History of the United States During the Administrations of Thomas Jefferson/First/II:7
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The First Administration of Thomas Jefferson, Part II, Chapter 7
Chapter 7: Impeachments
The extraordinary success which marked Jefferson's foreign relations in the year 1803 was almost equally conspicuous in domestic affairs. The Treasury was as fortunate as the Department of State. Gallatin silenced opposition. Although the customs produced two millions less than in 1802, yet when the Secretary in October, 1803, announced his financial arrangements, which included the purchase-money of fifteen million dollars for Louisiana, he was able to provide for all his needs without imposing a new tax. The treaty required the issue of six-per-cent bonds for eleven million two hundred and fifty thousand dollars, redeemable after fifteen years. These were issued; and to meet the interest and sinking fund Gallatin added from his surplus an annual appropriation of seven hundred thousand dollars to his general fund; so that the discharge of the whole debt would take place within the year 1818, instead of eighteen months earlier, as had been intended. New Orleans was expected to provide two hundred thousand dollars a year toward the interest. Of the remaining four millions, the Treasury already held half, and Gallatin hoped to provide the whole from future surplus, which he actually did.
This was ideal success. On a sudden call, to pay out four million dollars in hard money, and add seven hundred thousand dollars to annual expenditure, without imposing a tax, and with a total revenue of eleven millions, was feat that warranted congratulations. Yet Gallatin's success was not obtained without an effort. As usual, he drew a part of his estimated surplus from the navy. He appealed to Jefferson to reduce the navy estimates from nine hundred thousand to six hundred thousand dollars.
- "I find that the establishment now consists of the 'Constitution,' the 'Philadelphia,' each 44, and five small vessels, all of which are now out, and intended to stay the whole year, as the crew is enlisted for two years. In my opinion one half of the force,—namely, one frigate and two or three small vessels,—were amply sufficient."
The war with Tripoli dragged tediously along, and seemed no nearer its end at the close of 1803 than eighteen months before. Commodore Morris, whom the President sent to command the Mediterranean squadron, cruised from port to port between May, 1802, and August, 1803, convoying merchant vessels from Gibraltar to Leghorn and Malta, or lay in harbor and repaired his ships, but neither blockaded nor molested Tripoli; until at length, June 21, 1803, the President called him home and dismissed him from the service. His successor was Commodore Preble, who Sept. 12, 1803, reached Gibraltar with the relief-squadron which Secretary Gallatin thought unnecessarily strong. He had the "Constitution," of 44 guns, and the "Philadelphia," of 38; the four new brigs just built,—the "Argus" and the "Syren," of 16 guns, the "Nautilus" and the "Vixen," of 14 guns; and the "Enterprise," of 12. With this force Preble set energetically to work.
Tripoli was a feeble Power, and without much effort could be watched and blockaded; but if the other governments on the coast should make common cause against the United States, the task of dealing with them was not so easy. Morocco was especially dangerous, because its ports lay on the ocean, and could not be closed even by guarding the Straits. When Preble arrived, he found Morocco taking part with Tripoli. Captain Bainbridge, who reached Gibraltar in the "Philadelphia" August 24, some three weeks before Preble arrived, caught in the neighborhood a Moorish cruiser of 22 guns with an American brig in its clutches. Another American brig had just been seized at Mogador. Determined to stop this peril at the outset, Preble united to his own squadron the ships which he had come to relieve, and with this combined force,—the "Constitution," 44; the "New York," 36; the "John Adams," 28; and the "Nautilus," 14,—sending the "Philadelphia" to blockade Tripoli, he crossed to Tangiers October 6, and brought the Emperor of Morocco to reason. On both sides prizes and prisoners were restored, and the old treaty was renewed. This affair consumed time; and when at length Preble got the "Constitution" under way for the Tripolitan coast, he spoke a British frigate off the Island of Sardinia, which reported that the "Philadelphia" had been captured October 21, more than three weeks before.
