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Archive for March 1st, 2008

March 1, 1805 — Justice Samuel Chase is acquitted at the end of his impeachment trial by the U.S. Senate.

Samuel Chase, a brash, outspoken, uber-Federalist, was nominated by George Washington in 1796 in what was possibly the first head-shaking judicial nomination.  As a state judge in Maryland, he had weathered two attempts to remove him from his judgeship and was considered corrupt and, well, unpleasant.  But as proof that partisan politics has existed as long as this government has, Washington most likely chose him based on his unwavering support for all things Federalist.

Chase openly campaigned for John Adams in the contentious 1796 election and was a big supporter (on and off the bench) of the Alien and Sedition Acts which made speech against the government (and specifically Adams) illegal.

That works better when your party is in charge, but the 1800 election puts Republican Thomas Jefferson in office, and suddenly Chase is all for speaking out against the president.  Jefferson quietly urges impeachment charges in the House, and suddenly in 1805, we have the first and only Supreme Court justice to be impeached.

Presiding over the trial was none other than Vice President Aaron Burr, fresh off his duel with Alexander Hamilton.  Burr took an especially active role in chastizing Chase; he denied him a table to sit at and supposedly had the jurist close to tears on several occassions.  On March 5, the votes were counted, and Chase was acquitted on all 8 counts.  Yet even Jefferson, who more than anything wanted to curtail the budding power of the judiciary and see Chase removed, praised his VP for his skills in managing the trial.

 Lessons learned?

  • Presidents can’t remove Supreme Court justices for political reasons
  • Supreme Court justices should stay above the political fray
  • Aaron Burr was possibly THE most interesting character in U.S. history

Recommended Reading: Fallen Founder: The Life of Aaron Burr

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The ball-point pen, that is.

On March 1, 1941, Bulgaria’s Tsar Boris III lifted his and threw his lot in with the Axis Powers (Germany, Japan, Italy, Hungary, Romania, and later Yugoslavia)  by signing the Tripartite Pact in order to stave off an impending German invasion.  The Pact, penned and initially signed by the three major participants in 1940, did essentially two things.  First, it recognized that each country, in order to maintain peace, needed to acquire the necessary territory to do so.  Second, it stated that each signee would help the other members do just that.  Maybe they should have spelled “peace” differently, as this was really about a “piece” of France, “piece” of Russia, a “piece” of Africa, a “piece” of the Philippines,…

Bulgaria took a stance of neutrality and, while it had pro-German leanings, no Bulgarian armed forces took part in the War.  Boris himself died two years later, likely poisoned by Hitler, who desired stronger Bulgarian compliance.

Twenty-four days later (March 25th, 1941), Prince Paul followed suit and added Yugoslavia’s name to the Pact.  He had barely put his pen down when he was whisked away by anti-German Serbians in a March 27th coup (not the 2-door type) and replaced.  In a rage, Adolf Hitler postponed his May launch of Operation Barbarossa (the invasion of Russia), and ordered Belgrade leveled as retribution against the rebellious populace.

The Russian invasion began about six weeks later than originally planned (June 22, 1941), and stalled in a brutal winter that began early.  Russia was saved, not only by Hitler’s violent temper and a later-than-usual spring, but also by a pen which was mightier than the sword.

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