Alan Keyes
Impeachment and revolution, American style
By Alan Keyes
July 8, 2014

As the territorial and constitutional walls of their authority as a people are being sapped and battered down, Americans are beginning urgently to consider what, if anything, they can do. Some seem content to let things go until experience with the harsh reality of tyranny leaves no alternative but to resist, even if it means war. Though many of them profess to admire the wisdom of America's founders, apparently in this respect they believe that the founding generation offers no instruction.

This is partly the result of the degenerate understanding of revolution the word presently invokes. Since the horrors of the French Revolution, it evokes an explosion of pent-up hatred and indignation. Political, religious, and racial ideologies have harnessed these two congenital passions. The always durable vengefulness of human nature sustained them over generations. This made for revolutions that spun off purges, pogroms, and other campaigns of mass extermination, salting "killing fields" with vast populations of death throughout the 20th, and now into the 21st century.

This explosive paradigm of revolution, driven by unreflecting hatred and resentment, is alien to the America tradition. America's prevalent founders saw the revolution that produced America's Declaration of Independence in a very different light. As Madison wrote:

"[I]t is proper to take alarm at the first experiment on our liberties. We hold this prudent jealousy to be the first duty of Citizens, and one of the noblest characteristics of the late Revolution. The free men of America did not wait till usurped power had strengthened itself by exercise, and entangled the question in precedents. They saw all the consequences in the principle, and they avoided the consequences by denying the principle. We revere this lesson too much soon to forget it."

John Adams thought that this reflective foresight effected the historic change that most of all constituted the substance of the American Revolution:

"As to the history of the revolution, my ideas may be peculiar, perhaps singular. What do we mean by the revolution? The war? That was no part of the revolution; it was only an effect and consequence of it. The revolution was in the minds of the people, and this was effected from 1760–1775, in the course of 15 years, before a drop of blood was shed at Lexington." (Letter to Thomas Jefferson, Aug. 24, 1815)

For the founders, the best proof of the success of the American Revolution was not victory in war, but the adoption of the U.S. Constitution. In light of that fact, we ought to take the time to ponder the logic of its provisions. Why, for example, does the Constitution require a simple majority in the U.S. House of Representatives in order to impeach a civil officer of the U.S. government, but a two-thirds majority in order to convict at trial in the U.S. Senate? What is the sense of that?

Well, impeachment is essentially the equivalent of an indictment, an accusation of wrongful action or behavior. So where U.S. civil officers are concerned, the Constitution makes it easier to accuse than to convict them. But like a formal indictment, impeachment does not involve groundless charges. It requires that a reasonable argument be presented to substantiate the charges, as to both the facts and the law involved in any given case.

When it comes to high crimes and misdemeanors within the purview of the president of the United States, the case involves matters so fundamental to the justice and legitimacy of the U.S. government that a decision one way or another inevitably has revolutionary implications. Seen in this way, the process of impeachment (the investigation, formulation, and approval of the charges to be tried) is analogous to the process that took place in the years Adams alludes to, before America's Declaration of Independence. Impeachment is the process that informs, articulates, and confirms the will of the people, bringing them together in the righteous conviction required to sustain liberty.

The foresight of America's founders lay in the fact that they saw the consequences of tyranny in principle, and avoided those consequences by opposing it in principle. In like fashion, in order to make out an argument for impeachment in any given case, the representatives of the people are called upon to rely on principle. They are called upon not only to ascertain the facts, but to make clear the laws, the constitutional provisions, the tenets of justice and unalienable right, in light of which those facts warrant the charges they allege against the president and/or other civil officers.

Thus the impeachment process reminds people of the process of principled reflection whereby true revolutions are made and sustained. It calls upon people to re-familiarize themselves with the premises of law, right, and justice that distinguish free government from tyranny. It forces would-be tyrants to justify themselves before the people in terms of those principles, or else risk losing the minimum of support they must have in the U.S. Senate constitutionally to retain their office.

Today, there is good reason to know that the elitist faction leadership in both parties is seeking to overturn the Constitution. The Obama Democrats are working feverishly to establish precedents that will entrench elitist faction tyranny. In line with that, the elitist faction GOP leadership works to suppress effective opposition to this entrenchment, until the question of liberty becomes so mired in precedents that it can never rise again.

When they made the task of impeachment easier than conviction at trial, the founders obviously expected impeachment to be the more frequent occurrence. Could this be because they had the common sense to realize that the capacity to recognize and defend against threats to liberty requires frequent practice? Could this be because they knew that perpetuating the blessings of liberty is not just a matter of this or that immediate outcome, but of maintaining the spirit of thoughtful, informed resistance to tyranny that gave birth to America in the first place?

This past week, we celebrated the day on which America's Declaration of Independence was adopted. The Declaration was the paradigmatic bill of impeachment, clearly stating the charges against King George III and the timeless principle of God-endowed unalienable right in light of which his actions violated the "laws of nature and of nature's God."

Thanks to the elitist faction's adamantly tyrannical ambitions, we again live at a time when it is appropriate to ponder the wise example of America's founding. It's also a good time to consider acting upon it. The Pledge to Impeach mobilization offers a way for the people themselves to call candidates for national office in the 2014 election to take a stand against the ongoing betrayal of America's constitutional government. Have you committed yourself to the Pledge To Impeach mobilization and to the work of encouraging others to do likewise?

To see more articles by Dr. Keyes, visit his blog at and his commentary at and

© Alan Keyes


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Alan Keyes

Dr. Keyes holds the distinction of being the only person ever to run against Barack Obama in a truly contested election – featuring authentic moral conservatism vs. progressive liberalism – when they challenged each other for the open U.S. Senate seat from Illinois in 2004... (more)


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