“The President, Vice President 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.”
— U.S. Constitution, Article II, section 4
Collection of the U.S. House of Representatives
Representative Thaddeus Stevens of Pennsylvania, a Radical Republican, gave the last speech during House debate on articles of impeachment against President Andrew Johnson on March 2, 1868. Johnson became the first president impeached by the House, but he was later acquitted by the Senate by one vote.
The Constitution gives the House of Representatives the sole power to impeach an official, and it makes the Senate the sole court for impeachment trials. The power of impeachment is limited to removal from office but also provides for a removed officer to be disqualified from holding future office. Fines and potential jail time for crimes committed while in office are left to civil courts.
Impeachment comes from British constitutional history. The process evolved from the 14th century as a way for parliament to hold the king’s ministers accountable for their public actions. Impeachment, as Alexander Hamilton of New York explained in Federalist 65, varies from civil or criminal courts in that it strictly involves the “misconduct of public men, or in other words from the abuse or violation of some public trust.” Individual state constitutions had provided for impeachment for “maladministration” or “corruption” before the U.S. Constitution was written. And the founders, fearing the potential for abuse of executive power, considered impeachment so important that they made it part of the Constitution even before they defined the contours of the presidency.
During the Federal Constitutional Convention, the framers addressed whether even to include impeachment trials in the Constitution, the venue and process for such trials, what crimes should warrant impeachment, and the likelihood of conviction. Rufus King of Massachusetts argued that having the legislative branch pass judgment on the executive would undermine the separation of powers; better to let elections punish a President. “The Executive was to hold his place for a limited term like the members of the Legislature,” King said, so “he would periodically be tried for his behaviour by his electors.” Massachusetts’s Elbridge Gerry, however, said impeachment was a way to keep the executive in check: “A good magistrate will not fear [impeachments]. A bad one ought to be kept in fear of them.”
Another issue arose regarding whether Congress might lack the resolve to try and convict a sitting President. Presidents, some delegates observed, controlled executive appointments which ambitious Members of Congress might find desirable. Delegates to the Convention also remained undecided on the venue for impeachment trials. The Virginia Plan, which set the agenda for the Convention, initially contemplated using the judicial branch. Again, though, the founders chose to follow the British example, where the House of Commons brought charges against officers and the House of Lords considered them at trial. Ultimately, the founders decided that during presidential impeachment trials, the House would manage the prosecution, while the Chief Justice would preside over the Senate during the trial.
The founders also addressed what crimes constituted grounds for impeachment. Treason and bribery were obvious choices, but George Mason of Virginia thought those crimes did not include a large number of punishable offenses against the state. James Madison of Virginia objected to using the term “maladministration” because it was too vague. Mason then substituted “other high Crimes and Misdemeanors” in addition to treason and bribery. The term “high Crimes and Misdemeanors” was a technical term—again borrowed from British legal practice—that denoted crimes by public officials against the government. Mason’s revision was accepted without further debate. But subsequent experience demonstrated the revised phrase failed to clarify what constituted impeachable offenses. The House’s Role
The House brings impeachment charges against federal officials as part of its oversight and investigatory responsibilities. Individual Members of the House can introduce impeachment resolutions like ordinary bills, or the House could initiate proceedings by passing a resolution authorizing an inquiry. The Committee on the Judiciary ordinarily has jurisdiction over impeachments, but special committees investigated charges before the Judiciary Committee was created in 1813. The committee then chooses whether to pursue articles of impeachment against the accused official and report them to the full House. If the articles are adopted (by simple majority vote), the House appoints Members by resolution to manage the ensuing Senate trial on its behalf. These managers act as prosecutors in the Senate and are usually members of the Judiciary Committee. The number of managers has varied across impeachment trials but has traditionally been an odd number. The partisan composition of managers has also varied depending on the nature of the impeachment, but the managers, by definition, always support the House’s impeachment action.
The Use of Impeachment
The House has initiated impeachment proceedings more than 60 times but less than a third have led to full impeachments. Just eight—all federal judges—have been convicted and removed from office by the Senate. Outside of the 15 federal judges impeached by the House, two Presidents (Andrew Johnson in 1868 and William Jefferson (Bill) Clinton in 1998), a cabinet secretary (William Belknap in 1876), and a U.S. Senator (William Blount of North Carolina in 1797) have also been impeached.
Blount’s impeachment trial—the first ever conducted—established the principle that Members of Congress and Senators were not “Civil Officers” under the Constitution, and accordingly, they could only be removed from office by a two-thirds vote for expulsion by their respective chambers. Blount, who had been accused of instigating an insurrection of American Indians to further British interests in Florida, was not convicted, but the Senate did expel him. Other impeachments have featured judges taking the bench when drunk or profiting from their position. The trial of President Johnson, however, focused on whether the President could remove cabinet officers without obtaining Congress’s approval. Johnson’s acquittal firmly set the precedent—debated from the beginning of the nation—that the President may remove appointees even if they required Senate confirmation to hold office.
For Further Reading
Farrand, Max, ed. The Records of the Federal Convention of 1787. Rev. ed. 4 vols. (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1937).
Kyvig, David E. The Age of Impeachment: American Constitutional Culture Since 1960. (Lawrence, Kansas: University Press of Kansas, 2008).
Les Benedict, Michael. The Impeachment and Trial of Andrew Johnson. (New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 1999).
Madison, James, Alexander Hamilton, John Jay. The Federalist Papers. (New York: Penguin Books, 1987).
Melton, Buckner F., Jr. The First Impeachment: The Constitution’s Framers and the Case of Senator William Blount. (Macon, Georgia: Mercer University Press, 1998).
Rehnquist, William H. Grand Inquests: The Historic Impeachments of Justice Samuel Chase and President Andrew Johnson. (New York: Harper Perennial, 1999).
“Report by the Staff of the Impeachment Inquiry on the Constitutional Grounds for Presidential Impeachment,” Committee Print, Committee on the Judiciary, U.S. House of Representatives, 93rd Cong., 2nd sess., February 1974.
Storing, Herbert J., ed. The Complete Anti-Federalist. 7 vols. (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1981).
Sullivan, John. “Chapter 27—Impeachment,” in House Practice: A Guide to the Rules, Precedents, and Procedures of the House. (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 2011).
Thomas, David Y. “The Law of Impeachment in the United States,” The American Political Science Review 2 (May 1908): 378–395.
1908 – Henry Ford‘s Model T, a “universal car” designed for the masses, went on sale for the first time.
1938 – Hitler’s troops occupied the Sudetenland portion of Czechoslovakia. In an effort to avoid war, the leaders of Britain and France had agreed to cede the German-speaking area to Hitler, who later broke the agreement and occupied all of Czechoslovakia.
1949 – The People’s Republic of China was founded with Mao Zedong as Chairman.
1979 – After 70 years of American control, the Panama Canal Zone was formally handed over to Panama.
Birthday – Virtuoso pianist Vladimir Horowitz (1904-1989) was born in Berdichev, Russia. He made his American debut in 1928 with the New York Philharmonic and became a U.S. citizen in 1944. In 1986, after a self-imposed absence of 60 years, he performed a concert in his native Russia.
October 2, 1935 – Mussolini’s Italian troops invaded Abyssinia, beginning an occupation lasting until 1941.
October 2, 1967 – Thurgood Marshall (1908-1993) was sworn in as the first African American associate justice of the U.S. Supreme Court. He served until 1991 and was known for opposing discrimination and the death penalty, and for championing free speech and civil liberties.
October 2, 1968 – California’s Redwood National Park was established. Redwoods are the tallest of all trees, growing up to 400 feet (120 meters) during a lifetime that can span 2,000 years.
Birthday – Indian political and spiritual leader Mohandas (Mahatma) Gandhi (1869-1948) was born in Porbandar, India. He achieved worldwide fame for his devout lifestyle and nonviolent resistance which ended British rule over India. He was assassinated by a religious fanatic in the garden of his home in New Delhi on January 30, 1948.
Birthday – American statesman Cordell Hull (1871-1955) was born in Pickett County, Tennessee. He served in both houses of Congress, as Secretary of State, and was instrumental in the establishment of the United Nations.
October 3, 1863 – President Abraham Lincoln issued a proclamation designating the last Thursday in November as Thanksgiving Day.
October 3, 1929 – Yugoslavia became the official name of the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes.
October 3, 1932 – Iraq gained independence from Britain and joined the League of Nations.
October 3, 1974 – Frank Robinson was hired by the Cleveland Indians as baseball’s first African American major league manager.
October 3, 1990 – After 45 years of Cold War division, East and West Germany were reunited as the Federal Republic of Germany.
October 4, 1582 – The Gregorian Calendar took effect in Catholic countries as Pope Gregory XIII issued a decree stating the day following Thursday, October 4, 1582, would be Friday, October 15, 1582, correcting a 10-day error accumulated by the Julian Calendar. Britain and the American colonies adopted the Gregorian Calendar in 1752.
October 4, 1830 – Belgium gained its independence, after having been a part of the Netherlands since 1815.
