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Historians' Statement on Impeachment

Wednesday, October 28, 1998

Following is the full text of an open letter signed by 412 of the nation's leading historians. See list of signatures at bottom or, for more information, see the Post story.

As historians as well as citizens, we deplore the present drive to impeach the President. We believe that this drive, if successful, will have the most serious implications for our constitutional order.

Under our Constitution, impeachment of the President is a grave and momentous step. The Framers explicitly reserved that step for high crimes and misdemeanors in the exercise of executive power. Impeachment for anything else would, according to James Madison, leave the President to serve "during pleasure of the Senate," thereby mangling the system of checks and balances that is our chief safeguard against abuses of public power.

Although we do not condone President Clinton's private behavior or his subsequent attempts to deceive, the current charges against him depart from what the Framers saw as grounds for impeachment. The vote of the House of Representatives to conduct an open-ended inquiry creates a novel, all-purpose search for any offense by which to remove a President from office.

The theory of impeachment underlying these efforts is unprecedented in our history. The new processes are extremely ominous for the future of our political institutions. If carried forward, they will leave the Presidency permanently disfigured and diminished, at the mercy as never before of the caprices of any Congress. The Presidency, historically the center of leadership during our great national ordeals, will be crippled in meeting the inevitable challenges of the future.

We face a choice between preserving or undermining our Constitution. Do we want to establish a precedent for the future harassment of presidents and to tie up our government with a protracted national agony of search and accusation? Or do we want to protect the Constitution and get back to the public business?

We urge you, whether you are a Republican, a Democrat, or an Independent, to oppose the dangerous new theory of impeachment, and to demand the restoration of the normal operations of our federal government.

Co-Sponsors
Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr., City University of New York
Sean Wilentz, Princeton University
C. Vann Wodward, Yale University

