills of attainder, which have saved the British constitution, are forbidden, it is the more necessary to extend the power of impeachments. He moved to add, after “bribery,” “or maladministration.”

Oh that he would have succeeded!

In a phrase that is now sadly hilarious, Morris said:

Mr. GOUVERNEUR MORRIS. It will not be put in force, and can do no harm. An election of every four years, will prevent maladministration. (my emphasis)

No, actually, a four year term does not prevent maladministration.

The phrase “high crimes and misdemeanors” seems to be a reference to the action of the House of Commons against Warren Hastings. The charges brought against the Governor General of Bengal (British India) in 1786 involved many crimes other than treason. Mason wanted the executive held accountable for criminal mismanagement which did not of necessity involve treason.

1787 Constitutional Convention Series

To read my series examining the proceedings of the Constitution Convention, click here.  In this series, I am writing about any obvious influences on the development of the Constitution which were mentioned by the delegates to the Convention. Specifically, I am testing David Barton’s claim that “every clause” of the Constitution is based on biblical principles. Thus far, I have found nothing supporting the claim. However, stay tuned, the series will run until mid-September.

Constitutional Convention Series (click the link)

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