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Censure

December 12, 2018

According to Article I, Section 2 of the U.S. Constitution, Presidential impeachment must originate in the House of Representatives.  Even if there had been overwhelming opposition to President Jackson in the lower chamber, the Senate would still have the final say.  Although more that 50% of the Senators would likely have wanted to remove the President from office, the necessary two-thirds vote could not be achieved.

So, instead of involving the House and initiating a proceeding where a simple majority would be viewed as a failure, the anti-Jacksonian Senators decided to pursue an easier path where a simple majority would be regarded as a victory.  They chose censure.

Censure is a formal rebuke with no official consequences, but in an era where dueling was still somewhat fashionable, censure was an affront to Jackson’s honor.

No President before Jackson had ever been censured by the Senate.  In 1800 a Representative in the lower chamber made a motion to censure President John Adams, but it did not pass.

On March 28, 1834 the U.S. Senate voted 26 to 20 in favor of the following resolution:

Resolved, That the President, in late Executive proceedings in relation

to the public revenue, has assumed upon himself authority and power

not conferred by the Constitution and laws, but in derogation of both.

Whether the President had violated the Constitution may still be a matter for debate, but the real reason for Jackson’s censure was obviously political.  He had vetoed Senator Henry Clay’s bill that rechartered the 2nd Bank of the United States (B.U.S.).  Then he had defeated Clay in the Presidential election.  Finally, he had recently removed the Federal deposits from the B.U.S., hastening its demise.

Jackson was genuinely insulted by the censure and hoped to achieve some sort of exoneration in future Senate proceedings.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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