Signatories

Richard M. Abrams, University of California, Berkeley
Robert H. Abzug, University of Texas, Austin
Jean-Christophe Agnew, Yale University
John M Allswang, California State University, Los Angeles
Stephen E. Ambrose, Director Emeritus, Eisenhower Center, University of New Orleans
John Andrew, Franklin & Marshall College
Dee E. Andrews, California State University, Hayward
Ronald R, Atkinson, University of South Carolina
Edward L. Ayres, University of Virginia
Holly Baggett, Southwest Missouri State University
Beth Bailey, University of New Mexico
Jean H. Baker, Goucher College
Francisco E. Balderrama, California State University, Los Angeles
Brian H. Balogh, University of Virginia
Charles Banner-Haley, Colgate University
Lucy Barber, University of California, Davis
Peter Bardaglio, Goucher College
Ava Baron, Rider University
Beatrice S. Bartlett, Yale University
Norma Basch, Rutgers University, Newark
Gail Bederman, University of Notre Dame
F. E. Beemon, Middle Tennessee State University
Samuel H. Beer, Harvard University
Thomas Bender, New York University
Carol Berkin, Baruch College
Gordon M. Berger, University of Southern California
Ira Berlin, University of Maryland
Iver Bernstein, Washington University
Michael A. Bernstein, University of California, San Diego
Chad Berry, Maryville College
Lindy Biggs, Auburn University
Casey Blake, Washington University
David W. Blight, Amherst College
John Morton Blum, Yale University
Stuart Blumin, Cornell University
Rebecca Boehling, University of Maryland, Baltimore County
Julian Bond, University of Virginia
Robert Bonner, Carleton College
Eileen Boris, University of Virginia
Jeanne Boydston, University of Wisconsin, Madison
Taylor Branch, Goucher College
Ann Braude, Harvard Divinity School
Richard Breitman, American University
Alan Brinkley, Columbia University
Douglas Brinkley, University of New Orleans
Joshua Brown, Graduate Center, City University of New York
Kathleen M. Brown, University of Pennsylvania
W. Elliott Brownlee, University of California, Santa Barbara
Rowland Brucken, Northern Kentucky University
Joan Jacobs Brumberg, Cornell University
Mari Jo Buhle, Brown University
James MacGregor Burns, University of Maryland
Vernon Burton, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign
Jon Butler, Yale University
Albert Camarillo, Stanford University
Charles Capper, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill
Andrew R. L. Cayton, Miami University of Ohio
Marty Kupiec Cayton, Miami University of Ohio
Jane Turner Censer, George Mason University
Gordon H. Chang, Stanford University
Herrick Chapman, New York University
George Chauncey, University of Chicago
Robert W. Cherny, San Francisco State University
Clifford E. Clark, Jr., Carleton College
Geoffrey Clark, Emory University
Kendrick Clements, University of South Carolina
Lizabeth Cohen, Harvard University
Miriam Cohen, Vassar College
Jerald A. Combs, San Francisco State University
Rebecca Conard, Middle Tennessee State University
Steven Conn, Ohio State University
Carolyn C. Cooper, Yale University
John Milton Cooper, University of Wisconsin, Madison
George Cotkin, California Polytechnic State University
Nancy F. Cott, Yale University
Francis G. Couvares, Amherst College
George Craft, California State University, Sacramento
Paul Jerome Croce, Stetson University
Robert D. Cross, University of Virginia
Anthony D'Agostino, San Francisco State University
Jane Dailey, Rice University
Robert Dallek, Boston University
Kathleen Dalton, Harvard University
David Brion Davis, Yale University
Alan Dawley, The College of New Jersey
Gary B. Deason, St. Olaf College
Arif Dirlik, Duke University
Colleen A. Dunlavy, University of Wisconsin, Madison
Victoria de Grazia, Columbia University
Carl N. Degler, Stanford University
Jane S. DeHart, University of California, Santa Barbara
John A. D'Emilio, Guggenheim Fellow
Matthew Dennis, University of Oregon
Sarah Deutsch, Clark University
David H. Donald, Harvard University
Bruce Dorsey, Swarthmore College
Richard Drayton, University of Virginia
Philip Dreyfus, San Francisco State University
Thomas Dublin, State University of New York, Binghamton
Ellen C. Du Bois, University of California, Los Angeles
Faye Dudden, Colgate University
David V. DuFault, San Diego State University
Mary Maples Dunn, Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe College
Mary L. Dudziak, University of Southern California
