With the release of a public letter explaining their reasons for supporting the impeachment of Donald J. Trump, more than 750 American historians are sounding the alarm about the duty and necessity for lawmakers to vote in favor of impeaching the president.
Co-authored by Sean Wilenta, professor of American history at Princeton University, and Brenda Wineapple, author of a book about Andrew Johnson – the first of only three U.S. presidents to be impeached thus far – the letter sites the uncannily prescient words penned in 1792 by the venerable Alexander Hamilton:
We are American historians devoted to studying our nation’s past who have concluded that Donald J. Trump has violated his oath to “faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States” and to “preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.” His “attempts to subvert the Constitution,” as George Mason described impeachable offenses at the Constitutional Convention in 1787, urgently and justly require his impeachment.
President Trump’s numerous and flagrant abuses of power are precisely what the Framers had in mind as grounds for impeaching and removing a president. Among those most hurtful to the Constitution have been his attempts to coerce the country of Ukraine, under attack from Russia, an adversary power to the United States, by withholding essential military assistance in exchange for the fabrication and legitimization of false information in order to advance his own re-election.
President Trump’s lawless obstruction of the House of Representatives, which is rightly seeking documents and witness testimony in pursuit of its constitutionally-mandated oversight role, has demonstrated brazen contempt for representative government. So have his attempts to justify that obstruction on the grounds that the executive enjoys absolute immunity, a fictitious doctrine that, if tolerated, would turn the president into an elected monarch above the law.
As Alexander Hamilton wrote in The Federalist, impeachment was designed to deal with “the misconduct of public men” which involves “the abuse or violation of some public trust.” Collectively, the President’s offenses, including his dereliction in protecting the integrity of the 2020 election from Russian disinformation and renewed interference, arouse once again the Framers’ most profound fears that powerful members of government would become, in Hamilton’s words, “the mercenary instruments of foreign corruption.”
It is our considered judgment that if President Trump’s misconduct does not rise to the level of impeachment, then virtually nothing does.
It is our considered judgment that if President Trump’s misconduct does not rise to the level of impeachment, then virtually nothing does
Hamilton understood, as he wrote in 1792, that the republic remained vulnerable to the rise of an unscrupulous demagogue, “unprincipled in private life, desperate in his fortune, bold in his temper, possessed of considerable talents…despotic in his ordinary demeanour.” That demagogue, Hamilton said, could easily enough manage “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.” Such a figure, Hamilton wrote, would “throw things into confusion that he may ‘ride the storm and direct the whirlwind.’”
President Trump’s actions committed both before and during the House investigations fit Hamilton’s description and manifest utter and deliberate scorn for the rule of law and “repeated injuries” to constitutional democracy. That disregard continues and it constitutes a clear and present danger to the Constitution. We therefore strongly urge the House of Representatives to impeach the President.
If you are an historian, you are invited to add your signature to this historic document. Click on the link below.