We use cookies to provide some features and experiences in QOSHE

More information  .  Close
Aa Aa Aa
- A +

Is it too late to impeach George III?

1 0 0
20.01.2020

Updated 3:30 PM ET, Mon January 20, 2020

Chat with us in Facebook Messenger. Find out what's happening in the world as it unfolds.

Joseph J. Ellis is an American historian who won the Pulitzer Prize for "Founding Brothers." He is the author of "American Dialogue: The Founding Fathers and Us." The views expressed here are the author's. View more opinion on CNN.

(CNN)Before there was Donald Trump, there were Bill Clinton, Richard Nixon and Andrew Johnson, all presidents who were impeached or, in Nixon's case, resigned before the impeachment vote could occur. There are compelling legal reasons to regard this list as complete. Let me suggest there are also compelling historical reasons to add George III to the list.

For legal scholars, the seminal document of the American founding is the Constitution. That makes splendid sense, especially when it comes to assessing any putative violation of executive power, since the Constitution defines such power in Article II. It also provides the language for impeaching and removing a president, which the framers deliberately made hard to do.

But if you dive a layer deeper, and read the debates over executive power that occurred in June, July and August 1787, it soon becomes clear that the framers were haunted by conversations that had occurred in that very same room 11 years earlier, in July 1776. The ghost at the banquet was George III.

Any robust expression of executive authority encountered bitter opposition as delegates conjured up memories of Julius Caesar, Oliver Cromwell and more recently, and ominously, George III. Edmund Randolph of Virginia developed a sizable following for insisting that the American executive must be a trinity, a three-man council instead of a single person, because all executive power tended toward tyranny, eventually dominating the legislative branch and transforming the office into a dictatorship.

As a result of these debates, if you read Article II of the Constitution, you encounter deliberately ambiguous language that makes it very difficult to know what a........

© CNN