“He has betrayed his countrymen, that he might perpetuate his power, and has sacrificed their interests, that he might swell his authority.”
Sound familiar? You might think you’d heard Nancy Pelosi say it yesterday, but it’s actually a quote from the argument of Representative John A. Logan of Illinois, one of the impeachment managers, arguing before the U.S. Senate in favor of the impeachment of President Andrew Johnson in 1868. The documents of Hein’s U.S. Presidential Impeachment Library present those of us who are living through history a look at what came before. Hein’s library is organized by type of document and by president, which is even better. It offers a helpful summary of the impeachments of Presidents Johnson, Clinton, and Trump and the near-impeachment of Nixon. There are scholarly articles about impeachment, historical documents, and links to other sources including the popular Slow Burn podcasts about Watergate and the Clinton impeachment. This would be a helpful resource for anyone who wants to write about impeachment or who wants reliable information about the history that has come before.
Speaking of things that have echoes in history, Fordham Law School offers the Twenty-Fifth Amendment Archive, an online collection of materials relating to the drafting and ratification of the 25th Amendment. The archive also shares information about proposed reforms to presidential succession since ratification. There is a fascinating timeline on the front page of the archive that gives a summary of the history of all of the times that we lost our president or nearly lost our president, many of which I had never heard about before. Did you know that President Eisenhower and Vice President Nixon formed their own agreement that Nixon could declare Eisenhower disabled? I didn’t.
Fordham’s archive is not organized by president, which makes it more difficult to browse than Hein’s Impeachment Library, but there is a search function. I think this would be an excellent source for anyone who has followed the present arguments about presidential incapacity and would like additional background and history.
It’s a cliché to say that these are unprecedented times, and we’ve certainly never been in a position quite like January 2021 before. But these resources let us see where there are precedents. And it’s even better that we have electronic access to this history!