2 North Carolinians spearheaded move to add impeachment to Consitution


RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – Impeachment is specifically addressed in the U.S. Constitution but it might not have been if it weren’t for two delegates from North Carolina.

Including the man some might call the original Tar Heel.

The colonies had won the War for Independence but, what that independence meant for Americans was still being debated.

A constitutional convention would be convened with delegates from each state.  

Veteran of the Revolutionary War and North Carolinian William Davie headed to Philadelphia.  

As Article 2 of the Constitution and the role of the president was being hashed out – fellow North Carolina delegate Hugh Williamson moved that the president should be subject to impeachment.

Davie seconded the motion.

“He was a very respected leader, knowledgeable in the law, had a statewide reputation. He was a natural fit,” said UNC professor Harry Watson. “He didn’t say much in the convention but, he was very alert to what he saw as problems of misgovernment and wanted there to be some kind of remedy.”

You may be trying to put your finger on the name William Davie.

He is considered the founder of the University of North Carolina and laid the cornerstone of the first building in 1793.

The same university Watson teaches U.S. and North Carolina history today.

Watson says the school’s founder worried that if a president is not impeachable, then there is no security for their actions and they may go to any means to win the office again.

“If he tries in a corrupt way to get himself reelected then that should be impeachable,” said Watson.

Impeachment would not be put to the test until after the Civil War.

Andrew Johnson was impeached by the House but not removed from office by the Senate.

Richard Nixon resigned before being impeached and

Bill Clinton was impeached but remained in office.  

“Impeachment is one of the important levers we have to protect ourselves from being exploited by our rulers and all of us should be very alert to that,” said Watson.

The Continental Congress, Davie included, made sure it would not be easy to remove a president.

But the option is a cornerstone, like Davie laid before at UNC,  of democracy.

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