Impeachment lessons from the past

The first true test of the Legislative branch’s impeachment powers occurred over two centuries ago in 1805. Its parallels with the current impeachment process, and the important precedent it set for determining impeachable conduct, make it worth examining today.

That long-ago impeachment battle was waged against Samuel Chase of Maryland, a justice of the United States Supreme Court. The episode is a stern warning against the use of the power of impeachment for political purposes.

In 1804, President Thomas Jefferson resoundingly won reelection, and his Democratic-Republican party won lar...

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