Ellen Dwyer, Indiana University
Jonathan Earle, University of Kansas
Laura F. Edwards, University of California, Los Angeles
Rebecca Edwards, Vassar College
Abraham Eisenstadt, Brooklyn College
Joseph J. Ellis, Mount Holyoke College
Mustafa Emirbayer, New School for Social Research
James Epstein, Vanderbilt University
Philip J. Ethington, University of Southern California
Harold Evans
Sara M. Evans, University of Minnesota
Bret Eynon, Graduate Center, City University of New York
Ann Fabian, Graduate Center, City University of New York
Alice Fahs, University of California, Irvine
John Mack Faragher, Yale University
David Farber, University of New Mexico
James J. Farrell, St. Olaf College
Drew Gilpin Faust, University of Pennsylvania
Paul H. Fagette, Jr., Arkansas State University
Heide Fehrenbach, Emory University
Daniel Feller, University of New Mexico
Peter G. Filene, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill
Lisa M. Fine, Michigan State University
William Forbath, University of Texas, Austin
.Maureen A. Flanagan, Michigan State University
Stephen Fox, Humboldt State University
Jimmie Franklin, Vanderbilt University
John Hope Franklin, Duke University
George M. Fredrickson, Stanford University
Kari A. Fredrickson, University of Central Florida
Estelle Freedman, Stanford University
Jean E. Friedman, University of Georgia
Sylvia Frey, Tulane University
Jennifer Frost, University of Northern Colorado
Kevin Gaines, University of Texas, Austin
Brett Gary, Drew University
Paul Gaston, University of Virginia
Henry Louis Gates, Jr., Harvard University
Rochelle Gatlin, City College of San Francisco
Edith Gelles, Stanford University
Gary Gerstle, Catholic University of America
James B. Gilbert, University of Maryland
John S. Gilkeson, Arizona State University, West
Glenda Gilmore, Yale University
Todd Gitlin, New York University
Susan Glenn, University of Washington
Thavolia Glymph, Penn State University
Marie Helene Gold, Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe College
Michael Lewis Goldberg, University of Washington, Bothell
Jan Goldstein, University of Chicago
Margaret Goodart, California State University, Sacramento
James Goodman, Rutgers University
Doris Kearns Goodwin
Linda Gordon, University of Wisconsin, Madison
Robert W. Gordon, Yale University
Frances Gouda, American University
Kelley Gove, Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe College
Hugh Davis Graham, Vanderbilt University
Susan Gray, Arizona State University
Amy Greenberg, Penn State University
Mott T. Greene, University of Puget Sound
James N. Gregory, University of Washington
Katherine Grier, University of South Carolina
Carol Groneman, John Jay College of Criminal Justice
Ariela Gross, University of Southern California
James Grossman, The Newberry Library
Joan R. Gunderson, Elon College
Melanie Gustafson, University of Vermont
Ramon Gutierrez, University of California, San Diego
Malachi Hacohen, Duke University
Sheldon Hackney, University of Pennsylvania
Timothy Haggerty, Middle Tennessee State University
Jacquelyn D. Hall, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill
William H. Harbaugh, University of Virginia
Leslie M. Harris, Emory University
Cynthia Harrison, George Washington University
Hendrik Hartog, Princeton University
Robert Haskett, University of Oregon
Robert J. Haws, University of Mississippi
Jeffrey Herf, Ohio University
Ellen Herman, University of Oregon
William B. Hixson, Jr., Michigan State University
Martha Hodes, New York University
Graham R. Hodges, Colgate University
David A. Hollinger, University of California, Berkeley
Thomas C. Holt, University of Chicago
Ari Hoogenboom, Brooklyn College
June Hopkins, Armstrong Atlantic State University
James Oliver Horton, George Washington University Lois E. Horton, George
Washington University
Pamela Hronek, Arkansas State University
Margaret Humphreys, Duke University
Norris Hundley, University of California, Los Angeles
Alaine S. Hutson, Southwest Missouri State University
Harold M. Hyman, Rice University
Paula E. Hyman, Yale University
Joseph Illick, San Francisco State University
Stephen Innes, University of Virginia
William Issel, San Francisco State University
Maurice Isserman, Hamilton College
Julie Roy Jeffrey, Goucher College
George Juergens, Indiana University
Paul E. Johnson, University of South Carolina
Winthrop D. Jordan, University of Mississippi
