Washington (Gallant Gold Media Hill Report) – Since history does seem to repeat itself, the past becomes quite useful in providing valuable precedents that can be used to guide America two hundred years later.
Supreme Court Associate Justice Samuel Chase from Maryland – aka Old Bacon Face – a two term member of the Continental Congress and signer of the Declaration of Independence, was appointed to the Supreme Court by George Washington on January 26, 1796. Those were stressful years back at the very beginning of the great American experiment. Two political parties had emerged in less than ten years of the 1st Congress, the Federalists and the Democratic-Republicans. John Adams, second American president and an ardent Federalist, was a strong supporter of hardline Federalist Samuel Chase. Old Bacon Face was an insufferable partisan though, one who boomed his extreme political opinions from the bench. The refined Democratic-Republican gentlemen of the South were aghast at Chase’s abrasive temperament and overt partisanship and accused him of promoting a political agenda through his rulings rather than applying wise impartiality based on Constitutional law.
The bitter conflict reached a crescendo when third President Thomas Jefferson arrived at the “President’s House” on March 4, 1801. Jefferson was so outraged at former president John Adams’ last minute attempt to diminish the power of the Executive Branch by granting increased power to the Judicial Branch through the Judiciary Act of 1801, which went into effect on March 3, 1801, Adams last day in office, that Jefferson was on an immediate mission to repeal the Act. Within 19 days, Jefferson successfully removed the “midnight judges” despite the fact that they’d been appointed for life by the Adams Administration. It was a vicious first chapter of our three branches of government, very similar to several hellacious extremes during the 2018 midterms.
Jefferson was leery of any Federalist partisan hardliner pushing the party’s political agenda from the Supreme Court bench, especially a Justice as loud and turbulent as Samuel Chase. On March 12, 1804, led by Representative John Randolph of Roanoke, Virginia, a close ally of Jefferson, the House voted to impeach Supreme Court Associate Justice Samuel Chase for political bias. The examples cited:
- declining to dismiss biased jurors
- excluding or limiting defense witnesses in two political cases
- “behaving in an arbitrary, oppressive and unjust way by announcing his legal interpretation on the law of treason before defense counsel had been heard”
In January 1805, when the Senate tried Federalist Justice Chase, he defended himself by claiming he was being punished for his political convictions rather than any real crime or misdemeanor. The Senate acquitted Samuel Chase on all eight counts, despite the majority voting in favor of impeaching on three of the eight, however they needed a 2/3 majority to prevail. Old Bacon Face remained in office until his death in 1811.
The Samuel Chase impeachment proceedings in Congress were the third impeachment proceedings in the fifteen short years since the start of the 1st Congress. Back at the beginning it seems, our Representatives were extremely tenacious, and apparently relished the opportunity to protect our nation’s principles no matter how tedious the process… after all, American democracy was just an experiment that so few expected to succeed, thus it seemed that everyone was determined to exert the maximum effort required to triumph.
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