The loss greatly embarrassed Preble. The "Philadelphia" was, next to the "Constitution," his strongest ship. Indeed he had nothing else but his own frigate and small brigs of two and three hundred tons; but the accident was such as could not fail sometimes to happen, especially to active commanders. Bainbridge, cruising off Tripoli, had chased a Tripolitan cruiser into shoal water, and was hauling off, when the frigate struck on a reef at the mouth of the harbor. Every effort was made without success to float her; but at last she was surrounded by Tripolitan gunboats, and Bainbridge struck his flag. The Tripolitans, after a few days' work, floated the frigate, and brought her under the guns of the castle. The officers became prisoners of war, and the crew, in number three hundred or more, were put to hard labor.The affair was in no way discreditable to the squadron. Morris had been recalled in disgrace for over-caution, and Bainbridge was required to be active. The Tripolitans gained nothing except the prisoners; for at Bainbridge's suggestion Preble, some time afterward, ordered Stephen Decatur, a young lieutenant in command of the "Enterprise," to take a captured Tripolitan craft re-named the "Intrepid," and with a crew of seventy-five men to sail from Syracuse, enter the harbor of Tripoli by night, board the "Philadelphia," and burn her under the castle guns. The order was literally obeyed. Decatur ran into the harbor at ten o'clock in the night of Feb. 16, 1804, boarded the frigate within half gun-shot of the Pacha's castle, drove the Tripolitan crew overboard, set the ship on fire, remained alongside until the flames were beyond control, and then withdrew without losing a man, while the Tripolitan gunboats and batteries fired on him as rapidly as want of discipline and training would allow. Gallant and successful as the affair was, it proved only what was already well known, that the Tripolitans were no match for men like Decatur and his companions; and it left Preble, after losing in the "Philadelphia" nearly one third of his force, still strong enough to do the work that needed to be done.
The frigate had been built by the citizens of Philadelphia, and given to the government in 1799. So far as the ship was concerned, the loss was not much regretted, for the Republicans when in opposition had strenuously opposed the building of frigates, and still considered them a danger rather than a defence. Although the "Philadelphia" was the newest ship in the service, a companion to the "Constellation," the "Congress," and the "Chesapeake," she was never replaced; two 18-gun brigs, the "Hornet" and the "Wasp," were constructed instead of one 38-gun frigate; and these were the last sea-going vessels built under Jefferson's administration. The true annoyance was not that a frigate had been lost, but that the captivity and enslavement of the crew obliged Government to rescue them and to close the war, by a kind of expenditure which the Republican party disliked.
Bainbridge's report of his capture, which had happened at the end of October, 1803, was sent to Congress March 20, 1804, in the last week of the session. The President sent with it a brief Message recommending Congress to increase the force and enlarge expenses in the Mediterranean. As Gallatin never willingly allowed his own plans for the public service to be deranged, Congress adopted a new means for meeting the new expense. Although the Treasury held a balance of $1,700,000, Gallatin would not trench upon this fund, but told Randolph, who was Chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, that the specie in the Treasury could not be safely reduced below that amount. He informed Joseph Nicholson that $150,000 was the utmost sum he could spare. The sum wanted was $750,000 per annum. A Bill was introduced which imposed an additional duty of 2½ per cent on all imports that paid duty ad valorem. These imports had been divided, for purposes of revenue, into three classes, taxed respectively 12½, 15, and 20 per cent; the increase raised them to 15, 17½ and 22½ per cent. The average ad valorem duty was before about 13½; the additional tax raised it above 16 per cent; and the Republicans preferred this method of raising money as in every way better than the system of internal taxation. After imposing the additional duty of 2½ per cent,—a duty intended to produce about $750,000,—the Bill made of it a separate Treasury account, to be called the "Mediterranean Fund," which was to last only as long as the Mediterranean war should last, when the 2½ per cent duty was to cease three months after a general peace.