October 4, 1943 – The Island of Corsica became the first French territory in Europe freed from Nazi control as Free French troops liberated the city of Bastia.
October 4, 1957 – The Space Age began as the Russians launched the first satellite into orbit. Sputnik I weighed just 184 lbs. and transmitted a beeping radio signal for 21 days. The remarkable accomplishment by Soviet Russia sent a shockwave through the American political leadership resulting in U.S. efforts to be the first on the moon.
October 4, 1965 – Pope Paul VI became the first Pope to visit the U.S. and the first to address the United Nations.
October 4, 1993 – Russian tank-soldiers loyal to President Boris Yeltsin shelled the Russian White House, crushing a hard-line Communist rebellion. Yeltsin then fired Vice-president Alexander Rutskoi and jailed other opposition leaders.
Birthday – St. Francis of Assisi (1181-1226) was born in Assisi, Umbria, Italy (as Giovanni Francesco Bernardone). He renounced his family’s wealth and founded the Friars Minor (Franciscan Order).
Birthday – Rutherford B. Hayes (1822-1893) the 19th U.S. President was born in Delaware, Ohio. He served from March 4, 1877 to March 3, 1881. He was a Republican best known for his much-quoted statement, “He serves his party best who serves his country best.”
Birthday – Artist Frederic Remington (1861-1909) was born in Canton, New York. He studied at Yale Art School then traveled extensively throughout the American West in the late 1800s sketching cowboys, Native Americans, frontiersmen, and soldiers. He also created lively sculptures featuring bucking broncos.
October 5, 1813 – Shawnee Indian Chief Tecumseh was defeated and killed during the War of 1812. Regarded as one of the greatest American Indians, he was a powerful orator who defended his people against white settlement. When the War of 1812 broke out, he joined the British as a brigadier general and was killed at the Battle of the Thames in Ontario.
October 5, 1877 – Following a 1,700-mile retreat, Chief Joseph of the Nez Perce Indians surrendered to U.S. Cavalry troops at Bear’s Paw near Chinook, Montana. “From where the sun now stands, I will fight no more forever,” he declared.
October 5, 1908 – Bulgaria proclaimed its independence from the Ottoman Empire.
October 5, 1910 – Portugal became a republic following a successful revolt against King Manuel II.
October 5, 1938 – Czech President Dr. Eduard Benes resigned and fled abroad amid threats from Adolf Hitler.
October 5, 1964 – The largest mass escape since the construction of the Berlin Wall occurred as 57 East German refugees escaped to West Berlin after tunneling beneath the wall.
October 5, 1986 – Former U.S. Marine Eugene Hasenfus was captured by Nicaraguan Sandinistas after a plane carrying arms for the Nicaraguan rebels (Contras) was shot down over Nicaragua. This marked the beginning of the “Iran-Contra” controversy resulting in Congressional hearings and a major scandal for the Reagan White House after it was revealed that money from the sale of arms to Iran was used to fund covert operations in Nicaragua.
Birthday – Theologian Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758) was born in East Windsor, Connecticut. He led the “Great Awakening” religious revival in the American colonies and later became president of Princeton.
Birthday – Chester A. Arthur (1830-1886) the 21st President of the U.S. was born in Fairfield, Vermont. He succeeded to the presidency following the assassination of James A. Garfield. He served from September 20, 1881 to March 3, 1885, but was not nominated by the Republican Party for a second term.
Birthday – “Father of the Space Age” Robert Goddard (1882-1945) was born in Worcester, Massachusetts. During his lifetime he was ridiculed by the public and the press over his idea of constructing a space flight machine. In 1926, he launched the world’s first liquid-fueled rocket on a farm near Auburn, Mass. In 1935, his liquid-fueled rocket surpassed the speed of sound. Other developments included a steering apparatus for rocket machines, staged rockets to reach high altitudes, rocket fuel pumps, and a self-cooling rocket motor.
Birthday – Czech playwright and political leader Vaclav Havel was born in Prague, October 5, 1936. He spent over 5 years in prison for speaking out against government abuses. He went on to lead the peaceful “velvet revolution” which ended Soviet-style Communism in Czechoslovakia in 1989.
October 6, 1927 – The first “talkie” opened in New York. The Jazz Singer starring Al Jolson was the first full-length feature film using spoken dialogue.
October 6, 1928 – Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek became president of the Republic of China upon the introduction of a new constitution.
October 6, 1949 – “Tokyo Rose” (Iva Toguri d’Aquino) was sentenced in San Francisco to 10 years imprisonment and fined $10,000 for treason. She had broadcast music and Japanese propaganda to American troops in the Pacific during World War II. She was pardoned by President Gerald Ford in 1977.
October 6, 1973 – The Yom Kippur War started as Egypt and Syria launched attacks on Israeli positions on the East Bank of the Suez and the Golan Heights.
October 6, 1978 – Iranian religious leader Ayatollah Khomeini was granted asylum in France after being expelled from Iran for his opposition to the Shah.
October 6, 1981 – Egyptian President Anwar Sadat (1918-1981) was assassinated in Cairo by Muslim fundamentalists while watching a military parade. He had shared the 1978 Nobel Peace Prize with Menachem Begin of Israel. He had signed an American-sponsored peace accord with Israel, but had been denounced by other Arab leaders.
Birthday – Engineer and inventor George Westinghouse (1846-1914) was born in Central Bridge, New York. He developed air brakes for trains and was later responsible for the adoption of alternating current (AC) systems for electric power transmission in the U.S. He was also the first employer to give his employees paid vacations.
Birthday – Norwegian explorer Thor Heyerdahl was born in Larvik, Norway, October 6, 1914. He used Kon-Tiki and other primitive ocean-going vessels to prove the possibility of transoceanic contact between ancient, widely separated civilizations.
October 7, 1765 – The Stamp Act Congress convened in New York City with representatives from nine colonies meeting in protest to the British Stamp Act which imposed the first direct tax by the British Crown upon the American colonies.
October 7, 1940 – During World War II in Europe, German troops invaded Romania to take seize strategic oil fields.
October 7, 1949 – The German Democratic Republic came into existence in East Germany. Dominated by Soviet Russia, it lasted until German reunification in 1990.
October 7, 1985 – Palestinian terrorists seized the Italian passenger ship Achille Lauro carrying about 440 persons, threatening to blow it up if Israel did not free 50 Palestinian prisoners. Leon Klinghoffer, an elderly wheelchair-bound American, was murdered.
October 8, 1871 – The Great Fire of Chicago erupted. According to legend, it started when Mrs. O’Leary’s cow kicked over a lantern in her barn on DeKoven Street. Over 300 persons were killed and 90,000 were left homeless as the fire leveled 3.5 square miles, destroying 17,450 buildings. Financial losses totaled over $200 million.
October 8, 1918 – During World War I in the Argonne Forest in France, U.S. Sergeant Alvin C. York single-handedly took out a German machine-gun battalion, killing over a dozen and capturing 132. He was later awarded the Medal of Honor and the French Croix de Guerre.
October 8, 1993 – The U.N. General Assembly lifted economic sanctions against South Africa following the end of racial apartheid. The sanctions had been imposed since the 1960s.
October 8, 1996 – Palestinian President Yasser Arafat made his first public visit to Israel for talks with Israeli President Ezer Weizman at his private residence.
October 8, 1998 – The U.S. House of Representatives voted 258-176 to approve a resolutionlaunching an impeachment inquiry of President Bill Clinton. It was only the third time in U.S. history the House launched a formal impeachment inquiry of a sitting president. (The other two: Andrew Johnson and Richard Nixon).
Birthday – American fighter pilot Ace Eddie Rickenbacker (1890-1973) was born in Columbus, Ohio. He commanded the first U.S. aero unit to take part in World War I and was credited with 26 victories, becoming America’s leading Ace. He was awarded the Medal of Honor. He later got involved in auto racing and headed Eastern Air Lines from 1934-63.
October 9, 1962 – Uganda achieved independence after nearly 70 years of British rule.
October 9, 1970 – Cambodia declared itself the Khmer Republic following the abolishment of the monarchy by the legislature.
Birthday – John Lennon (1940-1980) was born in Liverpool, England. He was a member of The Beatles, an influential rock group which captivated audiences first in England and Germany, and later in America and throughout the world. He was murdered in New York City on December 8, 1980.
October 10, 1954 – Ho Chi Minh entered Hanoi, Vietnam, after the withdrawal of French troops, in accordance with armistice terms ending the seven-year struggle between Communist Vietnamese and the French.
October 10, 1973 – Spiro T. Agnew (1918-1996) resigned the office of Vice President of the United States amid charges of income tax evasion on illegal payments allegedly received while he was governor of Maryland and after he became Vice President. He was later given a $10,000 fine and sentenced to serve three years probation. He was succeeded as Vice President by Gerald R. Ford, who went on to become President after the resignation of Richard M. Nixon.
Birthday – Italian opera composer Giuseppi Verdi (1813-1901) was born in Le Roncole, Italy. His 26 operas include; Rigoletto, Il Trovatore, La Traviata and Aida, and are among the most popular of all classical music performed today.
