The word “impeachment” is never far from the lips of anyone who is unhappy with a president of the United States, but how did the Framers of the US Constitution intend impeachment to be used, and has our behavior met their expectations? What are the rules that govern its use, and what does it really mean to impeach someone?
This lesson examines impeachment closely. Students will analyze the Declaration of Independence, the Articles of Confederation, Constitutional Convention records, a selection from the Federalist Papers, the US Constitution, and data tables that show how impeachment proceedings advanced in the legislature since Reconstruction. Special attention is paid to why the phrase “high crimes and misdemeanors” appears in the US Constitution, and examples of what the Framers thought met this threshold are included.
These materials are appropriate for a US I course, and can be used to teach the Constitutional Convention. This packet is also designed to standalone as a dedicated unit on impeachment. The contents provide a framework to understand impeachment as a legal tool, and will serve as a useful background to understand any Article 2 event that may occur in the future.
**I made a video describing this lesson. Click here to watch a YouTube tutorial.**
Lesson Plan – Total Time: 5-7 days
DBQs can be used in many ways, but this lesson supposes teachers will have students read and answer the questions that relate to the DBQ, (2-3 days), then follow one of two tracks:
• Have students write a five-paragraph essay that answers the question “Has impeachment worked as the Framers intended? Support your answer with in-text citations.” (3-4 additional days)
• Discuss the merits of impeachment in a Socratic Seminar/fishbowl. Students will come to class ready to discuss questions provided to them using a completed reference sheet. (3 additional days)
Abstract of DBQ:
As the Framers of the US Constitution assembled in Philadelphia they had many difficult tasks ahead of them. What began as an effort to reform the Articles of Confederation quickly became a total overhaul of the US government. One of the items the delegates sorted through was creating an executive branch along with a new chief magistrate to lead them. With King George III’s tyranny still in their memory, the Framers were careful to build safeguards into the system incase this new leader needed to be removed. But what should the rules for dismissal be, and how did the delegates come to them? If used today, how would we know if removal worked as the Framers intended?
DBQ Resources Included:
• Two pre-reading sheets: a vocab list, and brief summary of delegates appearing in this DBQ
• An introduction essay contextualizing the DBQ (638 words)
• Document 1 - Preambles to Founding Documents (169 words)
• Document 2 - Executive Power and Impeachment References in the US Constitution (442 words)
• Document 3 - Should We Have Impeachment? (482 words)
• Document 4 - Grounds for Impeachment (450 words)
• Document 5 - Clarifying High Crimes and Misdemeanors (470 words)
• Document 6* - Cautions and Problems of Impeachment (538 words)
• Document 7 - Civic Responsibility (57 words)
* Document 6 includes data tables showing impeachment votes by offence, party, and president
Other Resources Included:
• DBQ Question sheet and answer key
• Supporting PowerPoint for instructions
• Essay assignment description and rubric
• Essay outline writing guide
• Socratic Seminar observation checklist
Questions? Feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
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