The Mediterranean Fund was meant as a protest against loose expenditure,—a dike against the impending flood of extravagance. The Mediterranean war was the first failure of President Jefferson's theory of foreign relations, and the Mediterranean Fund was the measure of the error in financial form. No reproach henceforward roused more ill temper among Republicans than the common charge that their elaborate financial precautions and formalities were a deception, and that the Mediterranean Fund was meant to conceal a change of principle and a return to Federalist practices. Even in the first words of the debate, Roger Griswold told them that their plausible special fund was "perfectly deceptive," and amounted to nothing. John Randolph retaliated by declaring that the Republican government consisted of men who never drew a cent from the people except when necessity compelled it; and Griswold could not assert, though he might even then foresee, that for ten years to come, Randolph would denounce the extravagance and waste of the men whom he thus described.The annexation of Louisiana, the constitutional amendment in regard to the Vice-presidency, the change of financial practices foreshadowed by the Mediterranean Fund, were signs of reaction toward nationality and energy in government. Yet the old prejudices of the Republican party had not yet wholly lost their force. Especially the extreme wing, consisting of men like John Randolph and W. B. Giles, thought that a substantial reform should be attempted. Increase of power encouraged them to act. The party, stimulated by its splendid success and irresistible popularity, at length, after long hesitation, prepared for a trial of strength with the last remnant of Federalism,—the Supreme Court of the United States.
A year of truce between Congress and the Supreme Court had followed the repeal of the Judiciary Act. To prevent Chief-Justice Marshall and his associates from interfering with the new arrangements, Congress in abolishing the circuit courts in 1801 took the strong measure of suspending for more than a year the sessions of the Supreme Court itself. Between December, 1801, and February, 1803, the court was not allowed to sit. Early in February, 1803, a few days before the Supreme Court was to meet, after fourteen months of separation, President Jefferson sent an ominous Message to the House of Representatives.
- "The enclosed letter and affidavits," he said, "exhibiting matter of complaint against John Pickering, district judge of New Hampshire, which is not within executive cognizance, I transmit them to the House of Representatives, to whom the Constitution has confided a power of instituting proceedings of redress if they shall be of opinion that the case calls for them."
The enclosed papers tended to show that Judge Pickering, owing to habits of intoxication or other causes, had become a scandal to the bench, and was unfit to perform his duties. At first sight the House of Representatives might not understand what it had to do with such a matter; but the President's language admitted no doubt of his meaning. The Constitution said that the House of Representatives "shall have the sole power of impeachment;" and "all civil officers of the United States shall be removed from office on impeachment for, and conviction of, treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors." Jefferson's Message officially announced to the House the President's opinion that Judge Pickering's conduct was a misdemeanor within the reach of impeachment.
The House referred the Message to a committee of five, controlled by Joseph Nicholson and John Randolph. A fortnight later, Nicholson reported a resolution ordering the impeachment; and before the session closed, the House, by a vote of forty-five to eight, adopted his report, and sent Nicholson and Randolph to the bar of the Senate to impeach Judge Pickering of high crimes and misdemeanors. March 3, 1803, the last day of the session, the two members delivered their message.
Precisely as the House, by the President's invitation, was about to impeach Judge Pickering, the Supreme Court, through the Chief-Justice's mouth, delivered an opinion which could be regarded in no other light that as a defiance. Chief-Justice Marshall's own appointment had been one of those made by the last President between Dec. 12, 1800, and March 4, 1801, which Jefferson called an "outrage on decency," and which, except as concerned life offices, he held to be "nullities." His doctrine that all appointments made by a retiring President were nullities, unless made with the consent of the President elect, rested on the argument that the retiring President was no longer selecting his own but his successor's agents. Perhaps it involved also the favorite idea that the election of 1800 was something more than a change of Presidents,—that it was a real revolution in the principle of government. Any theory was sufficient for the Executive, but executive theories did not necessarily bind the Judiciary. Among the nominations which, like the appointment of Marshall, were obnoxious to Jefferson, was that of William Marbury as justice of the peace for five years for the District of Columbia. The nomination was sent to the Senate March 2, 1801, and was approved the next day, a few hours before Jefferson took his oath of office. The commission, regularly made out, signed by the President, countersigned by John Marshall the acting Secretary of State, and duly sealed, was left with other documents on the table in the State Department, where it came into the possession of Attorney-General Lincoln, acting as President Jefferson's Secretary of State. Jefferson, having decided that late appointments were nullities, retained Marbury's commission. Marbury, at the December term of 1801, moved the Supreme Court for a Rule to Secretary Madison to show cause why a mandamus should not issue commanding him to deliver the document. The Rule was duly served, and the case argued in December, 1801; but the Judiciary Act having suspended for fourteen months the sessions of the Supreme Court, the Chief-Justice did not deliver his opinion until Feb. 24, 1803.
