Cover image for Grand inquests : the historic impeachments of Justice Samuel Chase and President Andrew Johnson
Grand inquests : the historic impeachments of Justice Samuel Chase and President Andrew Johnson
Rehnquist, William H., 1924-2005.
First Quill edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Morrow, 1999.

Physical Description:
303 pages : illustrations ; 24 cm
General Note:
Originally published: New York : Morrow, c1992.
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
E302.6.C4 R44 1992C Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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Grand Inquests by U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice Rehnquist, the presiding judge in the Senate trial of President Clinton, offers a timely survey of the constitutional process known as impeachment. Brought back into print by popular demand, Grand Inquests focuses on the 1805 impeachment trial of Justice Samuel Chase and the 1868 impeachment trial of President Andrew Johnson. This latter trial provides a telling look into and comparison with the impeachment of President Bill Clinton.

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

For the edification of con law connoisseurs, the chief justice of the U.S. critiques two cases that set the parameters of Congress' great check against the other two branches of government: its impeachment power. Like many clauses of the Constitution, its early exercise established a potent precedent; so in 1805 Justice Chase, a member of the Supreme Court, struck Jefferson's Republican supporters as a fit object for removal. Through some political chicanery, the judiciary was then packed with Federalists, and being a highly partisan and imperious man, Chase freely used his power to sentence to hang the leader of a tax revolt (President Adams pardoned the sad sack), to convict a hack writer under the hated Alien and Sedition Act of 1798, and to attack Republican policies from the bench. It was political payback time, but the Senate was not convinced these charges were "high crimes and misdemeanors," as neither was the Senate of 1868 convinced of the case against President Johnson, albeit by one slim vote. Here, too, there was a highly political coloration; a "war" Democrat, Johnson kept vetoing the radical Republicans' sterner reconstruction program, but he was impeached on catch-all charges and a legally arcane violation of the Tenure of Office Act. In Rehnquist's opinion, his and Chase's acquittal, in reserving the impeachment power for crimes instead of political differences, preserved the independence of the executive and judicial branches. Don't yawn, though; however he found the time to write this, Rehnquist's historical common sense and the authorial cachet of his high office should entrance lawyer and layperson alike. ~--Gilbert Taylor

Publisher's Weekly Review

The importance the framers of the Constitution attributed to the balance of powers among the three branches of our government is brilliantly illustrated here by Chief Justice Rehnquist ( The Supreme Court ). Clear expositions of historical and political premises, along with lively evocations of chief players and their milieus, animate the author's engrossing account of the Senate's 1805 impeachment trial and its acquittal of the choleric Supreme Court Justice Chase for his alleged attack on the Constitution during his concurrent term as a circuit court judge. The politically motivated impeachment trial of President Johnson in 1868--he was also acquitted--concerned his removal from office of Secretary of State Edwin Stanton without Senate approval, an alleged violation of the debatable Tenure of Office Act. While Chase's acquittal, writes Rehnquist, assured ``the independence of federal judges from congressional oversight'' of their judicial opinions, the repeal of the Tenure of Office Act by the Supreme Court in 1926 freed presidents to remove executive officers from their posts at will. Thus Rehnquist concludes from his present-day perspective that with the threat of congressional impeachment largely curtailed--except for criminal offenses--the chief executive is now directly answerable only to the electorate. Photos not seen by PW. (May) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

Supreme Court Chief Justice Rehnquist has written a necessary and proper account of two of the most significant trials and ``cases'' in American legal and political history: the 1804 impeachment of Justice Samuel Chase of the U.S. Supreme Court and the 1868 impeachment of President Andrew Johnson. According to the author, U.S. legal and political history would have turned out differently and worse had either Chase or Johnson or both been convicted. With a lawyer's attention to detail, Rehnquist marshalls his facts to prove that impeachment, briefly adumbrated in the Constitution, was designed as a judicial type of inquiry into specific acts rather than a vote of confidence over policies. Impeachment is often confused with conviction; this good book clearly shows the important difference. Recommended for all libraries.-- Stephen K. Shaw, Northwest Nazarene Coll., Nampa, Id. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.