October 11, 1521 – King Henry VIII of England was given the title “Defender of the Faith” by Pope Leo X following the publication of the King’s book against Martin Luther.
October 11, 1899 – The Boer War began in South African between the British Empire and Boers of the Transvaal and Orange Free State. The war ended in 1902 with the Treaty of Pretoria in which the Transvaal and Orange Free State became British colonies.
October 11, 1939 – Albert Einstein warned President Franklin D. Roosevelt that his theories could lead to Nazi Germany’s development of an atomic bomb. Einstein suggested the U.S. develop its own bomb. This resulted in the top secret “Manhattan Project.”
October 11, 1962 – The Second Vatican Council was opened in St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome by Pope John XXIII. Sessions were held in four successive autumns from 1962-65. Vatican II resulted in sweeping changes to the Catholic Church including the use of English and local native languages in the Mass instead of Latin, and openness and cooperation with other religions and denominations.
October 11, 1976 – The “Gang of Four,” including the widow of Mao Zedong, was arrested in China, charged with plotting a coup. They were subsequently tried and convicted of various crimes against the state.
Birthday – Eleanor Roosevelt (1884-1962) was born in New York City. She was the wife of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, 32nd U.S. President. As First Lady, she led an unprecedented independent life, striving to improve the lives of people all over the world. In 1933, she became the first wife of a president to give her own news conference in the White House. She traveled extensively on her own and was affectionately called “First Lady of the world.” She served as a U.S. delegate to the United Nations for many years and helped write the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Eugenie Anderson becomes the first woman U.S. ambassador.
October 12, 1492 – After a 33-day voyage, Christopher Columbus made his first landfall in the New World in the Bahamas. He named the first land sighted as El Salvador, claiming it in the name of the Spanish Crown. Columbus was seeking a western sea route from Europe to Asia and believed he had found an island of the Indies. He thus called the first island natives he met, ‘Indians.’
The House of Representatives passes the Equal Rights Amendment 354-23.
October 12, 1811 – Paraguay declared its independence from Spain and Argentina.
October 12, 1822 – Brazil became independent of Portugal.
October 12, 1960 – During a debate over colonialism in the United Nations, Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev took off his shoe and pounded his desk repeatedly.
Suicide bombers at Aden, Yemen, damage USS Cole; 17 crew members killed and over 35 wounded.
Birthday – British composer and conductor Ralph Vaughan Williams (1872-1958) was born in Down Ampney, Gloucestershire, England. He combined modern composition techniques with traditional English folk and Tudor music to create a uniquely British style. His major compositions include; Mass in G Minor, Fantasia on a Theme of Tallis and the opera The Pilgrim’s Progress. He also composed nine symphonies, church and choral music, film and stage music and several operas.
October 13, 54 A.D. – Roman Emperor Claudius died after eating mushrooms poisoned by his wife, the Empress Agrippina.
October 13, 1775 – The United States Navy was born after the Second Continental Congress authorized the acquisition of a fleet of ships.
October 13, 1792 – The cornerstone of the White House was laid by George Washington. The building, located at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, is three stories tall with over 100 rooms, and was designed by James Hoban. In November of 1800, President John Adams and his family moved in. The building was first known as the “Presidential Palace,” but acquired the name “White House” about 10 years after its completion. It was burned by British troops in 1814, then reconstructed, refurbished and reoccupied in 1817.
October 13, 1884 – Greenwich was established as the universal time from which standard times throughout the world are calculated.
October 13, 1943 – Italy declared war on its former Axis partner Germany after the downfall of Mussolini and collapse of his Fascist government.
October 13, 1990 – The first Russian Orthodox service in over 70 years was held in St. Basil’s Cathedral, next to the Kremlin, in Red Square, Moscow.
Birthday – Molly Pitcher (1754-1832) was born near Trenton, New Jersey (as Mary Ludwig). She was a water carrier at the Battle of Monmouth in 1778 during the American Revolution. After her husband, artilleryman John Hays, collapsed, she took his place at his cannon.
October 14, 1066 – The Norman Conquest began with the Battle of Hastings in which King Harold II of England, the last of the Saxon kings, was defeated and killed by William of Normandy’s troops.
October 14, 1912 – Former President Theodore Roosevelt was shot by a fanatic while campaigning in Milwaukee. Roosevelt was saved by his thick overcoat, a glasses case and a folded speech in his breast pocket, all of which slowed the bullet. Although wounded, he insisted on making the speech with the bullet lodged in his chest and did not go to the hospital until the meeting ended. Roosevelt, a rugged outdoorsman, fully recovered in two weeks.
October 14, 1933 – Nazi Germany announced its withdrawal from the League of Nations and stated it would take no further part in the Geneva Disarmament Conference.
October 14, 1964 – Civil Rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr., became the youngest recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize. He donated the $54,000 in prize money to the Civil Rights movement.
Birthday – Pennsylvania founder William Penn (1644-1718) was born in London. In 1681, he received a Royal charter with a large land grant in America from King Charles II. Penn, a Quaker, welcomed members of all religious faiths and established a democratic form of government in his province which measured over 50,000 square miles.
Birthday – Dwight D. Eisenhower (1890-1969) the 34th U.S. President was born in Denison, Texas. He served two terms as President, from January 20, 1953 to January 20, 1961. Nicknamed “Ike,” he was a West Point graduate and career Army officer who became Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces in Europe during World War II. He held the rank of Five-star General of the Army.
October 15, 1815 – Napoleon Bonaparte arrived on the Island of St. Helena beginning a British-imposed exile following his defeat at the Battle of Waterloo.
October 15, 1917 – World War I spy Mata Hari was executed by a French firing squad at Vincennes Barracks, outside Paris.
October 15, 1945 – Pierre Laval, the former premier of Vichy France, was executed for collaborating with Nazi Germany during World War II.
October 15, 1946 – Nazi leader Hermann Goering committed suicide by swallowing poison in his Nuremberg prison cell just hours before his scheduled hanging for war crimes.
October 15, 1964 – Soviet Russia’s leader Nikita Khrushchev was deposed as First Secretary of the Soviet Communist Party, and replaced by Leonid Brezhnev.
October 15, 1991 – The U.S. Senate confirmed Clarence Thomas to the Supreme Court by a 52-48 vote following several days of tumultuous hearings before the Senate Judiciary Committee concerning sexual harassment charges made by a former aide. Thomas became the second African American to sit on the Court, replacing retired Justice Thurgood Marshall, an African American.
Birthday – German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900) was born in the Province of Saxony. Best known for stating, “God is dead,” and for his prediction in the late 1800s, “There will be wars such as there have never been on Earth before.” He eventually succumbed to mental illness.
Birthday – Lee Iacocca was born to Italian immigrant parents in Allentown, Pennsylvania, October 15, 1924 (as Lido Anthony Iacocca). Dubbed “America’s first corporate folk hero,” he was a mechanical engineer who became an automobile executive at Ford and later helped save Chrysler from bankruptcy. He also served as foundation chairman for the rehabilitation of the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island.
October 16, 1701 – Yale University was founded in Killingworth, Connecticut (as the Collegiate School of Connecticut). The school moved to New Haven in 1716. Two years later, the name was changed to Yale College to honor Elihu Yale, a philanthropist. In 1886, it became Yale University.
October 16, 1793 – Queen Marie Antoinette was beheaded during the Reign of Terror following the French Revolution. She was the wife of King Louis XVI and had become the symbol of the people’s hatred for the old regime due to her extravagance and frivolity. According to legend, she responded, “Let them eat cake,” when told poor people had no bread.
October 16, 1853 – The Crimean War began after the Turkish Ottoman Empire declared war on Russia, Britain, France and portions of Italy allied with the Turks against Russia. It became the first war observed up close by newspaper reporters and photographers. One of the battles was immortalized in Tennyson’s poem, The Charge of the Light Brigade. Amid poor sanitary conditions, disease killed many wounded French and British troops. British nurse Florence Nightingale then pioneered modern-style sanitation methods, saving many lives.
October 16, 1859 – Fanatical abolitionist John Brown seized the Federal Arsenal at Harpers Ferry with about 20 followers. Three days later, Brown was captured and the insurrection was put down by U.S. Marines under the command of Col. Robert E. Lee. Brown was convicted by the Commonwealth of Virginia of treason, murder, and inciting slaves to rebellion, and was hanged on December 2, 1859.
October 16, 1916 – The first birth control clinic in America was opened in Brooklyn, New York, by Margaret Sanger, a nurse who worked among the poor on the Lower East Side of New York City.
October 16, 1946 – Ten former Nazi leaders were hanged by the Allies following their conviction for war crimes at Nuremberg, Germany.
October 16, 1964 – China detonated its first nuclear bomb at the Lop Nor test site in Sinkiang.
October 16, 1978 – Cardinal Karol Wojtyla of Poland was elected Pope. He was the first non-Italian Pope chosen in 456 years and took the name John Paul II.
October 16, 1995 – The Million Man March took place in Washington, D.C., under the direction of Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan, who delivered the main address to the gathering of African American males.