The strongest admirers of Marshall admitted that his manner of dealing with this case was unusual. Where a judgment was to turn on a question of jurisdiction, the Court commonly considered that point as first and final. In the case of Marbury the Court had no original jurisdiction, and so decided; but instead of beginning at that point and dismissing the motion, the Court began by discussing the merits of the case, and ruled that when a commission had been duly signed and sealed the act was complete, and delivery was not necessary to its validity. Marbury's appointment was complete; and as the law gave him the right to hold for five years, independent of the Executive, his appointment was not revocable: "To withhold his commission, therefore, is an act deemed by the Court not warranted by law, but violative of a legal vested right."
This part of the decision bore the stamp of Marshall's character. The first duty of law, as he understood it, was to maintain the sanctity of pledged word. In his youth society had suffered severely from want of will to enforce a contract. The national government, and especially the judiciary, had been created to supply this want by compelling men to perform their contracts. The essence of the opinion in Marbury's case was that the Executive should be held to the performance of a contract, all the more because of his personal repugnance. Marshall ruled that Marbury had to his commission a vested legal right of which the Executive could not deprive him; and although the Court could not intermeddle with the prerogatives of the Executive, it might and would command a head of department to perform a duty not depending of Executive discretion, but on particular Acts of Congress and the general principles of law. The mandamus might issue, but not from the Supreme Court, which had appellate jurisdiction only. In other words, if Marbury chose to apply for the mandamus to Judge Cranch and the District Court, he might expect the success of his application.
The decision in Marbury's case naturally exasperated Jefferson; but the chief-justice knew the point beyond which he could not go in asserting the jurisdiction of his court, and was content to leave the matter as it stood. Marbury never applied for the mandamus in the court below. The opinion in the case of Marbury and Madison was allowed to sleep, and its language was too guarded to furnish excuse for impeachment; but while the President was still sore under the discourtesy of Marshall's law, another member of the Supreme Bench attacked him in a different way. If one judge in the United States should have known the peril in which the judiciary stood, it was Justice Samuel Chase of Maryland, who had done more than all the other judges to exasperate the democratic majority. His overbearing manners had twice driven from his court the most eminent counsel of the circuit; he had left the bench without a quorum in order that he might make political speeches for his party; and his contempt for the popular will was loudly expressed. In the cases of Fries and Callender, in 1800, he had strained the law in order to convict for the government; and inasmuch as his energy was excess of zeal, for conviction was certain, he had exposed himself to the charge of over-officiousness in order to obtain the chief-justice's chair, which was given to Marshall. That he was not impeached after the change of administration proved the caution of the Republican party; but by this neglect Congress seemed to have condoned his old offences, or at least had tacitly consented to let their punishment depend on the judge's future good behavior.
Unluckily Chase's temper knew no laws of caution. He belonged to the old class of conservatives who thought that judges, clergymen, and all others in authority should guide and warn the people. May 2, 1803, barely two months after Marshall's defiance of the President in Marbury's case and the impeachment of Pickering, Justice Chase addressed the grand jury at Baltimore on the democratic tendencies of their local and national government.
- "Where law is uncertain, partial, or arbitrary," he said; "where justice is not impartially administered to all; where property is insecure, and the person is liable to insult and violence without redress by law,—the people are not free, whatever may be their form of government. To this situation I greatly fear we are fast approaching. . . . The late alteration of the Federal judiciary by the abolition of the office of the sixteen circuit judges, and the recent change in our State Constitution by the establishing of universal suffrage, and the further alteration that is contemplated in our State judiciary (if adopted) will in my judgment take away all security for property and personal liberty. The independence of the national judiciary is already shaken to its foundation, and the virtue of the people alone can restore it. . . . Our republican Constitution will sink into a mobocracy,—the worst of all possible governments. . . . The modern doctrines by our late reformers, that all men in a state of society are entitled to enjoy equal liberty and equal rights, have brought this mighty mischief upon us; and I fear that it will rapidly progress until peace and order, freedom and property, shall be destroyed."
