Reflection on an essay by Alexander Hamilton 

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This passage is adapted from a speech delivered by Congresswoman Barbara Jordan of Texas on July 25, 1974, as a member of Judiciary Committee of the United States House of Representatives. In the passage, Jordan discusses how and when a United States president may be impreached, or charged with serious offenses, while in office. Jordan’s speech was delivered in the context of impeachment hearings against then president Richard M. Nixon.

Today I am an inquisitor. An hyperbole would not be fictional and would not overstate the solemnness that I feel right now. My faith in the Constitution is whole; it is complete; it is total. And I am not going to sit here and be an idle spectator to the diminution, the subversion, the destruction, of the Constitution. 

“Who can so properly be the inquisitors for the nation as the representives of nation themselves?””The subjects of its jurisdiction are those offenses which proceed from the misconduct of public men.”And that’s what we’re talking about. In other words, [the jurisdiction comes] from the abuse or violation of some public trust.

It is wrong, I suggest, it is a misreading of the Constitution for any member here to assert that for a member to vote for an article of impeachment means that that member must be convinced that the President should be removed from the office. The Constitution doesn’t say that. The powers relating to impeachment are an essential check in the hands of the body of legislature against and upon the encroachments of the executive. The division between the two branches of the legislature, the House and the Senator, assigning to the one the right to accuse and to the other the right to Judge-the framers of this Constitution were very astute. They did not make the accuser and the judge…the same person.

We know the nature of impeachment. We’ve been talking about it a while now. It is chiefly designed for the president and his high minister to “bridle” the executive if he engages in excess…

The nature of impeachment: a narrowly channeled exception to the separation of powers maxim. The Federal Convention of 1787 said that. It is limited impeachment to high crimes and misdemeanors, and discounted and opposed the term “maladministration.” “It is to be used only for great misdemeanors,” so it was said in the North Carolina ratification convention. And in the …

The drawing of political lines goes to the motivation behind impeachment ; but impeachment must proceed within the confines of the constitution term “high crime[s]…

Common sense would be revolted if we engaged upon this process for petty reasons. Congress has a lot to do: appropriation, tax reform, health insurance,campaign finance reform, housing, environmental protection, energy sufficiency, mass transportation. Pettiness cannot be allowed to stand in the face of such overwhelming problems. So today we’re not being petty. We’re trying to be big, because the task we have before us is a big one.

1. The stance Jordan takes in this passage is best described as that of

A an idealist setting forth the principle.

B an advocate seeking a comprising position

C an observer striving for neutrality

D a scholar researching a historical controversy

 

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