Birthday – American teacher and journalist Noah Webster (1758-1843) was born in West Hartford, Connecticut. His name became synonymous with “dictionary” after he compiled the first American dictionaries of the English language.
Birthday – Irish poet and playwright Oscar Wilde (1854-1900) was born in Dublin, Ireland. Best known for his comedies including; The Importance of Being Earnest. And his novel The Picture of Dorian Gray in which he wrote, “There is only one thing in the world worse than being talked about and that is not being talked about.”
Birthday – David Ben-Gurion (1886-1973) was born in Plonsk, Poland. He was largely responsible for founding the modern state of Israel in 1948 and is revered as “Father of the Nation.”
Birthday – American playwright Eugene O’Neill (1888-1953) was born in New York City. He wrote more than 35 plays and was the first American dramatist awarded a Nobel Prize for literature. He also received four Pulitzers. His dramas, which dealt realistically with psychological and social problems, included; Beyond the Horizon, The Iceman Cometh, The Emperor Jones and Long Day’s Journey into Night.
Birthday – American jurist William O. Douglas (1898-1980) was born in Maine, Minnesota. He served as an associate justice on the Supreme Court for 36 years and was also a world traveler, conservationist, outdoorsman and author.
October 17, 1777 – During the American Revolutionary War, British General John Burgoyne and his entire army of 5,700 men surrendered to American General Horatio Gates after the Battle of Saratoga, the first big American victory.
October 17-25, 1944 – The Battle of Leyte Gulf, the largest naval battle in history, took place off the Philippine Islands, during World War II in the Pacific. The battle involved 216 U.S. warships and 64 Japanese ships and resulted in the destruction of the Japanese Navy including the Japanese Battleship Musashi, one of the largest ever built.
1986 In a short-lived victory for the Nicaraguan policy of the Reagan administration, the President signs into law an act of Congress approving $100 million of military and “humanitarian” aid for the Contras. Unfortunately for Ronald Reagan and his advisors, the Iran-Contra scandal is just about to break wide open, seriously compromising their goal of overthrowing the leftist Sandinista government in Nicaragua. history.com
October 18, 1685 – The Edict of Nantes was revoked by King Louis XIV of France thus depriving Protestant Huguenots of all religious and civil liberties previously granted to them by Henry IV in 1598.
October 18, 1945 – The Nuremberg War Crimes Trial began with indictments against 24 former Nazi leaders including Hermann Göring and Albert Speer. The trial lasted 10 months, with delivery of the judgment completed on October 1, 1946. Twelve Nazis were sentenced to death by hanging, three to life imprisonment, four to lesser prison terms, and three were acquitted.
October 19, 1781 – As their band played The World Turned Upside Down, the British Army marched out in formation and surrendered to the Americans at Yorktown. More than 7,000 British and Hessian troops, led by British General Lord Cornwallis, surrendered to General George Washington. The war between Britain and its American colonies was effectively ended. The final peace treaty was signed in Paris on September 3, 1783.
October 19, 1960 – The U.S. embargo of Cuba began as the State Department prohibited shipment of all goods except medicine and food.
October 19, 1987 – “Black Monday” occurred on Wall Street as stocks plunged a record 508 points or 22.6 per cent, the largest one-day drop in stock market history.
October 19, 1990 – Beset by a seriously eroding economy, Soviet Russia’s President Mikhail Gorbachev won parliamentary approval to switch to a market economy.
October 20, 1818 – The U.S. and Britain agreed to set the U.S.- Canadian border at the 49th parallel.
October 20, 1935 – Mao Zedong’s 6,000 mile “Long March” ended as his Communist forces arrived at Yanan, in northwest China, almost a year after fleeing Chiang Kai-shek’s armies in the south.
October 20, 1944 – During World War II in the Pacific, General Douglas MacArthur set foot onPhilippine soil for the first time since his escape in 1942, fulfilling his promise, “I shall return.”
October 20, 1968 – Jacqueline Kennedy married multi-millionaire Greek businessman Aristotle Onassis, ending nearly five years of widowhood following the assassination of her first husband, President John F. Kennedy.
October 20, 1973 – The ‘Saturday Night Massacre’ occurred during the Watergate scandal as President Richard M. Nixon fired Special Prosecutor Archibald Cox and Deputy Attorney General William Ruckelshaus. Attorney General Elliot Richardson resigned. A firestorm of political protest erupted over the firings leading to widespread demands for Nixon’s impeachment.
Birthday – British architect Christopher Wren (1632-1723) was born in Wiltshire, in southwestern England. Considered one of the greatest minds of his time, he designed St. Paul’s Cathedral and 52 churches for the City of London. His secular buildings included the “new” wing of Hampton Court near London and Greenwich Hospital, now the Royal Naval College.
October 21, 1805 – The Battle of Trafalgar took place between the British Royal Navy and the combined French and Spanish fleets. The victorious British ended the threat of Napoleon’s invasion of England. British naval hero Admiral Horatio Nelson was mortally wounded aboard his ship Victory.
October 21, 1879 – Thomas Edison successfully tested an electric incandescent lamp with a carbonized filament at his laboratory in Menlo Park, New Jersey, keeping it lit for over 13 hours.
October 21, 1915 – The first transatlantic radio voice message was made by the American Telephone and Telegraph Company from Virginia to Paris.
October 21, 1944 – During World War II in Europe, American troops captured Aachen in western Germany after a week of hard fighting. It was the first large German city taken by the Allies.
October 21, 1967 – Thousands of anti-war protesters stormed the Pentagon during a rally against the Vietnam War in Washington, D.C. About 250 were arrested. No shots were fired, but demonstrators were struck with nightsticks and rifle butts.
Birthday – Jazz great Dizzy Gillespie (1917-1993) was born in Cheraw, South Carolina (as John Birks Gillespie). He was a trumpet player, composer, band leader and one of the founding fathers of modern jazz, known for his trademark puffed cheeks and bent trumpet.
October 22, 1962 – President John F. Kennedy appeared on television to inform Americans of the existence of Russian missiles in Cuba. The President demanded their removal and announced a naval “quarantine” of Cuba. Six days later, the Russians announced they would remove the weapons. In return, the U.S. later removed missiles from Turkey.
October 22, 1979 – The exiled Shah of Iran arrived in the United States for medical treatment. A few weeks later, Iranian militants seized the U.S. Embassy in Tehran and took 66 Americans hostage. They demanded the return of the Shah for trial. The U.S. refused. The Shah died of cancer in July of 1980. The hostages were freed in January of 1981.
Birthday – Hungarian composer Franz Liszt (1811-1886) was born in Raiding, Hungary. He was a brilliant pianist best known for Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2, Liebestraum No. 3, and his Faust and Dante symphonies.
October 23 1910 – Blanche S. Scott became the first woman to make a public solo airplane flight in the United States. 1915 – Approximately 25,000 women demanded the right to vote with a march in New York City, NY. 1929 – In the U.S., the Dow Jones Industrial Average plunged starting the stock-market crash that began the Great Depression.
1983 – Terrorists drove a truck loaded with TNT into the U.S. and French headquarters in Beirut, Lebanon, exploding it and killing 241 U.S. Marines and 58 French paratroopers.
1990 – Ukrainian Prime Minister Vitaly Masol resigned after mass protests by students, becoming the first Soviet official of that rank to quit under public pressure.
1861 – The first transcontinental telegram in America was sent from San Francisco to Washington, addressed to President Abraham Lincoln from the Chief Justice of California. 2001 – NASA’s 2001 Mars Odyssey spacecraft successfully entered orbit around Mars. 2001 – The U.S. House of Representatives approved legislation that gave police the power to secretly search homes, tap all of a person’s telephone conversation and track people’s use of the Internet. 1962 – During the Cuban Missile Crisis, U.S. military forces went on the highest alert in the postwar era in preparation for a possible full-scale war with the Soviet Union. The U.S. blockade of Cuba officially began on this day. 1940 – In the U.S., the 40-hour workweek went into effect under the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938.
1901 – Daredevil Anna Edson Taylor became the first person to go over Niagara Falls in a wooden barrel. She was 63 years old.
1929 – “Black Thursday” occurred in the New York Stock Exchange as nearly 13 million shares were sold in panic selling. Five days later “Black Tuesday” saw 16 million shares sold.
1931 – Chicago gangster “Scarface” Al Capone was sentenced to 11 years in jail for Federal income tax evasion. In 1934, he was transferred to Alcatraz prison near San Francisco. He was paroled in 1939, suffering from syphilis. He retired to his mansion in Miami Beach where he died in 1947.
1945 – The United Nations was founded.
1854 – During the Crimean War, the Charge of the Light Brigade occurred as Lord Cardigan led the British cavalry against the Russians at Balaclava. Of 673 British cavalrymen taking part in the charge, 272 were killed. The Charge was later immortalized in the poem by Alfred Lord Tennyson.
1955 – Austria reassumed its sovereignty with the departure of the last Allied forces. The country had been occupied by the Nazis from 1938-45. After World War II, it was divided into four occupation zones by the U.S., Russia, Britain and France.