- "You must have heard of the extraordinary charge of Chase to the grand jury at Baltimore. Ought this seditious and official attack on the principles of our Constitution and on the proceedings of a State to go unpunished; and to whom so pointedly as yourself will the public look for the necessary measures? I ask these questions for your consideration; for myself, it is better that I should not interfere."
"Non-intervention," according to Talleyrand, "is a word used in politics and metaphysics, which means very nearly the same thing as intervention." The event proved that non-intervention was wise policy; but Jefferson was somewhat apt to say that it was better he should not interfere in the same breath with which he interfered. The warning that he could not officially interfere seemed to imply that the quarrel was personal; for in the case of Pickering he had interfered with decision. If this was his view, the success of any attack upon Chase would be a gain to him, and he was so ordering as to make failure a loss only to those who undertook it. Nicholson, hot-headed though he was, did not enter readily into this hazardous venture. He reflected upon it all summer, and consulted the friends whose support he depended. Macon wrote to him a letter of unusual length, suggesting grave doubts whether a judge ought to be impeached for expressing to a grand jury political opinions which every man was at liberty to hold and express elsewhere, and closed by announcing the conviction that if any attempt were made to impeach, Nicholson ought not to be the leader. In this opinion Macon was evidently right, for Chase's friends could not fail to suggest that Nicholson was to be rewarded by an appointment to Chase's vacant seat on the Supreme Bench; but the House of Representatives contained no other leader whose authority, abilities, and experience warranted him in taking so prominent a part, unless it were John Randolph.
A worse champion than Randolph for a difficult cause could not be imagined. Between him and Jefferson little sympathy existed. Randolph had quarrelled with the branch of his family to which Jefferson was closely allied; and his private feelings stood in the way of personal attachment. His intimates in Congress were not chiefly Virginians, but men like Macon of North Carolina, Joseph Bryan of Georgia, and Nicholson of Maryland,—independent followers of Virginia doctrine, who owned no personal allegiance to Jefferson. That the President should have been willing to let such a man take entire responsibility for an impeachment was natural; but had Jefferson directed the step, he would never have selected Randolph to manage a prosecution on which the fate of his principles closely depended. Randolph was no lawyer; but this defect was a trifling objection compared with his greater unfitness in other respects. Ill-balanced, impatient of obstacles, incapable of sustained labor or of methodical arrangement, illogical to excess, and egotistic to the verge of madness, he was sparkling and formidable in debate or on the hustings, where he could follow the wayward impulse of his fancy running in the accustomed channels of his thought; but the qualities which helped him in debate were fatal to him at the bar.
Such was the origin of a measure which did more to define the character of the government than any other single event in Jefferson's first administration, except the purchase of Louisiana. Randolph threw himself into the new undertaking; for he sincerely believed in the justice of his cause, and was alive to the danger of leaving the Supreme Court in the hands of Marshall and men of his stamp who were determined to consolidate the government. Yet the chance of obtaining a conviction, on a charge no stronger than that of the Baltimore address, was so slight as to incline Randolph against risking it; and he decided to insure success by putting the cases of Fries and Callender in the foreground.
