Article 3, Section 1

[Volume 2, Page 160]

Document 12

A Native of Virginia, Observations upon the Proposed Plan of Federal Government

1788Monroe Writings 1:361--62

I conceive that the Senators are not impeachable, and therefore Governor Randolph's objection falls to the ground. I am surprised that a man of that gentleman's abilities should have fallen into this mistake. The Senators having a power over their own members, have the right of expulsion. Why then should they be impeachable? For upon impeachments, the punishment is only removal from, and incapacity to hold offices. Expulsion amounts to the same thing. Besides, the Senators are elected by the people, though mediately, as well as the House of Representatives, and therefore have not the same degree of responsibility annexed to their characters, as the officers of the government: and for this obvious reason,--the former are appointed by the people themselves to stand in their places, and they are the best judges of those who are most fit to serve them: but the latter are appointed by the servants of the people. It is a generally received maxim among writers on government, that the Judiciary and Legislative departments should be kept distinct. The position is true to a certain extent; but this like most other general rules, is liable to exceptions. In the English government, which is certainly the freest in Europe, the House of Lords not only try impeachments, but is the highest civil court in the kingdom. In that Constitution the House of Commons are the impeachers, the House of Lords the triers: But no members either of the House of Commons or House of Lords, was ever impeached as such: But whenever members of either House have been impeached, it was as great officers of State. Under the federal government this is impossible, because the members of neither House can hold any office of State.

If this reasoning be not conclusive, the fourth section of the second article puts it out of doubt, viz. "The President, Vice-President, and all civil officers of the United States, shall be removed from office on impeachment, &c." The Senators are representatives of the people; and by no construction can be considered as civil officers of the State. If this be the case, in whose hands can this power be lodged with greater propriety, or with greater safety, than in those of the Senate? Or how can a better court be appointed? To impeach either the members of Senate or House of Representatives, would be to impeach the representatives of the people, that is the people, themselves which is an absurdity.

The Founders' Constitution
Volume 2, Article 3, Section 1, Document 12
The University of Chicago Press

The Writings of James Monroe. Edited by Stanislaus Murray Hamilton. 7 vols. New York and London: G. P. Putnam's Sons, 1898--1903.

© 1987 by The University of Chicago
All rights reserved. Published 2000