October 25-30, 1983 – The Caribbean island of Grenada was invaded by the U.S. to restore “order and democracy.” Over 2,000 Marines and Army Rangers seized control after a political coup the previous week had made the island a “Soviet-Cuban colony,” according to President Ronald Reagan.
Birthday – Artist Pablo Picasso (1881-1973) was born in Malaga, Spain. He was an experimental painter and also became a fine sculptor, engraver and ceramist.
October 26, 1881 – The shoot-out at the O.K. Corral in Tombstone, Arizona, occurred between the feuding Clanton and Earp families. Wyatt Earp, two of his brothers and “Doc” Holliday gunned down two Clantons and two others.
October 26, 1825 – The Erie Canal opened as the first major man-made waterway in America, linking Lake Erie with the Hudson River, bypassing the British-controlled lower St. Lawrence. The canal cost over $7 million and took eight years to complete.
October 26, 1951 – Winston Churchill became Britain’s prime minister for a second time, following his Conservative Party’s narrow victory in general elections. In his first term from 1940-45 he had guided Britain through its struggle against Nazi Germany.
October 26, 1955 – Ngo Dinh Diem proclaimed South Vietnam a republic and declared himself president.
Birthday – Hillary Rodham Clinton was born in Park Ridge, Illinois, October 26, 1947. She was First Lady from 1993-2001 during the presidency of her husband Bill Clinton. In 2000, she became the only First Lady ever elected to the U.S. Senate, serving as a Democrat from New York. She was re-elected in 2006 and then began a presidential campaign, hoping to become America’s first female president. She lost the Democratic nomination to Barack Obama who went on to win the general election and appointed her as U.S. Secretary of State in 2008.
things that got put on the back burner and shouldn’t have – we have a right to know
1787 – The first of 85 Federalist Papers appeared in print in a New York City newspaper. The essays argued for the adoption of the new U.S. Constitution. They were written by Alexander Hamilton, James Madison and John Jay.
1904 – The New York City subway began operating, running from City Hall to West 145th Street, the first underground and underwater rail system in the world.
1978 – The Nobel Peace Prize was awarded jointly to Menachem Begin of Israel and Anwar Sadat of Egypt.
Birthday – British navigator James Cook (1728-1779) was born in Yorkshire, England. He explored New Zealand, Australia, and the Hawaiian Islands.
Birthday – Theodore Roosevelt (1858-1919) the 26th U.S. President was born in New York City. He succeeded to the presidency following the assassination of President William McKinley. Roosevelt served from September 14, 1901 to March 3, 1909. Best remembered for stating, “Speak softly and carry a big stick.”
Birthday – Welsh poet and playwright Dylan Thomas (1914-1953) was born in Swansea, Wales. His works included; The World I Breathe, Portrait of the Artist as a Young Dog, The Doctor and the Devil and the drama Under Milk Wood.
1636 – Harvard University, the oldest institution of higher learning in America, was founded in Cambridge, Massachusetts. It was named after John Harvard, a Puritan who donated his library and half of his estate. Distinguished alumni include; Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, Henry James, and NAACP founder W.E.B. Du Bois.
1846 – The Donner Party departed Illinois heading for California. The group totaled 90 persons, including immigrants, families and businessmen, led by George and Jacob Donner. Tragedy later struck as they became stranded in snow in the Sierras where famine and cannibalism took its toll. There were 48 survivors by the end of their journey in April of 1847.
1886 – The Statue of Liberty was dedicated on Bedloe’s Island in New York Harbor. The statue was a gift from the people of France commemorating the French-American alliance during the American Revolutionary War. Designed by Frederic Auguste Bartholdi, the entire structure stands 300 feet (92.9 meters) tall. The pedestal contains the words: “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”
1918 – The Republic of Czechoslovakia was founded, assembled from three provinces – Bohemia, Moravia, and Slovakia – which had been part of the former Austro-Hungarian empire.
1918 – In the waning days of World War I, mutiny broke out in the German fleet at Kiel. Ships in port ran up the red flag of revolution. The uprising spread to Hamburg, Bremen and Lubeck, resulting in a general strike in Berlin which brought the government of Kaiser Wilhelm to a halt.
1919 – Prohibition began in the U.S. with the passage of the National Prohibition (Volstead) Act by Congress. Sales of drinks containing more than one half of one percent of alcohol became illegal. Called a “noble experiment” by Herbert Hoover, prohibition last nearly 14 years and became highly profitable for organized crime which manufactured and sold liquor in saloons called speakeasies.
1922 – Fascist blackshirts began their “March on Rome” from Naples which resulted in the formation of a dictatorship under Benito Mussolini.
1949 – Helen Anderson became the first woman ambassador, appointed by President Harry Truman to be Ambassador to Denmark.
1958 – Cardinal Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli, Patriarch of Venice, was elected Pope, taking the title John XXIII. Best known for undertaking the 21st Ecumenical Council (Vatican II).
1962 – The Cuban Missile Crisis ended with the announcement by Soviet Russia’s leader Nikita Khrushchev that his Soviet government was halting construction of missile bases in Cuba and would remove the offensive missiles. President Kennedy immediately accepted the offer then lifted the U.S. naval blockade of Cuba.
1971 – The British House of Commons voted 356-244 in favor of joining the European Economic Community.
Birthday – Dr. Jonas Salk (1914-1995) was born in New York City. In 1952, he developed a vaccine for the dreaded childhood disease Polio (poliomyelitis, also known as infantile paralysis). His vaccine reduced deaths from Polio in the U.S. by 95%.
Birthday – Microsoft founder Bill Gates was born in Seattle, Washington, October 28, 1955. In 1975, he co-founded Microsoft with Paul Allen, designing software for IBM computers. By 1980, Microsoft became the leading software company for IBM compatible computers. Gates became a billionaire by age 31 and remains one of the world’s wealthiest individuals.
1618 – British explorer Sir Walter Raleigh was executed in London for treason on orders from King James I.
1929 – The stock market crashed as over 16 million shares were dumped amid tumbling prices. The Great Depression followed in America, lasting until the outbreak of World War II.
Birthday – Nazi propaganda minister Paul Joseph Goebbels (1897-1945) was born in Rheydt, near Dusseldorf, Germany. Considered a master propagandist, he controlled all Nazi newspapers, radio and film production. He was a virulent anti-Semite who advocated the extermination of the Jews. Devoted to Hitler until the end, he died at Hitler’s Berlin bunker in 1945 after poisoning his six children.
1905 – To counter the spread of revolutionary movements in Russia, Czar Nicholas II took a step toward constitutional government by allowing for an elected parliament (Duma) with legislative powers and guaranteeing civil liberties.
1938 – The War of the Worlds radio broadcast panicked millions of Americans. Actor Orson Welles and the Mercury Players dramatized the story by H.G. Wells depicting a Martian invasion of New Jersey. Their script utilized simulated radio news bulletins which many listeners thought were real.
1990 – For the first time since the Ice Age, Great Britain was connected with the European continent, via a new rail tunnel under the English Channel.
Birthday – John Adams (1735-1826) the 2nd U.S. President was born in Braintree, Massachusetts. He served from March 4, 1797 to March 3, 1801. He had been George Washington’s vice president, and was the father of John Quincy Adams, the 6th President. He died on July 4, 1826, the same day as Thomas Jefferson, on the 50th anniversary of adoption of the Declaration of Independence.
Birthday – Emily Post (1872-1960) was born in Baltimore, Maryland. She wrote influential books on etiquette and a syndicated newspaper column giving advice on manners in specific situations.
Birthday – Admiral William “Bull” Halsey (1882-1959) was born in Elizabeth, New Jersey. He was the American fleet commander during World War II in the Pacific and played a leading role in the defeat of the Japanese. In 1942, he launched the Doolittle Raid, the first air raid on Japan. From 1942-44, he coordinated successful attacks on the Solomon Islands and New Guinea. In 1944, he led the U.S. fleet to victory at the Battle of Leyte Gulf, the largest naval battle in history.
31st – Halloween or All Hallow’s Eve, an ancient celebration combining the Christian festival of All Saints with Pagan autumn festivals.
1517 – Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses to the door of Wittenberg’s palace church, denouncing the selling of papal indulgences and questioning various ecclesiastical practices. This marked the beginning of the Protestant Reformation in Germany.
1940 – The Battle of Britain concluded. Beginning on July 10, 1940, German bombers and fighters had attacked coastal targets, airfields, London and other cities, as a prelude to a Nazi invasion of England. British pilots in Spitfires and Hurricanes shot down over 1,700 German aircraft while losing 915 fighters. “Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few,” declared Prime Minister Winston Churchill.
1941 – Mount Rushmore National Memorial was completed after 14 years of work. The memorial contains 60-foot-tall sculptures of the heads of Presidents George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt – representing America’s founding, political philosophy, preservation, and expansion and conservation.
1950 – Earl Lloyd became the first African American to play in a National Basketball Association (NBA) game when he took the floor for the Washington Capitols in Rochester, New York.
1952 – The U.S. detonated its first hydrogen bomb at the Elugelab Atoll in the Eniwetok Proving Grounds in the Pacific Marshall Islands.