This was not easily done. Pickering's impeachment had been brought before the House by a Message from the President; but in Chase's case the President preferred not to take part. Randolph was forced to escape the difficulty by an awkward manœvre. During the autumn and early winter of 1803 Congress was busy with Louisiana legislation, and had no leisure for other matters; but soon after the new year Randolph rose and said that in the course of the last session Mr. Smilie of Pennsylvania had made some statements in regard to Justice Chase's conduct which seemed to call for notice, but that want of time had precluded action. Finding his attention thus drawn to the matter, Randolph gravely continued, he had felt it his duty to investigate Smilie's charges; and having convinced himself that ground for impeachment existed, he asked the House to appoint a committee of inquiry. Such an introduction of a great constitutional struggle was not imposing; but party discipline was at its highest point, and after some vigorous Federalist resistance Randolph carried his motion by a vote of eighty-one to forty. Three Northern democrats voted with the Federalists; and although the defection seemed not serious so far as concerned the scientific Dr. Samuel L. Mitchill, whose political principles were liberal enough at all times, some importance even then attached to the vote of John Smith of New York, who was about to enter the Senate and to act as one of Chase's judges.
Meanwhile Judge Pickering's trial began. The Senate, "sitting as a Court of Impeachments," listened while Nicholson, Randolph, Rodney, and six or seven other Republican members "exhibited the grand inquest of the nation." The character of a court was taken in all forms of summons. The Secretary of the Senate signed, and the Sergeant-at-Arms served, the summons to Judge Pickering, while the witnesses were regularly subpœnaed by the Secretary, "to appear before the Senate of the United States in their capacity of a Court of Impeachments," and the subpœnas were served by the marshals of the district courts.
Judge Pickering was ordered to appear on the 2d of March, 1804; but when the day arrived, and the Senate was assembled, with the managers in attendance, John Pickering's name was three times called without an answer. Vice-President Burr then submitted to the Senate a petition from Jacob Pickering, son of the impeached judge, praying the court to postpone the trial that he might have time to collect evidence with the view of showing that when the alleged crimes were committed, and two years before as well as ever since, the judge was wholly deranged, incapable of transacting any kind of business which required the exercise of reason, and therefore incapable of corruption of judgment, no subject of impeachment, and amenable to no tribunal for his actions. With this petition a letter from Robert G. Harper was laid before the court, requesting to be allowed to appear on the part of the petitioner in support of the petition. Harper, having been invited to a seat within the bar, asked whether he might be heard, not as counsel for Judge Pickering, who being insane could give no authority for the purpose, but as agent for the petitioner, to ask a postponement.
The question threw all parties into agitation. The managers instantly protested that Harper in such a character could not be heard. The senators retired for consultation, and debated all day without coming to a decision. The impeaching party dreaded the alternative to which the proof of insanity must force them,—of saying either that an insane man was responsible, or that a man mentally irresponsible might still be guilty of "high crimes and misdemeanors" for purposes of impeachment. Senator Jackson of Georgia, who had always the merit of speaking with candor, avowed the fear that presently Judge Chase's friends would come and pretend that he too was mad; but he could not, even with Breckinridge's help, carry his point. The Northern democrats flinched. Six of them and three Southern senators voted with the Federalists, and admitted Harper in his volunteer character.
Harper put in his testimony, which was decisive in regard to the insanity; but when he rose to do so, the managers retired, saying that they considered themselves under no obligation to discuss a preliminary question raised by an unauthorized third party. The Senate went on with its session. The managers were obliged to maintain that insanity was no bar to impeachment, and the Northern democrats were forced to accept the doctrine.
This view of impeachment, so far as concerned the judiciary, had strong arguments in its favor. Although the Constitution made judges' tenure of office dependent on their good behavior, it provided no other means than that of impeachment for their removal. Even in England and in Massachusetts, judges could be removed by the joint action of Legislature and Executive; but this was not the case under the Constitution of the United States. If insanity or any other misfortune was to bar impeachment, the absurdity followed that unless a judge committed some indictable offence the people were powerless to protect themselves. Even Federalists might reasonably assume that the people had never placed themselves in such a situation, but that in making their judges subject to impeachment for misdemeanors they had meant to extend the scope of impeachment, and to include within it all cases of misbehavior which might require a removal from office for the good of the public service.
