Defining Misdemeanors

Madison and Hamilton allowed the grounds for impeachment of the President… open to necessary judgments and deliberations in the House of Representatives.  Madison’s original draft suggested only the term “maladministration” of the duties of the office.  Later amended to “misdemeanors” it is clear that the Framers were not only discussing indictable crimes- public men of this order would be above petty larceny and the like-  abuse of the office and the neglect of official duty is what concerned them.

You doubt our words?

Hamilton explained the difference in Federalist #65:

“Those offences which proceed from the misconduct of public men, or, in other words, from the abuse or violation of some public trust. They are of a nature which may with peculiar propriety be denominated POLITICAL, as they relate chiefly to injuries done immediately to the society itself.”

Impeachment applies to political abuses of the office… not necessarily criminal acts.  Delegates at the ratifying conventions were concerned about the President interfering in the legislative or judicial processes.  Madison responded to the concerns by equating such Constitutional misconduct with criminality:

“Were the President to commit any thing so atrocious… he would be impeached and convicted, as a majority of the states would be affected by his misdemeanor.”

Failing to discharge the duties of his office

The President cannot abuse or misuse the powers of his office… without risking impeachment.  The term “misdemeanor” as applied by the Framers establishes a standard extending far beyond simple criminal acts.  Public men should be held to a greater standard.




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