1961 – The body of Joseph Stalin was removed from the mausoleum in Red Square and reburied within the Kremlin walls among the graves of lesser Soviet heroes. This occurred as part of Russia’s de-Stalinization program under his successor Nikita Khrushchev. Stalin’s name was also removed from public buildings, streets, and factories. Stalingrad was renamed Volgograd.
1968 – During the Vietnam War, President Lyndon Johnson ordered a halt of American bombing of North Vietnam.
1981 – Antiqua and Barbuda became independent of Great Britain.
1984 – Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi was assassinated by three Sikh members of her bodyguard while walking in the garden of her New Delhi home.
Source: (Photo and picture credits: Library of Congress and U.S. National Archives) Source: on this day
Based on their experiences, the framers shied away from giving any branch of the new government too much power.
The separation of powers provides a system of shared power known as Checks and Balances.
Three branches are created in the Constitution.
The United States Constitution is deliberately inefficient.
The Separation of Powers devised by the framers of the Constitution was designed to do one primary thing: to prevent the majority from ruling with an iron fist. Based on their experience, the framers shied away from giving any branch of the new government too much power. The separation of powers provides a system of shared power known as Checks and Balances.
Three branches are created in the Constitution. The Legislative, composed of the House and Senate, is set up in Article 1.
The Executive, composed of the President, Vice-President, and the Departments, is set up in Article 2.
The Judicial, composed of the federal courts and the Supreme Court, is set up in Article 3.
Each of these branches has certain powers, and each of these powers is limited, or checked, by another branch.
For example, the President appoints judges and departmental secretaries. But these appointments must be approved by the Senate. The Congress can pass a law, but the President can veto it. The Supreme Court can rule a law to be unconstitutional, but the Congress, with the States, can amend the Constitution.
All of these checks and balances, however, are inefficient. But that’s by design rather than by accident. By forcing the various branches to be accountable to the others, no one branch can usurp enough power to become dominant.
The following are the powers of the Executive: veto power over all bills; appointment of judges and other officials; makes treaties; ensures all laws are carried out; commander in chief of the military; pardon power. The checks can be found on the Checks and Balances Page.
The following are the powers of the Legislature: Passes all federal laws; establishes all lower federal courts; can override a Presidential veto; can impeach the President. The checks can be found on the Checks and Balances Page.
The following are the powers of the Judiciary: the power to try federal cases and interpret the laws of the nation in those cases; the power to declare any law or executive act unconstitutional. The checks can be found on the Checks and Balances Page.
Historically, the concept of Separation of Powers dates back as far as ancient Greece. The concepts were refined by contemporaries of the Framers, and those refinements influenced the establishment of the three branches in the Constitution.
Aristotle favored a mixed government composed of monarchy, aristocracy, and democracy, seeing none as ideal, but a mix of the three useful by combining the best aspects of each. In his 1656 Oceana, James Harrington brought these ideas up-to-date and proposed systems based on the separation of power. John Locke, in his 1690 Civil Government, second treatise, separated the powers into an executive and a legislature. Montesquieu’s 1748 Spirit of the Laws expanded on Locke, adding a judiciary. The framers of the Constitution took all of these ideas and converted the theories into practical applications.
When discussing Separation of Power, is it helpful to contrast the American System to the governments of other nations. This list below is far from a representative sample of nations or systems. The United States, Britain, France, Canada, and Mexico are actually more similar than they are different, especially when the whole range of nations is taken into account. However, sometimes the smaller differences between similar systems can be interesting and illustrative. It is left to the reader to conduct studies of more disparate systems.
Is the American system superior to any of these, or to any other, system of government? That depends on where you sit. The French and the British might scoff at the fact that our head of state, the President, has no power to make laws. They might cringe at the thought that judges can render the will of the people, in the form of a duly passed law, null and void. Canadians might think that state powers ought to be enumerated; Mexicans might marvel at the longevity of some career American politicians.
Americans might look with amusement at the institution of the British monarchy, and its continued hold, if only on paper, on Canada. Americans might cringe at the British thought of majority rule with no written constitution to be used as a guide or rule book. We might worry that the French Presidency has the potential to turn tyrannical by the misuse of emergency powers. We might worry that a Mexican judiciary, without lifetime tenure or a solid stare decisis system might lead to incoherent judicial policy.
But recall that each of these nations, and the hundred others in this world, have political and social traditions that sometimes date back a thousand years. Despite what Americans might think are odd institutions and traditions in France, Britain, Canada, Mexico, and elsewhere, these are all prosperous nations. The systems work in the context of each nation, even if the details could not work in some others.
Primary sources for this topic page are Comparative Politics by Gregory Mahler (Schenkman Publishing, 1983) and Comparative Politics by Gregory Mahler (Prentice Hall, 2000). Individual pages from Wikipedia and Canada in the Making were also helpful in keeping this page up to date.
1735 – John Adams, the second President of the United States, was born in Braintree, MA. His son became the sixth President of the U.S.
1817 – The independent government of Venezuela was established by Simon Bolivar.
1831 – Escaped slave Nat Turner was apprehended in Southampton County, VA, several weeks after leading the bloodiest slave uprising in American history.
1875 – The constitution of Missouri was ratified by popular vote.
1893 – The U.S. Senate gave final approval to repeal the Sherman Silver Purchase Act of 1890.
1894 – The time clock was patented by Daniel M. Cooper of Rochester, NY.
1938 – Orson Welles’ “The War of the Worlds” aired on CBS radio. The belief that the realistic radio dramatization was a live news event about a Martian invasion caused panic among listeners.
1943 – In Moscow, a declaration was signed by the Governments of the Soviet Union, the United Kingdom, the United States and China called for an early establishment of an international organization to maintain peace and security. The goal was supported on December 1, 1943, at a meeting in Teheran.
1854 – Defense Department announced elimination of all segregated regiments in the armed forces. blackfacts.com
1944 – Martha Graham’s ballet “Appalachian Spring” premiered at the Library of Congress.
1945 – The U.S. government announced the end of shoe rationing.
1953 – General George C. Marshall was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.
1961 – The Soviet Union tested a hydrogen bomb with a force of approximately 58 megatons.
1961 – The Soviet Party Congress unanimously approved an order to remove Joseph Stalin’s body from Lenin’s tomb.
1966 – Huey Newton and Bobby Seale students at a California college create the Black Panther Party for Self Defense. blackfacts.com
The Constitution was written in the summer of 1787 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, by delegates from 12 states, in order to replace the Articles of Confederation with a new form of government. It created a federal system with a national government composed of 3 separated powers, and included both reserved and concurrent powers of states. The president of the Constitutional Convention, the body that framed the new government, was George Washington, though James Madison is known as the “Father of the Constitution” because of his great contributions to the formation of the new government. Gouverneur Morris wrote the Constitution’s final language. The Constitution was a compact – though Federalists and Anti-Federalists disagreed over whether the states or the people were the agents of the compact.
In September of 1787, it was sent to the states for ratification. Nine of the 13 states would have to ratify it for the Constitution to become effective for those ratifying states. The future was not certain at all—a debate began among the states over ratification. Those who argued that the Constitution should be approved were called Federalists; those who argued against it were called Anti-Federalists.
Many of the state conventions ratified the Constitution, but called for amendments specifically protecting individual rights from abridgement by the federal government. The debate raged for months. By June of 1788, 9 states had ratified the Constitution, ensuring it would go into effect for those 9 states. However, key states including Virginia and New York had not ratified. James Madison, the principal author of the Constitution, knew that grave doubts would be cast on the Constitution if those states (the home states of several of its chief architects, including Madison himself) did not adopt it.
During the ratification debate in Virginia, Madison promised that a bill of rights would be added after ratification. His promise reassured the convention and the Constitution was approved in that state by the narrowest margin. New York soon followed, but submitted proposed amendments. Two states, Rhode Island and North Carolina, refused to ratify without a bill of rights. A year later in June of 1789, Madison proposed a series of amendments to be debated in the first Congress.
Principles of the Constitution include checks and balances, individual rights, liberty, limited government, natural rights theory, republican government, and popular sovereignty.
Antecedent documents to the Constitution include the political writings about natural rights theory and forms of government by John Locke, Thomas Hobbes, and Montesquieu, and English charters of liberty including the Magna Carta and the English Bill of Rights. James Madison saw one important difference between those documents and the Constitution, however: “In Europe, charters of liberty have been granted by power. America has set the example . . . of charters of power granted by liberty.”
THE CONSTITUTION OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA (1787) – FULL TEXT
We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.
Section 1. All legislative powers herein granted shall be vested in a Congress of the United States, which shall consist of a Senate and House of Representatives.
Section 2. The House of Representatives shall be composed of members chosen every second year by the people of the several states, and the electors in each state shall have the qualifications requisite for electors of the most numerous branch of the state legislature.
No person shall be a Representative who shall not have attained to the age of twenty five years, and been seven years a citizen of the United States, and who shall not, when elected, be an inhabitant of that state in which he shall be chosen.