This ground was fairly taken by the impeachers, though not formally expressed. When Harper had put in his evidence and retired, the Senate sent again for the managers, who occupied one day in supplying evidence, and then left their case without argument in the hands of the court. The Senate found itself face to face with an issue beyond measure delicate, which had never been discussed, but from which escape was impossible. Acquittal of Pickering would probably be fatal to the impeachment of Chase, and would also proclaim that the people could not protect themselves from misbehavior in their judicial servants. On the other hand, conviction would violate the deep principle of law and justice that an insane man was not responsible for his acts, and not amenable to any earthly tribunal. Virginians like Randolph and Wilson Cary Nicholas, or John Breckinridge, were ready to make a precedent which should fix the rule that impeachment need not imply criminality, and might be the equivalent to removal by address. The Northern democrats were not unwilling to accept this view; but their consciences revolted against saying "guilty" where no guilt was implied or proved.
To escape this objection a compromise was proposed and adopted. The Federalists would have forced senators to say in their final vote that Judge Pickering was "guilty" or "not guilty" of high crimes and misdemeanors. Senator Anderson of Tennessee eluded this challenge by moving for a yea-and-nay vote on the question whether Pickering was guilty "as charged." The nine Federalists alone opposed his motion, which was at length adopted by a majority of two to one. By a vote of nineteen to seven Judge Pickering was declared "guilty as charged" in the articles of impeachment; and by a vote of twenty to six the Senate resolved that he ought to be removed from office.
Two of the Federalist senators refused to vote, on the ground that the proceedings were irregular; Senator Bradley of Vermont, Senator Armstrong of New York, and Senator Stone of North Carolina tacitly protested by absenting themselves. In a Senate of thirty-four members only twenty-six voted, and only nineteen voted for conviction. So confused, contradictory, and irregular were these proceedings that Pickering's trial was never considered a sound precedent. That an insane man could be guilty of crime, and could be punished on ex parte evidence, without a hearing, with not even an attorney to act in his behalf, seemed such a perversion of justice that the precedent fell dead on the spot. Perhaps, from the constitutional point of view, a more fatal objection was that in doing what the world was sure to consider an arbitrary and illegal act, the Virginians failed to put on record the reasons which led them to think it sound in principle. In the Louisiana purchase they had acted in a way equally arbitrary, but they had given their reasons for thinking themselves in the right. In Pickering's case not a word was publicly spoken on either side; a plainly extra-constitutional act was done without recording the doctrine on which it rested.
The Republicans showed no hesitation. John Randolph's orders were obeyed without open protest. Senator Bradley of Vermont talked strongly in private against them; Senator Armstrong of New York would not support them; barely half the Senate voted in their favor; but Randolph forced his party forward without stopping to see how well his steps were taken, or how far he was likely to go. As though to intimidate the Senate, March 6, the day after the managers were defeated on the vote to hear Harper, Randolph reported to the House a resolution ordering the impeachment of Justice Chase. March 12, the day when the Senate voted Pickering guilty, the House took up Randolph's report, and the majority, without debate, voted by seventy-three to thirty-two that Chase should be impeached. Not a Republican ventured to record a vote in the negative. The next morning Randolph again appeared at the bar of the Senate, and announced that the House of Representatives would in due time exhibit articles of impeachment against Samuel Chase.
- Remarks on the Message, Gallatin's Writings, i. 156; Gallatin to Jefferson, Oct. 6, 1803; ibid., i. 162.
- Jefferson to R. Smith, Oct. 10, 1803; Jefferson MSS.
- Speech of John Randolph, March 22, 1804; Annals of Congress, 1803-1804, p. 1221.
- Message of Feb. 3, 1803; Annals of Congress, 1802-1803, p. 460.
- Jefferson to General Knox, March 27, 1801; Works, iv. 386.
- Cranch's Reports, i. 153.
- Annals of Congress, 1804-1805, pp. 673-676.
- Jefferson to Nicholson, May 13, 1803; Works, iv. 486.
- Macon to Nicholson, Aug. 6, 1803; Nicholson MSS.
- Jan. 5, 1804; Annals of Congress, 1803-1804, p. 805.
- Diary of J. Q. Adams, i. 299.
- Ibid., i. 301-302. Pickering to George Cabot, Jan. 29, 1804; Pickering to Theodore Lyman, Feb. 11, 1804; New England Federalism, pp. 340, 344.