The Marshall Court (1801–35)


What member of the Marshall Court faced impeachment proceedings?

Justice Samuel Chase, a partisan Federalist, faced impeachment proceedings for his conduct during several sedition prosecutions, including a trial involving James Callender in Richmond. Callender, as editor of the Richmond Examiner, was charged with sedition for his harsh comments about President John Adams. Callender wrote that Adams was “mentally deranged” and a “hideous hermaphroditical character, which has neither the force of a man, nor the gentleness and sensibility of a woman.” Chase presided over Callender’s trial in a biased manner, keeping all Anti-Federalists off the jury and making other rulings favorable to the prosecution.

Chief Justice Marshall expressed concern that the politically motivated impeachment would threaten the independence of the judiciary. He testified as a witness in the trial presided over by Vice President Aaron Burr. Attorney General John Randolph failed to obtain the necessary two-thirds majority on any of the impeachment charges for conviction. In fact, many Democratic-Republicans joined their Federalist counterparts and voted for acquittal on several of the charges.

President John Adams was the subject of a sedition trial in front of the U.S. Supreme Court. A newspaper editor made disparaging remarks about the president, leading to a trial in which Chief Justice Samuel Chase—like Adams, a Federalist—was accused of behaving in a biased manner favorable to the prosecution. Chase faced impeachment proceedings as a result of his conduct. Time & Life Pictures/Getty Images.

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