Impeachment: Trials and Errors

By Irving Brant | Go to book overview

CHAPTER VIII
EVIL RESULTS
OF GOOD INTENTIONS

IN THE HUNDRED-ODD YEARS SINCE 1868, the House of Representatives has impeached one Secretary of War and five federal district judges. In all cases the intentions were good; in all the judicial cases, however, the grounds of impeachment were stretched beyond the necessities of the occasion and increasingly beyond the boundaries of the Constitution.

Two hours before the House voted to impeach Secretary of War William W. Belknap on April 4, 1876, he resigned and President Grant instantly accepted his resignation. The charges were that he had received $6,000 per year for several years for appointing one subordinate, and $1,500 for each of seventeen other appointments. The payments were not disputed. Belknap's plea was that, as a private citizen, he was not liable to impeachment. The House Managers

____________________
Post trader at Fort Sill in Indian Territory. A skeptical Senate heard the recipient testify that, grateful for this "lucrative" office, he began of his own free will and without solicitation to set up a trust fund for the education of the Belknaps'infant son.

-155-

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