Report of the Committee... Articles of Impeachment

CONSTITUTION   |   John ADAMS   |   William BLOUNT

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"ONE OF THE MORE IMPORTANT OF AMERICAN HISTORICAL DOCUMENTS": VERY RARE FIRST EDITION OF REPORT OF THE COMMITTEE… [ON] ARTICLES OF IMPEACHMENT AGAINST WILLIAM BLOUNT, 1797—DOCUMENTING "THE FIRST FEDERAL IMPEACHMENT"

(CONSTITUTION) (BLOUNT, William). Report of the Committee of the House of Representatives of the United States, Appointed to Prepare and Report Articles of Impeachment Against William Blount, A Senator of the United States, Impeached of High Crimes and Misdemeanors… To Discover the Whole Nature and Extent of the Offence, And Who Are the Parties and Associates Therein. (Philadelphia): John Fenno, (1797). Octavo, period-style full speckled calf-gilt, red morocco spine label; pp. (2) (i), ii-vi, (1-3), 4-16, (i), ii-clx. $7800.

First edition of the authoritative Report detailing the House of Representatives' assertion of "High Crimes and Misdemeanors" in its groundbreaking impeachment of Senator Blount—"setting precedent… concerning the nature of impeachment, conviction and expulsion"—inaugurating "how the Founders generation… believed the removal of public officials should proceed."

Blount, who served as governor of the Southwest territory and the first of two U.S. senators from Tennessee, intended to "make a major land sale to Britain" after inciting the Cherokee and Creek Indians to subvert Spanish control of land from Florida to Louisiana. When "President John Adams exposed the plot, which threatened American neutrality in the conflict between Britain and Spain, to Congress, the House of Representatives quickly voted to impeach Blount, but before it drafted and presented the articles of impeachment, the Senate voted to expel him. Undeterred, the House drafted and approved five articles of impeachment… [which] asserted that Blount committed high crimes and misdemeanors… [and] potentially placed the U.S. in violation of treaty obligations." In this—the "first federal impeachment"—Blount argued, in his defense, that a senator "is not a civil officer of the U.S." He also maintained "that, even if a senator is an officer of the U.S., he was no longer an officer because he had been expelled from the Senate. Finally he argued that because his conduct did not involve the use of his office, it could not fall within the scope of 'High Crimes and Misdemeanors.' The Senate voted to dismiss the articles of impeachment. Because they deliberated in closed session, there is no record to establish the grounds by which the Senate granted the dismissal… nevertheless Blount's arguments confirm that the House had voted on the basis of unofficial conduct" (Kinkopf, Scope of "High Crimes and Misdemeanors," 215-16).

Also vital to the impact of the Blount impeachment is the view that "Senators feared that a House… might decide to impeach senators for differing political views, which seemed quite possible as party strife worsened in the 1790s." Instead the Senate "expelled Blount based on Article I, Section 5, clause 2 of the Constitution, which provided that 'Each House may determine the Rules of its Proceedings, punish its Members for disorderly Behavior, and with the concurrence of two thirds, expel a Member.' With the exception of one senator who also believed Blount guilty, everyone in both houses voted to oust the unscrupulous Blount." Nevertheless, "both senators and representatives were acutely aware that the precedent they set concerning the nature of impeachment, conviction and expulsion would carry weight in the future. Thus, only after Blount was expelled, did Congress conduct what Hamilton in The Federalist No. 65 considered the 'National Inquest' which it believed impeachment entailed. This would both determine the 'high crimes and misdemeanors' involved… and establish how the Founders generation—several congressmen were among the framers—believed the removal of public officials should proceed" (Penack, Review, Journal of the Early Republic, 123-24). The Blount impeachment is, in effect,"a twofold tale of discovery: the first, a story of ventures on the old frontier; the second, a chronicle of the nation's foray, spawned by these events, into new constitutional territory" (Melton, First Impeachment, vii). This extensively detailed Report "ranks as one of the more important of American historical documents" (Eberstadt 18). Streeter 1526. Howes B549aa. Evans 34785. Sabin 6003.

Title page with less than 1/4 inch lower outer corner loss, text with very light scattered foxing, chiefly to text edges, unobtrusive pinholes to gutter's edge from early stitching. Near-fine.

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