KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — In the history of the United States there have only been 21 impeachments of federal officials. Three presidents have been impeached and only one senator has ever been investigated and removed from office.
That senator was William Blount, who was also once the governor of the Southwest Territory which would become Tennessee.
“It definitely sets that precedent that nobody is above the law. Even a U.S. constitution signer,” said Jennifer Lee with the Blount Mansion Association.
Blount was one of only 39 men who signed the constitution. In the constitution, Article II, Section 4 states, “the President, Vice President and all civil Officers of the United States, shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for, and Conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors.”
Blount, an American politician and Founding Father, would become one of Tennessee’s first senators. He helped put Knoxville on the map.
However, Blount would find himself in hot water by writing a letter to Britain to start a war to increase the value of his land.
“William had hundreds of thousands of acres along the Mississippi River. The Mississippi is split between the French and the Spanish and so all trade is shut down. What William does is incite Great Britain to incite a war with the French and the Spanish to overtake the area of the Mississippi Valley,” Lee explained.
If the land was under British control, then trade would be back open.
“The act of a senator exerting that type of power, working off of his own personal gains while intermixing the relations of the US government with the Spanish government and the French government and the British government,” said Lee.
The leaked letter, stating Blount’s plan, would make its way to public officials and to an impeachment trial.
“William was a signer of the U.S. Constitution,” Lee explained. “He signed off on those powers to be used against him and he helped create [it]. So, it’s really working on your own gains. We put the system together and we need to make sure it acts the way that we’ve built it.”
Blount’s trial would set a precedent for future impeachment cases. He was expelled from the Senate in 1797. However, his impeachment case was formally dismissed in 1799.