The United States of America is a bastion of democracy. The three branches of government – executive, legislative, and the judiciary works hand in hand to ensure that this pattern of government will continue in perpetuity. The ideas and concepts used to create laws and the standards followed to enforce the same are deeply rooted in the insights and wisdom of the Founding Fathers. The ideas of the said Founding Fathers are appropriate to guide America because the men who penned the framework of the constitution were eyewitnesses to the fact that absolute power corrupts.
Thus, the Union adopted a form of government that was and is a carefully constructed system of “checks and balances” that can be seen in the current set-up of the Presidential Office, the U. S Congress, and the U. S. Supreme Court. It can also be seen in the division of powers between local, State, and the Federal Government. There are a few occasions when the system of “checks and balances” must be enforced; when there is danger that the United States is dangerously close to producing a tyrannical form of government, rather than a democracy serving the needs of the people.
This paper will look into three occasions wherein articles of impeachment were leveled at three incumbent presidents – with intent to remove them from office. In doing so, one can see the evolution of the U. S. government with regards to limiting the power of individuals especially when it comes to the presidency. The American people since Independence Day are working together with its politicians, limit the power of the Presidency and to deny him the resources and the means to acquire more than what he needs.
Still, recent developments are allowing the incumbent President to have access to powers that he should not have. This is in connection to the setting up military tribunals that will try aliens who are suspected as terrorists. More on this in the latter part of the study. In the meantime the impeachment proceedings are an informative part of the history of this country's criminal justice system.
Impeachment In the history of the United States of America, in the period after the Civil War and into the present there were three instances wherein the sitting U. S. president was impeached. The former U. S. leaders who went through the controversial proceedings were Andrew Johnson, Richard Nixon, and Bill Clinton. The following pages will present an overview of each case, starting with Andrew Johnson. The Impeachment of Andrew Johnson The backdrop for the Andrew Johnson impeachment trial was the newly concluded Civil War of the late 19th century. The Union, recently separated from England is still groping in the dark with regards self-rule. Now, here comes the Civil War that threatened to render the new government into two.
Every impeachment case that will be discussed, all are politically motivated. If it is not politically motivated then there would be no incentive for the President's opponent to boot him out of office. The same applies for Andrew Johnson's case. His impeachment trial was less about the mistakes he did but the real issue is with regards to the direction he is taking the country. One should remember that the time-line is in the aftermath of the Civil War and there are so many issues swirling around the nation.
Some of the more important issues concerns what should be done to the devastated South and more importantly what should be done to the rebels who participated in the insurrection against the Union. Andrew Johnson it seems, was sympathetic to the plight of the South. The leading publication of that time was Harper Weekly – it is available in the present time in an online format (HarpWeek) – reveals the details of the case. Andrew Johnson's first major mistake was to threaten the U. S. Congress by doing actions that are not favorable to the constituents of the incumbent Congressmen.
These actions are related to the Reconstruction, the grand term given to the rehabilitation of the Southern States that were ravaged by war. An issue that was particularly irritating to the Congressmen is the vetoing of two bills (Reconstruction bills) that were supposed to place the Confederate States under the control of the victorious military commanders. Andrew Johnson disagreed and made an executive decision to block said bills. But on the same day, Congress passed the bills over Johnson's veto. Things came to a head when on February 21, 1868 President Johnson notified Congress that he had removed Edwin Stanton as Secretary of War.
Those who are waiting for a moment of weakness and opportunity quickly established grounds for impeachment. The opponents of Johnson only needed three days to prepare their case against him The recent removal of the Secretary of War was considered as “high treason” for some legislators. According to the articles of impeachment the removal of Stanton violated the Tenure of Office Act. By doing so Johnson was defying Congress who ratified the said act (see HarpWeek, 2007). But at the end Andrew Johnson was acquitted and stayed in office until the next President was sworn in.