Representatives and direct taxes shall be apportioned among the several states which may be included within this union, according to their respective numbers, which shall be determined by adding to the whole number of free persons, including those bound to service for a term of years, and excluding Indians not taxed, three fifths of all other Persons. The actual Enumeration shall be made within three years after the first meeting of the Congress of the United States, and within every subsequent term of ten years, in such manner as they shall by law direct. The number of Representatives shall not exceed one for every thirty thousand, but each state shall have at least one Representative; and until such enumeration shall be made, the state of New Hampshire shall be entitled to chuse three, Massachusetts eight, Rhode Island and Providence Plantations one, Connecticut five, New York six, New Jersey four, Pennsylvania eight, Delaware one, Maryland six, Virginia ten, North Carolina five, South Carolina five, and Georgia three.
When vacancies happen in the Representation from any state, the executive authority thereof shall issue writs of election to fill such vacancies.
The House of Representatives shall choose their speaker and other officers; and shall have the sole power of impeachment.
Section 3. The Senate of the United States shall be composed of two Senators from each state, chosen by the legislature thereof, for six years; and each Senator shall have one vote.
Immediately after they shall be assembled in consequence of the first election, they shall be divided as equally as may be into three classes. The seats of the Senators of the first class shall be vacated at the expiration of the second year, of the second class at the expiration of the fourth year, and the third class at the expiration of the sixth year, so that one third may be chosen every second year; and if vacancies happen by resignation, or otherwise, during the recess of the legislature of any state, the executive thereof may make temporary appointments until the next meeting of the legislature, which shall then fill such vacancies.
No person shall be a Senator who shall not have attained to the age of thirty years, and been nine years a citizen of the United States and who shall not, when elected, be an inhabitant of that state for which he shall be chosen.
The Vice President of the United States shall be President of the Senate, but shall have no vote, unless they be equally divided.
The Senate shall choose their other officers, and also a President pro tempore, in the absence of the Vice President, or when he shall exercise the office of President of the United States.
The Senate shall have the sole power to try all impeachments. When sitting for that purpose, they shall be on oath or affirmation. When the President of the United States is tried, the Chief Justice shall preside: And no person shall be convicted without the concurrence of two thirds of the members present.
Judgment in cases of impeachment shall not extend further than to removal from office, and disqualification to hold and enjoy any office of honor, trust or profit under the United States: but the party convicted shall nevertheless be liable and subject to indictment, trial, judgment and punishment, according to law.
Section 4. The times, places and manner of holding elections for Senators and Representatives, shall be prescribed in each state by the legislature thereof; but the Congress may at any time by law make or alter such regulations, except as to the places of choosing Senators.
The Congress shall assemble at least once in every year, and such meeting shall be on the first Monday in December, unless they shall by law appoint a different day.
Section 5. Each House shall be the judge of the elections, returns and qualifications of its own members, and a majority of each shall constitute a quorum to do business; but a smaller number may adjourn from day to day, and may be authorized to compel the attendance of absent members, in such manner, and under such penalties as each House may provide.
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.
Each House shall keep a journal of its proceedings, and from time to time publish the same, excepting such parts as may in their judgment require secrecy; and the yeas and nays of the members of either House on any question shall, at the desire of one fifth of those present, be entered on the journal.
Neither House, during the session of Congress, shall, without the consent of the other, adjourn for more than three days, nor to any other place than that in which the two Houses shall be sitting.
Section 6. The Senators and Representatives shall receive a compensation for their services, to be ascertained by law, and paid out of the treasury of the United States. They shall in all cases, except treason, felony and breach of the peace, be privileged from arrest during their attendance at the session of their respective Houses, and in going to and returning from the same; and for any speech or debate in either House, they shall not be questioned in any other place.
No Senator or Representative shall, during the time for which he was elected, be appointed to any civil office under the authority of the United States, which shall have been created, or the emoluments whereof shall have been increased during such time: and no person holding any office under the United States, shall be a member of either House during his continuance in office.
Section 7. All bills for raising revenue shall originate in the House of Representatives; but the Senate may propose or concur with amendments as on other Bills.
Every bill which shall have passed the House of Representatives and the Senate, shall, before it become a law, be presented to the President of the United States; if he approve he shall sign it, but if not he shall return it, with his objections to that House in which it shall have originated, who shall enter the objections at large on their journal, and proceed to reconsider it. If after such reconsideration two thirds of that House shall agree to pass the bill, it shall be sent, together with the objections, to the other House, by which it shall likewise be reconsidered, and if approved by two thirds of that House, it shall become a law. But in all such cases the votes of both Houses shall be determined by yeas and nays, and the names of the persons voting for and against the bill shall be entered on the journal of each House respectively. If any bill shall not be returned by the President within ten days (Sundays excepted) after it shall have been presented to him, the same shall be a law, in like manner as if he had signed it, unless the Congress by their adjournment prevent its return, in which case it shall not be a law.
Every order, resolution, or vote to which the concurrence of the Senate and House of Representatives may be necessary (except on a question of adjournment) shall be presented to the President of the United States; and before the same shall take effect, shall be approved by him, or being disapproved by him, shall be repassed by two thirds of the Senate and House of Representatives, according to the rules and limitations prescribed in the case of a bill.
Section 8. The Congress shall have power to lay and collect taxes, duties, imposts and excises, to pay the debts and provide for the common defense and general welfare of the United States; but all duties, imposts and excises shall be uniform throughout the United States;
To borrow money on the credit of the United States;
To regulate commerce with foreign nations, and among the several states, and with the Indian tribes;
To establish a uniform rule of naturalization, and uniform laws on the subject of bankruptcies throughout the United States;
To coin money, regulate the value thereof, and of foreign coin, and fix the standard of weights and measures;
To provide for the punishment of counterfeiting the securities and current coin of the United States;
To establish post offices and post roads;
To promote the progress of science and useful arts, by securing for limited times to authors and inventors the exclusive right to their respective writings and discoveries;
To constitute tribunals inferior to the Supreme Court;
To define and punish piracies and felonies committed on the high seas, and offenses against the law of nations;
To declare war, grant letters of marque and reprisal, and make rules concerning captures on land and water;
To raise and support armies, but no appropriation of money to that use shall be for a longer term than two years;
To provide and maintain a navy;
To make rules for the government and regulation of the land and naval forces;
To provide for calling forth the militia to execute the laws of the union, suppress insurrections and repel invasions;
To provide for organizing, arming, and disciplining, the militia, and for governing such part of them as may be employed in the service of the United States, reserving to the states respectively, the appointment of the officers, and the authority of training the militia according to the discipline prescribed by Congress;
To exercise exclusive legislation in all cases whatsoever, over such District (not exceeding ten miles square) as may, by cession of particular states, and the acceptance of Congress, become the seat of the government of the United States, and to exercise like authority over all places purchased by the consent of the legislature of the state in which the same shall be, for the erection of forts, magazines, arsenals, dockyards, and other needful buildings;–And
To make all laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into execution the foregoing powers, and all other powers vested by this Constitution in the government of the United States, or in any department or officer thereof.
Section 9. The migration or importation of such persons as any of the states now existing shall think proper to admit, shall not be prohibited by the Congress prior to the year one thousand eight hundred and eight, but a tax or duty may be imposed on such importation, not exceeding ten dollars for each person.
The privilege of the writ of habeas corpus shall not be suspended, unless when in cases of rebellion or invasion the public safety may require it.
No bill of attainder or ex post facto Law shall be passed.
No capitation, or other direct, tax shall be laid, unless in proportion to the census or enumeration herein before directed to be taken.
No tax or duty shall be laid on articles exported from any state.
No preference shall be given by any regulation of commerce or revenue to the ports of one state over those of another: nor shall vessels bound to, or from, one state, be obliged to enter, clear or pay duties in another.
No money shall be drawn from the treasury, but in consequence of appropriations made by law; and a regular statement and account of receipts and expenditures of all public money shall be published from time to time.
No title of nobility shall be granted by the United States: and no person holding any office of profit or trust under them, shall, without the consent of the Congress, accept of any present, emolument, office, or title, of any kind whatever, from any king, prince, or foreign state.
Section 10. No state shall enter into any treaty, alliance, or confederation; grant letters of marque and reprisal; coin money; emit bills of credit; make anything but gold and silver coin a tender in payment of debts; pass any bill of attainder, ex post facto law, or law impairing the obligation of contracts, or grant any title of nobility.
No state shall, without the consent of the Congress, lay any imposts or duties on imports or exports, except what may be absolutely necessary for executing its inspection laws: and the net produce of all duties and imposts, laid by any state on imports or exports, shall be for the use of the treasury of the United States; and all such laws shall be subject to the revision and control of the Congress.
No state shall, without the consent of Congress, lay any duty of tonnage, keep troops, or ships of war in time of peace, enter into any agreement or compact with another state, or with a foreign power, or engage in war, unless actually invaded, or in such imminent danger as will not admit of delay.
