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

Rehnquist, William H.

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ISBN 10: 0688051421 / ISBN 13: 9780688051426
Published by William Morrow and Company, New York, 1992
Condition: Very good Hardcover
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About this Item

25 cm. 303, [1] pages. Acid-free paper. Illustrations. Notes. Index. DJ in plastic sleeve. William Hubbs Rehnquist (October 1, 1924 - September 3, 2005) was an American lawyer and jurist who served on the Supreme Court of the United States for 33 years, first as an Associate Justice from 1972 to 1986, and then as the 16th Chief Justice of the United States from 1986 until his death in 2005. Considered a conservative, Rehnquist favored a conception of federalism that emphasized the Tenth Amendment's reservation of powers to the states. Under this view of federalism, the court, for the first time since the 1930s, struck down an act of Congress as exceeding its power under the Commerce Clause. Rehnquist served as Chief Justice for nearly 19 years, making him the fourth-longest-serving Chief Justice, and the eighth- longest- serving Justice. He became an intellectual and social leader of the Rehnquist Court, earning respect even from the Justices who frequently opposed his opinions. Derived from a Kirkus review: America's Chief Justice recounts the impeachment trials of, in 1805, US Supreme Court Justice Samuel Chase and, in 1868, President Andrew Johnson. Rehnquist straightforwardly narrates the case of Chase, an ornery Federalist justice who was impeached by Jeffersonian Republicans for bias, intemperate pronouncements from the bench, and erroneous rulings in his conduct of criminal trials under the controversial Sedition Act--as well as that of Johnson, whom Radical Republicans impeached for dismissing Secretary of War Stanton in violation of the Tenure in Office Act. The author points out that both men were acquitted because a number of senators defected from their party, and argues that the acquittals strengthened the constitutionally mandated separation of powers. In the case of Johnson, Rehnquist observes that up to then there has been only one serious attempt to impeach a president, and that was based on criminal activity and not disagreements on policy. Bookseller Inventory # 46227

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Bibliographic Details

Title: Grand Inquests; The Historic Impeachments of...

Publisher: William Morrow and Company, New York

Publication Date: 1992

Binding: Hardcover

Book Condition: Very good

Dust Jacket Condition: Very good

Edition: First Edition. First Printing.

About this title


The Chief Justice presents a dramatic account of two precedent-setting impeachment cases that strengthened the concept of separation of powers and further defined the institutions of American government.


With Supreme Court Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist playing a front-and-center role as the presiding officer in President Bill Clinton's impeachment trial, it's no wonder that his 1992 study of the two most important previous impeachments in United States history was brought back into print. But anyone looking for political commentary will probably be disappointed--Grand Inquests is a straightforward, and surprisingly readable, narrative account, top-heavy with historical details.

Supreme Court Justice Samuel Chase was impeached in 1805 both for his political views and as a result of his demeanor as a judge. Rehnquist acknowledges that Chase was "impatient, overbearing, and arrogant," but asserts that his behavior falls far short of the grounds for impeachment: high crimes and misdemeanors. He further argues that the acquittal of Chase helped safeguard the independence of the Supreme Court, preventing future Congresses from removing judges "whose views they considered to be unwise or out of keeping with the times." The acquittal of President Andrew Johnson in his 1868 trial was a similar victory for the executive branch, permitting future chief executives to govern as they see fit ... even if that runs counter to the desires of Congress.

Rehnquist makes it clear that he believes the impeachments of both Chase and Johnson were politically motivated, and that it was a good thing for the United States that neither was convicted. He says a relaxed standard of impeachment would have been like "a sword of Damocles, designed not to fall but to hang" over the head of future presidents who would fear removal from office if they did not go along with Congress. --Linda Killian

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