The Constitutional Convention in 1787, wherein influential men like James Madison, Alexander Hamilton, and George Washington created a governing document for the new United States of America. The convention took months as the delegates from each state debated what to include. Benjamin Franklin advocated for a way to accuse a sitting president of misconduct (impeach the president) and punish or acquit just like all other Americans. In other words, he wanted the Constitution to allow Congress to remove a president who had “rendered himself obnoxious.” Franklin argued that the only alternative to impeachment would be assassination. He felt that assassination would not only rob the president of his life, but also take away the president’s “opportunity of vindicating his character” (per Smithsonian).
The ability to impeach and put a governing leader on trial existed even in the Roman Empire. Famous orator Cicero told the Roman Senators that government officials should be held to the same standards of law as ordinary citizens. He believed equality under the law was necessary for the empire’s reputation.
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