The only impeached and censured U.S. presidents were from Tennessee, and
their history may hold lessons for Congress in deciding President Clinton's
fate, University of Tennessee historians said last week.
Paul Bergeron, who heads UT-Knoxville's Andrew Johnson presidential papers
project, said Johnson's impeachment and Senate trial weakened the
Harold Moser, director of UT's Andrew Jackson papers, said Jackson's
censure in 1834 was unconstitutional.
"What happened to the presidency after Jackson was a succession of very
weak presidents who, frankly, were not very good," Bergeron said. "You had
a very strong Congress controlling the national government and there was
Some congressional leaders have called for impeaching Clinton over the
Monica Lewinsky scandal, but Bergeron said others may fear it could weaken
future presidencies as it did following Jackson.
"I'm giving credit to members of Congress for knowing their history,"
Bergeron said. "I think there are some members who are saying, 'Wait a
minute, let's look at what happened 130 years ago. Is this where we want to
While some call for Clinton's impeachment or resignation, others say they
favor censuring the president to include fines or a criminal trial after
his term ends.
Moser said Andrew Jackson's censure was unconstitutional, did nothing to
punish Jackson, and was later removed from his record.
"Senators who pushed for Jackson's censure were making up the rules as they
went along," Moser said.
"It was a political matter, but even if the censure had not been expunged
from his record, Jackson still would have gone down in history as a strong
Studying nation's past could decide Clinton's future
Published: Wed Oct 07, 1998 | Modified: Sat Aug 06, 2005 01:38 p.m.