• U.S.

National Affairs: I Impeach. . . .

3 minute read

“Mr. Speaker, I rise to a question of constitutional privilege.” One afternoon last week Representative Louis Thomas McFadden, rambunctious Pennsylvania Republican, planted himself in the House well, squared his stocky shoulders, spoke these words. Behind him on the rostrum slouched Speaker Garner. Before him several hunched members drowsed through routine legislation. The strident McFadden voice continued: “On my own responsibility as a member of the House of Representatives, I impeach Herbert Hoover, President of the United States, for high crimes and misdemeanors and offer the following resolution. . . .” The House, shocked as if by electricity, sat bolt upright. For 20 seconds there was a stunned silence. Not since 1868 when that other Pennsylvanian, lame Thaddeus Stevens, made charges against Andrew Johnson, had the awful ritual of impeachment been uttered in the House against a U. S. President.* An excited buzzing broke loose as Representative McFadden passed his resolution to the clerk on the rostrum and took a seat on the front-row bench. Beneath his red hair his face looked pale and drawn. No man in the House hates President Hoover more intensely than he. Last session he accused him of treason in granting the Debt Moratorium (TIME, Dec. 28). He has fought the Hoover financial policy at every turn. Now he had pulled his grievances together into 24 impeachment counts which the House quickly recognized as “old stuff.” Above the members’ resentful babble only phrases of the McFadden resolution as read by the clerk could be heard:

“Herbert Hoover . . . unlawfully usurped legislative powers … a policy inimical to the welfare of the United REPRESENTATIVE MCFADDEN He followed Thaddeus Stevens. States . . . unlawfully dissipated financial resources . . . injured the credit and financial standing … his declaration of the moratorium has meant sacrifices by the American people. … He did appoint one Andrew W. Mellon Ambassador while a resolution for the impeachment of the said Mellon was being heard. . . . Treated with contumely the veterans . . . sent a military force heavily armed against homeless, hungry, sick, ragged and defenseless men, women and children and drove them out by force of fire and sword. . . .” When the clerk finished reading, North Carolina’s Pou, senior House Democrat, declared: “Mr. Speaker, I move to lay the resolution on the table.” A great cheer went up as the Democratic majority, party politics aside, massed in defense of the Republican President. The impeachment resolution was “laid on the table” (i. e. defeated) by the overwhelming vote of 361-to-8. Seven Democrats voted for it: New York’s Black and Griffin, Texas’ Blanton and Patman (bonuseer who tried to impeach Mr. Mellon), North Carolina’s Hancock, Ohio’s Sweeney, Missouri’s Romjue. Rarely before had a U. S. President received such a thumping big non-partisan vote of confidence from the House. Impeacher McFadden, denounced and condemned by all Republicans for his “contemptible gesture” against his President, was re-elected last month on the Republican, Democratic and Prohibition tickets from his district in northeastern Pennsylvania.

*Only a majority of the House actually impeaches. Ten times in U. S. history has the Senate sat as a court on House impeachments. It removed two district judges and a judge of the defunct Commerce Court, acquitted a President, a Secretary of War, a Supreme Court justice, two district judges.

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