The need for the annulment or rather a step-back of a decision previously taken could only arrive from a fear of losing that what should not be lost to someone capable to taking advantage. Impeachment, hence, was a drill majorly rooted in the English history and legal precedent, as was the phrase the Founders included in the Constitution as the criteria that would justify it: “treason, bribery or other High Crimes and Misdemeanours.” The meaning of it clearly justifies the purpose of saving the nation from a previously made mistake of honouring an incapable being with a title too high of regard. Impeachment, hence, was not about punishment; rather about stabilizing the republic by removing from office someone who constituted a danger to liberty.
Impeachment and the proceedings-
Impeachment, in common law, a proceeding instituted by a legislative body to address serious misconduct by a public official. With reference to an impeachment proceeding in Great Britain, the House of Commons serves as the prosecutor and the House of Lords acts as the judge. In the federal government of the United States, the House of Representatives takes hold of the impeachment actions by sanctioning a formal inquiry by the House Judiciary Committee. This committee may then recommend articles of impeachment (an impeachment resolution) for a vote by the full House (articles of impeachment may also be introduced in the House without a formal inquiry). If the articles are approved, a trial is held in the Senate, and conviction is obtained by a vote of at least two-thirds of the senators present. The outcome of this process is evidently much harsh in Great Britain than in the United States. In Great Britain, the conviction on an impeachment has generally been known to result in fine and imprisonment and at times, in execution, whereas in the United States, the penalties extend no further than disqualification from office and removal of the powers entrusted.
The process was first adopted in the 14th century England when it became a means of initiating criminal proceedings based on “clamour,” or outcry. The Good Parliament of 1376 created the first renowned cases of impeachment, the most important being that of William, 4th Baron Latimer, who had been closely associated with the government of Edward III. Subsequent subjects of impeachment have often been political figures, usually royal ministers.
After the mid-15th century, impeachment fell out of use until the 17th century, until it was revived as a means by which the Parliament could get rid of unpopular ministers. These officials were mostly the court favourites protected by the kings who many times, got things done their way even through it was a wrong use of power. The use of this process of impeachment gradually faded as the 18th century progressed for it proved too blunt a political instrument to attack the King’s ministers. In the early 19th century, the acceptance of the principle that cabinet ministers are responsible to Parliament (rather than to the sovereign) made impeachment unnecessary, and the procedure fell into disuse
The history of impeachment definitely traces back to Great Britain, by the constitutional convention at Philadelphia in 1787 was a major push for the process and legislate. For most of the delegates to the constitutional convention, giving Congress the right to impeach the president was an obvious move. It was a revolting move against authoritarianism. Outside the convention, proto-democratic radicals warned of the danger in investing in one man so many kingly privileges. The people were afraid that the powers could be misused in foreign, diplomatic, cultural and national terms and be a major threat to liberty and freedom.
“The prosecution of them,” Alexander Hamilton predicted in Federalist no. 65 (one of his essays promoting the new Constitution), “will seldom fail to agitate the passions of the whole community, and to divide it into parties, more or less friendly or inimical, to the accused. In many cases, it will connect itself with the pre-existing factions, and will enlist all their animosities, partialities, influence and interest on one side, or on the other; and in such cases there will always be the greatest danger, that the decision will be regulated more by the comparative strength of parties than by the real demonstrations of innocence or guilt.”
As for the United States, the impeachment proceedings have seldom been employed, largely because it is so burdensome. It can occupy Congress for a very long time, require them to fill innumerable pages of testimony, and involve conflicting and bothersome political pressures. Repeated attempts in the U.S. Congress to amend the procedure, however, have been unsuccessful, partly because impeachment is regarded as an integral part of the system of checks and balances in the U.S. government.
Andrew Johnson was the first U.S. president to be impeached. However, not many US Presidents have been impeached so far. It was only in December 2019 that Former-President Donald Trump became the third U.S. president to be impeached. The House of Representatives charged him with obstruction of Congress and abuse of power in his dealings with the Ukrainian government. And yet, in January 2021, Mr. Donald Trump was impeached again on a charge of incitement of insurrection after a violent mob of his supporters stormed the U.S. Capitol, interrupting a joint session of Congress at which electoral votes from the 2020 presidential election were being formulaically count. Trump thereby became the first U.S. president to be impeached twice.
The history of this lengthy process called ‘impeachment’ has many more facets to it. However, it is only the judiciary who plays the most part in many nations. Nations try their best to avoid impeachment and keep trying for a better nation, but sometimes, the impeachments can actually save one’s nation from a disaster unseen and unimagined.
Art I.S3.C7.1.1 Judgment in Cases of Impeachment: Overview, Constitution Annotated.