Richard John, University of Illinois, Chicago
John B. Judis, The New Republic
Jane Kamensky, Brandeis University
Alan Karras, University of California at Berkeley
John F. Kasson, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill
Stanley N. Katz, Princeton University
Ira Katznelson, Columbia University
Michael Kammen, Cornell University
Michael Kazin, American University
Frances Richardson Keller, San Francisco State University
David M. Kennedy, Stanford University
Ross A. Kennedy, San Francisco State University
Linda K. Kerber, University of Iowa
Alice Kessler-Harris, Rutgers University
Jane A. Kimball, University of California, Davis
Wilma King, Michigan State University
W. Dean Kinzley, University of South Carolina
Richard S. Kirkendall, University of Washington
Rachel Klein, University of California, San Diego
Jane Knowles, Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe College
Peter Kolchin, University of Delaware
Jessica Kross, University of South Carolina
Bruce Kuklick, University of Pennsylvania
Howard I. Kushner, San Diego State University
Ann J. Lane, University of Virginia
Perry Leavell, Drew University
Janice M. Leone, Middle Tennesse State University
Jill Lepore, Boston University
Gerda Lerner, University of Wisconsin, Madison
Paul Lerner, University of Southern California
Lawrence W. Levine, George Mason University
Jan Lewis, Rutgers University, Newark
Patricia Nelson Limerick, University of Colorado, Boulder
Kriste Lindenmeyer, Tennessee Technological University
Kenneth Lipartito, Florida International University
Laura Lovett, University of Tennessee, Chattanooga
David M. Luebke, University of Oregon
Elizabeth Lunbeck, Princeton University
Pauline Maier, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Barbara Malony, Santa Clara University
Patrick J. Maney, University of South Carolina
Jo Burr Margadant, Santa Clara University
Ted W. Margadant, University of California, Davis
Elaine Tyler May, University of Minnesota
Lary May, University of Minnesota
Glenna Matthews, University of California, Berkeley
Woodford McClellan, University of Virginia
Rowena McClinton, Middle Tennessee State University
Arthur F. McEvoy, University of Wisconsin, Madison
Michael McGerr, Indiana University
James M. McPherson, Princeton University
Samuel T. McSeveney, Vanderbilt University
Seymour H. Mauskopf, Duke University
Peter Mellini, Sonoma State University
Michael Meranze, University of California, San Diego
John Merriman, Yale University
Sonya Michel, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign
Judith A. Miller, Emory University
Sally M. Miller, University of the Pacific
Arwen P. Mohun, University of Delaware
Eric Monkkonen, University of California, Los Angeles
Edmund S. Morgan, Yale University
Francesca Morgan, University of North Texas
Marilyn Morris, University of North Texas
Eva Moseley, Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe College
Timothy Moy, University of New Mexico
Edward Muir, Northwestern University
Robyn Muncy, University of Maryland
Paul Murphy, Washington University
Teresa Murphy, George Washington University
John M. Murrin, Princeton University
Norman Naimark, Stanford University
David Nasaw, Graduate Center, City University of New York
Sydney Nathans, Duke University
Louise Newman, University of Florida
May M. Ngai, University of Chicago
Mary Beth Norton, Cornell University
Walter Nugent, University of Notre Dame
James Oakes, Graduate Center, City University of New York
Barbara Oberg, Yale University
Louis A. Okin, Humboldt State University
Richard J. Orsi, California State University, Hayward
Kenneth N. Owens, California State University, Sacramento
Brian Owensby, University of Virginia
Phyllis Palmer, George Washington University
Orlando Patterson, Harvard University
Elisabeth Israels Perry, Vanderbilt University
Lewis C. Perry, Vanderbilt University
John Pettegrew, Lehigh University
Richard Pierce, University of Notre Dame
Jerry Podair, Lawrence University
Phyllis P. Pobst, Arkansas State University
Jonathan Porter, University of New Mexico
William C. Pratt, University of Nebraska, Omaha
David Prochaska, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign
Candace Pryor, Graduate Center, City University of New York
Anson G. Rabinbach, Princeton University
Jack N. Rakove, Stanford University
Linda Reed, University of Houston
William J. Reese, University of Wisconsin at Madison
Henry Reichman, California State University, Hayward
