Impeachment

Charge (a public official) with a crime done while in office.

Mrs Rousseff would no-doubt attest, our nom du jour has little to do with fruit.

The word derives from late 14th century …

enpechement “accusation, charge,” from Old French empeechement “difficulty, hindrance; (legal) impeachment,” from empeechier “to hinder, impede”

… and was first used in the judicial sense from the 1640s.

The Merriam-Webster (online) identifies three distinct circumstances that identify as impeachment, only one of which includes the actual removal from office:

  1. to bring an accusation against or to charge with a crime or misdemeanor; specifically: to charge (a public official) before a competent tribunal with misconduct in office
  2. to remove from office, especially for misconduct
  3. to cast doubt on; especially: to challenge the credibility or validity of – e.g. impeach the testimony of a witness

Impeach is the act (verb), while impeachment is the state (noun) of having been or being impeached. Both imply a subject (the impeacher) and an object (the one being done over).

The process — the act, not the word — derives from that rich source of post-hoc Freudian malady, Ancient Athens. It made its way through the prep-school of English Common Law, presumably via that precocious of vector, the Roman senate, finally invading the adult Neuvo Mondo in waves of epidemic, as if the ‘blowback’ of what to the Tahitian was British Disease — to the Italian, French.

Think of it as being impaled, only in metaphor.

At the Philadelphia Convention, Benjamin Franklin noted that, historically, the removal of “obnoxious” chief executives had been accomplished by assassination. Franklin suggested that a proceduralized mechanism for removal—impeachment—would be preferable.

High Crimes and Misdemeanours is the legal term for any impeachable offence in the United States.

The Senate as a Court of Impeachment for the Trial of Andrew Johnson [Image by Theodore R Davis as shown in Harper’s Weekly, April 11, 1868. Wikimedia Commons]

Nineteen United States’ Federal Officials have been impeached — 2 Presidents (Bill Clinton in 1998, and Andrew Johnson in 1868), 1 Senator, 1 Secretary of War, and 15 judges.

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Featured Image (WordPress theme-dependent):  Impeachment – Thaddeus Stevens and John A. Bingham before the Senate [Image: Harper’s weekly, v. 12, no. 585 (1868 March 14), p. 161.- Wikimedia Commons]

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