Grand Inquests: The Historic Impeachments of Justice Samuel Chase and President Andrew Johnson

Overview

For only the second time in American history, the president has been impeached by the House of Representatives and is facing trial by the United States Senate. At such a critical point in our history as a nation, the question is "What comes next?" Most Americans have only a vague notion of the history surrounding the first presidential impeachment trial. So, where do we go for answers?

Here in Grand Inquests, Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist provides dramatic accounts of two ...

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Overview

For only the second time in American history, the president has been impeached by the House of Representatives and is facing trial by the United States Senate. At such a critical point in our history as a nation, the question is "What comes next?" Most Americans have only a vague notion of the history surrounding the first presidential impeachment trial. So, where do we go for answers?

Here in Grand Inquests, Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist provides dramatic accounts of two historic impeachment trials in the American past. With a keen sense of history and narrative ability, he recounts the 1805 trial of Justice Samuel Chase of the United States Supreme Court and the 1868 trial of President Andrew Johnson, which set the precedent by which our current president will be judged. The outcomes of these cases have remained extraordinarily important to the American system of government because they strengthened the constitutionally directed separation of powers. And though both men were acquitted, Chief Justice Rehnquist shows how a conviction in either case would also have deeply affected our present interpretation of the Constitution — and, more likely, changed the course of history.

Chief Justice Rehnquist presents the dramatic account of two of the most important legal decisions ever rendered in the US. The outcomes of these cases have remained of extraordinary importance to government because they continued and strengthened the constitutionally-directed separation of powers.

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Editorial Reviews

Washington Post
William Rehnquist's 1992 book on impeachment is being devoured for any clues about he he will handle the current Presidential scandal.
Newsweek
For many people trying to sort through what may unfold in the upcoming season, there is no better guide than Grand Inquests
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
The importance the framers of the Constitution attributed to the balance of powers among the three branches of our government is brilliantly illustrated here by Chief Justice Rehnquist The Supreme Court. Clear expositions of historical and political premises, along with lively evocations of chief players and their milieus, animate the author's engrossing account of the Senate's 1805 impeachment trial and its acquittal of the choleric Supreme Court Justice Chase for his alleged attack on the Constitution during his concurrent term as a circuit court judge. The politically motivated impeachment trial of President Johnson in 1868 -- he was also acquitted -- concerned his removal from office of Secretary of State Edwin Stanton without Senate approval, an alleged violation of the debatable Tenure of Office Act. While Chase's acquittal, writes Rehnquist, assured "the independence of federal judges from congressional oversight'' of their judicial opinions, the repeal of the Tenure of Office Act by the Supreme Court in 1926 freed presidents to remove executive officers from their posts at will. Thus Rehnquist concludes from his present-day perspective that with the threat of congressional impeachment largely curtailed -- except for criminal offenses -- the chief executive is now directly answerable only to the electorate.
Library Journal
Supreme Court Chief Justice Rehnquist has written a necessary and proper account of two of the most significant trials and "cases'' in American legal and political history: the 1804 impeachment of Justice Samuel Chase of the U.S. Supreme Court and the 1868 impeachment of President Andrew Johnson. According to the author, U.S. legal and political history would have turned out differently and worse had either Chase or Johnson or both been convicted. With a lawyer's attention to detail, Rehnquist marshalls his facts to prove that impeachment, briefly adumbrated in the Constitution, was designed as a judicial type of inquiry into specific acts rather than a vote of confidence over policies. Impeachment is often confused with conviction; this good book clearly shows the important difference.
-- Stephen K. Shaw, Northwest Nazarene College, Nampa, Idaho
Library Journal
Supreme Court Chief Justice Rehnquist has written a necessary and proper account of two of the most significant trials and "cases'' in American legal and political history: the 1804 impeachment of Justice Samuel Chase of the U.S. Supreme Court and the 1868 impeachment of President Andrew Johnson. According to the author, U.S. legal and political history would have turned out differently and worse had either Chase or Johnson or both been convicted. With a lawyer's attention to detail, Rehnquist marshalls his facts to prove that impeachment, briefly adumbrated in the Constitution, was designed as a judicial type of inquiry into specific acts rather than a vote of confidence over policies. Impeachment is often confused with conviction; this good book clearly shows the important difference.
-- Stephen K. Shaw, Northwest Nazarene College, Nampa, Idaho
Booknews
The two acquittals by the Senate were important because they forestalled the use of impeachment solely for political purposes in this country. Chief Justice Rehnquist tells the stories. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780688171711
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 1/18/1999
  • Pages: 303
  • Product dimensions: 6.05 (w) x 9.15 (h) x 0.76 (d)

Meet the Author

William H. Rehnquist is the sixteenth Chief Justice of the United States and the author of The Supreme Court and All the Laws but One.

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