David M. Reimers, New York University
Julie Reuben, Harvard University
Moses Rischin, San Francisco State University
Howard O. Robinson, Armstrong Atlantic State University
Thomas Robisheaux, Duke University
Daniel T. Rodgers, Princeton University
Aron Rodrigue, Stanford University
Sonya O. Rose, University of Michigan
Ruth Rosen, University of California, Davis
Charles Rosenberg, University of Pennsylvania
Barbara Rosenkrantz, Harvard University
Roy Rosenzweig, George Mason University
David Rosner, Columbia University
Mary Logan Rothschild, Arizona State University
Andrew J. Rotter, Colgate University
E. Anthony Rotundo, Phillips Academy, Andover
Leslie S. Rowland, University of Maryland
Steven Ruggles, University of Minnesota
Vicki Ruiz, Arizona State University
Margaret Rung, Roosevelt University
Leila J. Rupp, Ohio State University
Nancy E. Rupprecht, Middle Tennessee State University
Cynthia Russett, Yale University
Julie Saville, University of Chicago
Virginia Scharff, University of New Mexico
Kenneth A. Scherzer, Middle Tennessee State University
Eric Schneider, University of Pennsylvania
Constance B. Schulz, University of South Carolina
Gus L. Seligmann, University of North Texas
Rachel F. Seidman, Carleton College
David Shearer, University of Delaware
Barbara Sicherman, Trinity College
David Sicilia, University of Maryland
Sharon Sievers, California State University, Long Beach
Peter Sigal, California State University, Los Angeles
Eric Singer, Goucher College
Henry Silverman, Michigan State University
Sheila Skemp, University of Mississippi
David E. Skinner, Santa Clara University
Kathryn Kish Sklar, State University of New York, Binghamton
Susan Sleeper-Smith, Michigan State University
Judith Smith, University of Massachusetts, Boston
Thaddeus Smith, Middle Tennessee State University
Mitchell Snay, Denison University
Ricki Solinger
Margaret R. Somers, University of Michigan
Diane Sommerville, Lafayette College
Allan H. Spear, University of Minnesota, Twin Cities
Thomas Spear, University of Wisconsin, Madison
Denise S. Spooner, California State University, Northridge
Amy Gilman Srebnick, Montclair State University
Amy Dru Stanley, University of Chicago
Judith M. Stanley, California State University, Hayward
Christine Stansell, Princeton University
Amy L. S. Staples, Middle Tennessee State University
Carolyn J. Stefanco, California Polytechnic State University
Judith Stein, Graduate Center, City University of New York
Allen Steinberg, University of Iowa
Steven J. Stern, University of Wisconsin, Madison
James Brewer Stewart, Macalester College
Marla Stone, Occidental College
Thomas J. Sugrue, University of Pennsylvania
Emily Zack Tabuteau, Michigan State University
Paul M. Taillon, University of Northern Colorado
Lillian Taiz, California State University, Los Angeles
Alan Taylor, University of California, Davis
Stephen Taylor, Middle Tennessee State University
Tommy R. Thompson, University of Nebraska, Omaha
J. L. Tobey, California State University, Sacramento
Hans Trefousse, Brooklyn College
James C. Turner, University of Notre Dame
Nancy C. Unger, Santa Clara University
Daniel H. Usner, Jr., Cornell University
Philip VanderMeer, Arizona State University
Bruce A. VanSledright, University of Maryland
Clarence L. Ver Steeg, Northwestern University
Penny Von Eschen, University of Texas, Austin
Helena M. Wall, Pomona College
Wendy Wall, Duke University
David W. Walker, Michigan State University
Ronald Walters, The Johns Hopkins University
Geoffrey C. Ward
Richard White, University of Washington
Eric D. Weitz, St. Olaf College
Carl D. Weiner, Carleton College
Lynn Y. Weiner, Roosevelt University
Robert M. Weir, University of South Carolina
Robert R. Weyeneth, University of South Carolina
Deborah Gray White, Rutgers University
Jonathan M. Wiener, University of California, Irvine
Harry McKinley Williams, Carleton College
Michael Willrich, Rice University
Garry Wills, Northwestern University
Allan M. Winkler, Miami University of Ohio
Barbara Winslow, Brooklyn College
Gwendolyn Wright, Columbia University
Peter H. Wood, Duke University
Sharon Wood, University of Nebraska, Omaha
C. Vann Woodward, Yale University
J. William T. Youngs, Eastern Washington University
Rosemarie Zagarri, George Mason University
Jonathan Zeitlin, University of Wisconsin, Madison
Olivier Zunz, University of Virginia



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