Ep. 24: Impeachment in Early America

signing-members-US-Constitution-painting-Constitutional-Convention-September-17-1787The JuntoCast returns and resumes production after a more-than-three-year hiatus. In that relatively short but hectic time, the JuntoCasters collectively have had two babies, two weddings, produced two books, one successful tenure case, one degree, multiple academic and non-academic jobs, a couple of year-long fellowship appointments, and multiple moves. Needless to say, we are excited to be back and want to thank everyone who has found the podcast, emailed us, or reviewed the podcast  during the hiatus.

In this episode, Ken Owen, Michael Hattem, and Roy Rogers explore the early American origins and history of impeachment.


Impeachment is one of the most politically charged mechanisms in the Constitution. However, its origins date back to 14th-century England and the rise of representative government reflected in the conflict between King and Parliament that led to the English Civil Wars of the 1640s. For Americans, then, impeachment is an Anglophone inheritance. But as was the case with many of the political and cultural inheritances bequeathed to us by England, impeachment took on a new form, new meanings, and new practices in the new United States of the early republic. The House has voted to impeach twenty times from the first in 1798 to the most recent impeachment of Donald Trump. Such a current moment provides an opportunity to reflect back on the origins and history of impeachment in early America so as to provide a deeper historical context for the undoubtedly historical times in which we find ourselves.


  • Where did impeachment come from and what purposes has it served?
  • What arguments and concerns did the delegates to the Constitutional Convention have when discussing impeachment?
  • Who were the first persons to be impeached by the House of Representatives?
  • How did those early impeachments shape the process itself?


As always, you can subscribe to “The JuntoCast” in iTunes or via RSS.


Benedict, Michael Les. The Impeachment and Trial of Andrew Johnson. 1973; repr., New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 1999.

Brown, H. Lowell. High Crimes and Misdemeanors in Presidential Impeachment. New York: Palgrave MacMillan, 2010.

Engel, Jeffrey A., Jon Meacham, Timothy Naftali, and Peter Baker. Impeachment: An American History. New York: Modern Books, 2018.

Hoffer, Peter C., and N. E. H. Hull. “The First American Impeachments.” The William and Mary Quarterly, Third Series 35, no. 4 (1978): 653-67.

———. Impeachment in America, 1635-1805. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1984.

———. “Power and Precedent in the Creation of an American Impeachment Tradition: The Eighteenth-Century Colonial Record.” The William and Mary Quarterly, Third Series 36, no. 1 (1979): 51-77.

Lepore, Jill. “How Impeachment Ended Up in the Constitution.” The New Yorker, May 18, 2017.

Stewart, David O. Impeached: The Trial of President Andrew Johnson and the Fight for Lincoln’s Legacy. New York: Simon and Schuster, 2009.

Sunstein, Cass R. Impeachment: A Citizen’s Guide. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2017.

Thrush, Andrew. “Impeachment in the early seventeenth century.” The History of Parliament: British Political, Social & Local History, May 12, 2016.

U.S. House of Representatives. “List of Individuals Impeached by the House of Representatives.”

Primary Sources 

Debates in Constitutional Convention related to impeachment

The Federalist, nos. 65, 66, 69.

1974 House Judiciary Committee Report in Impeachment

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s