Section 1. The executive power shall be vested in a President of the United States of America. He shall hold his office during the term of four years, and, together with the Vice President, chosen for the same term, be elected, as follows:
Each state shall appoint, in such manner as the Legislature thereof may direct, a number of electors, equal to the whole number of Senators and Representatives to which the State may be entitled in the Congress: but no Senator or Representative, or person holding an office of trust or profit under the United States, shall be appointed an elector.
The electors shall meet in their respective states, and vote by ballot for two persons, of whom one at least shall not be an inhabitant of the same state with themselves. And they shall make a list of all the persons voted for, and of the number of votes for each; which list they shall sign and certify, and transmit sealed to the seat of the government of the United States, directed to the President of the Senate. The President of the Senate shall, in the presence of the Senate and House of Representatives, open all the certificates, and the votes shall then be counted. The person having the greatest number of votes shall be the President, if such number be a majority of the whole number of electors appointed; and if there be more than one who have such majority, and have an equal number of votes, then the House of Representatives shall immediately choose by ballot one of them for President; and if no person have a majority, then from the five highest on the list the said House shall in like manner choose the President. But in choosing the President, the votes shall be taken by States, the representation from each state having one vote; A quorum for this purpose shall consist of a member or members from two thirds of the states, and a majority of all the states shall be necessary to a choice. In every case, after the choice of the President, the person having the greatest number of votes of the electors shall be the Vice President. But if there should remain two or more who have equal votes, the Senate shall choose from them by ballot the Vice President.
The Congress may determine the time of choosing the electors, and the day on which they shall give their votes; which day shall be the same throughout the United States.
No person except a natural born citizen, or a citizen of the United States, at the time of the adoption of this Constitution, shall be eligible to the office of President; neither shall any person be eligible to that office who shall not have attained to the age of thirty five years, and been fourteen Years a resident within the United States.
In case of the removal of the President from office, or of his death, resignation, or inability to discharge the powers and duties of the said office, the same shall devolve on the Vice President, and the Congress may by law provide for the case of removal, death, resignation or inability, both of the President and Vice President, declaring what officer shall then act as President, and such officer shall act accordingly, until the disability be removed, or a President shall be elected.
The President shall, at stated times, receive for his services, a compensation, which shall neither be increased nor diminished during the period for which he shall have been elected, and he shall not receive within that period any other emolument from the United States, or any of them.
Before he enter on the execution of his office, he shall take the following oath or affirmation:–“I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.”
Section 2. The President shall be commander in chief of the Army and Navy of the United States, and of the militia of the several states, when called into the actual service of the United States; he may require the opinion, in writing, of the principal officer in each of the executive departments, upon any subject relating to the duties of their respective offices, and he shall have power to grant reprieves and pardons for offenses against the United States, except in cases of impeachment.
He shall have power, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate, to make treaties, provided two thirds of the Senators present concur; and he shall nominate, and by and with the advice and consent of the Senate, shall appoint ambassadors, other public ministers and consuls, judges of the Supreme Court, and all other officers of the United States, whose appointments are not herein otherwise provided for, and which shall be established by law: but the Congress may by law vest the appointment of such inferior officers, as they think proper, in the President alone, in the courts of law, or in the heads of departments.
The President shall have power to fill up all vacancies that may happen during the recess of the Senate, by granting commissions which shall expire at the end of their next session.
Section 3. He shall from time to time give to the Congress information of the state of the union, and recommend to their consideration such measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient; he may, on extraordinary occasions, convene both Houses, or either of them, and in case of disagreement between them, with respect to the time of adjournment, he may adjourn them to such time as he shall think proper; he shall receive ambassadors and other public ministers; he shall take care that the laws be faithfully executed, and shall commission all the officers of the United States.
Section 4. The President, Vice President 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.
Section 1. The judicial power of the United States, shall be vested in one Supreme Court, and in such inferior courts as the Congress may from time to time ordain and establish. The judges, both of the supreme and inferior courts, shall hold their offices during good behaviour, and shall, at stated times, receive for their services, a compensation, which shall not be diminished during their continuance in office.
Section 2. The judicial power shall extend to all cases, in law and equity, arising under this Constitution, the laws of the United States, and treaties made, or which shall be made, under their authority;–to all cases affecting ambassadors, other public ministers and consuls;–to all cases of admiralty and maritime jurisdiction;–to controversies to which the United States shall be a party;–to controversies between two or more states;–between a state and citizens of another state;– between citizens of different states;–between citizens of the same state claiming lands under grants of different states, and between a state, or the citizens thereof, and foreign states, citizens or subjects.
In all cases affecting ambassadors, other public ministers and consuls, and those in which a state shall be party, the Supreme Court shall have original jurisdiction. In all the other cases before mentioned, the Supreme Court shall have appellate jurisdiction, both as to law and fact, with such exceptions, and under such regulations as the Congress shall make.
The trial of all crimes, except in cases of impeachment, shall
be by jury; and such trial shall be held in the state where the said crimes shall have been committed; but when not committed within any state, the trial shall be at such place or places as the Congress may by law have directed.
Section 3. Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying war against them, or in adhering to their enemies, giving them aid and comfort. No person shall be convicted of treason unless on the testimony of two witnesses to the same overt act, or on confession in open court.
The Congress shall have power to declare the punishment of treason, but no attainder of treason shall work corruption of blood, or forfeiture except during the life of the person attainted.
Section 1. Full faith and credit shall be given in each state to the public acts, records, and judicial proceedings of every other state. And the Congress may by general laws prescribe the manner in which such acts, records, and proceedings shall be proved, and the effect thereof.
Section 2. The citizens of each state shall be entitled to all privileges and immunities of citizens in the several states.
A person charged in any state with treason, felony, or other crime, who shall flee from justice, and be found in another state, shall on demand of the executive authority of the state from which he fled, be delivered up, to be removed to the state having jurisdiction of the crime.
No person held to service or labor in one state, under the laws thereof, escaping into another, shall, in consequence of any law or regulation therein, be discharged from such service or labor, but shall be delivered up on claim of the party to whom such service or labor may be due.
Section 3. New states may be admitted by the Congress into this union; but no new states shall be formed or erected within the jurisdiction of any other state; nor any state be formed by the junction of two or more states, or parts of states, without the consent of the legislatures of the states concerned as well as of the Congress.
The Congress shall have power to dispose of and make all needful rules and regulations respecting the territory or other property belonging to the United States; and nothing in this Constitution shall be so construed as to prejudice any claims of the United States, or of any particular state.
Section 4. The United States shall guarantee to every state in this union a republican form of government, and shall protect each of them against invasion; and on application of the legislature, or of the executive (when the legislature cannot be convened) against domestic violence.
The Congress, whenever two thirds of both houses shall deem it necessary, shall propose amendments to this Constitution, or, on the application of the legislatures of two thirds of the several states, shall call a convention for proposing amendments, which, in either case, shall be valid to all intents and purposes, as part of this Constitution, when ratified by the legislatures of three fourths of the several states, or by conventions in three fourths thereof, as the one or the other mode of ratification may be proposed by the Congress; provided that no amendment which may be made prior to the year one thousand eight hundred and eight shall in any manner affect the first and fourth clauses in the ninth section of the first article; and that no state, without its consent, shall be deprived of its equal suffrage in the Senate.
All debts contracted and engagements entered into, before the adoption of this Constitution, shall be as valid against the United States under this Constitution, as under the Confederation.
This Constitution, and the laws of the United States which shall be made in pursuance thereof; and all treaties made, or which shall be made, under the authority of the United States, shall be the supreme law of the land; and the judges in every state shall be bound thereby, anything in the Constitution or laws of any State to the contrary notwithstanding.
The Senators and Representatives before mentioned, and the members of the several state legislatures, and all executive and judicial officers, both of the United States and of the several states, shall be bound by oath or affirmation, to support this Constitution; but no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.
The ratification of the conventions of nine states, shall be sufficient for the establishment of this Constitution between the states so ratifying the same.
Done in convention by the unanimous consent of the states present the seventeenth day of September in the year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred and eighty seven and of the independence of the United States of America the twelfth. In witness whereof We have hereunto subscribed our Names,
G. Washington-Presidt. and deputy from Virginia
New Hampshire: John Langdon, Nicholas Gilman
Massachusetts: Nathaniel Gorham, Rufus King
Connecticut: Wm: Saml. Johnson, Roger Sherman
New York: Alexander Hamilton
New Jersey: Wil: Livingston, David Brearly, Wm. Paterson, Jona: Dayton
Pennsylvania: B. Franklin, Thomas Mifflin, Robt. Morris, Geo. Clymer, Thos. FitzSimons, Jared Ingersoll, James Wilson, Gouv Morris
Delaware: Geo: Read, Gunning Bedford jun, John Dickinson, Richard Bassett, Jaco: Broom
Maryland: James McHenry, Dan of St Thos. Jenifer, Danl Carroll
Virginia: John Blair–, James Madison Jr.
North Carolina: Wm. Blount, Richd. Dobbs Spaight, Hu Williamson
South Carolina: J. Rutledge, Charles Cotesworth Pinckney, Charles Pinckney, Pierce Butler
Georgia: William Few, Abr Baldwin
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