First two and half hours of Congressman Adam Schiff’s very articulate presentation.
Mr. Chief Justice, Senators, counsel for the President, and my fellow House managers:
“When a man unprincipled in private life desperate in his fortune, bold in his temper, possessed of considerable talents, having the advantage of military habits—despotic in his ordinary demeanour—known to have scoffed in private at the principles of liberty—when such a man is seen to mount the hobby horse of popularity—to join in the cry of danger to liberty—to take every opportunity of embarrassing the General Government & bringing it under suspicion—to flatter and fall in with all the non sense of the zealots of the day—It may justly be suspected that his object is to throw things into confusion that he may ‘ride the storm and direct the whirlwind.’”
Those words were written by Alexander Hamilton in a letter to President George Washington, at the height of the Panic of 1792, a financial credit crisis that shook our young nation. Hamilton was responding to sentiments relayed to Washington as he traveled the country, that America, in the face of that crisis, might descend from “a republican form of Government,” plunging instead into “that of a monarchy.”
The Framers of our Constitution worried then—as we worry today—that a leader could come to power not to carry out the will of the people that he was elected to represent, but to pursue his own interests. They feared that a president could subvert our democracy by abusing the awesome power of his office for his own personal or political gain.
And so they devised a remedy as powerful as the evil it was meant to combat: Impeachment.
As the centuries have passed, our Founders have achieved an almost mythic character. We are aware of their flaws, certainly, some very painful and pronounced indeed. And yet, when it came to the drafting of a new system of government, never seen before and with no guarantee it could succeed, we cannot help but be in awe of their genius, their prescience, even, vindicated time and time again.
Still, and maybe because of their brilliance and the brilliance of their words, we find, year after year, it more difficult to imagine them as human beings. This is no less true of Alexander Hamilton, notwithstanding his own return to celebrity.
But they were human beings, they understood human frailties even as they exhibited them, they could appreciate, just as we can, how power can corrupt, and even as we struggle to understand how the Framers might have responded to Presidential misconduct of the kind and character we are here to try, we should not imagine for one moment that they lacked basic common sense, or refuse to apply it ourselves.
Read further Suggested reading by
Zia H Shah MD, Chief Editor of the Muslim Times