Impeach James Buchanan!

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Lt. Colonel
May 2, 2006
In the Spring and Summer of 1860, the House of Representatives organized a Select Committee (known as the "Covode Committee" after John Covode, the man who introduced the resolution) to investigate President Buchanan and his administration for their actions primarily concerning Kansas, but delving into all other corrupt practices they might come across. The resolution below passed on March 5th by a 115-45 vote:
Resolved, That a committee of five members be appointed by the Speaker for the purpose of investigating whether the President of the United States, or any other officer of the government, has, by money, patronage, or other improper means, sought to influence the action of Congress, or any committees thereof, for or against the passage of any law appertaining to the rights of any State or Territory; and also to inquire into and investigate whether any officer or officers of the government have, by combination or otherwise, prevented and defeated, or attempted to prevent or defeat, the execution of any law or laws now on the statute-books; and whether the President has failed or refused to compel the execution of any law thereof; that said committee shall investigate and inquire into the abuse at the Chicago or other post offices, and at the Philadelphia and other navy yards, and into any abuses in connection with the public buildings, and other public works of the United States.
Resolved, further, That as the President, in his letter to the Pittsburgh centenary celebration of the 25th November, 1858, speaks of "the employment of money to carry elections," said committee shall inquire into and ascertain the amount so used in Pennsylvania, and any other State or States, in what districts it was expended, and by whom, and by whose authority it was done, and from what sources the money was derived, and report the names of the parties implicated; and for the purpose aforesaid, said committee shall have power to send for persons and papers, and to report at any time.
The House appointed five members (3 Republicans, 2 Democrats) and the investigation was pretty partisan. Buchanan sent two written protests to the House while the Committee was operating. Most of the work was concentrated in the cities of New York, Philadelphia, Washington and the Territory of Kansas. About 3 months later (June 16th) the Covode Committee delivered an 838 page report (60 pages for the majority and minority reports + documentation) detailing all sorts of bribery and corruption, but saying that they had not found any cause to actually impeach Buchanan. They did call the Buchanan administration the most corrupt since 1789.

After that, Congress adjourned for the Summer. When they came back in December, Lincoln was President-Elect, Buchanan was a lame duck, secession fever was burning across "the South" and the nation was anxiously peering into a dark future.

John Covode was a Pennsylvania Republican from Pittsburgh known for three things:
  1. chairman of the impeachment investigation of James Buchanan in 1860
  2. his membership on the Committee on the Conduct of the War during the Civil War
  3. introducing the impeachment resolution against Andrew Johnson in 1868
For an overview of the subject, see The Impact of the Covode Investigation.
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