Historical Almanac of the U.S. Senate

Contents:
Author: Robert J. Dole  | Date: July 8, 1797

The Expulsion of William Blount

On July 8, 1797, the Senate expelled Senator William Blount of Tennessee. In two hundred years, only fifteen of the Senate’s approximately eighteen hundred members have been expelled. Blount was the first; the remaining expulsions occurred during the Civil War.

William Blount was a signer of the Declaration of Independence, a former North Carolina Federalist turned Tennessee Republican, and an unscrupulous, chronically overextended land speculator. On July 3, 1797, President John Adams, a staunch Federalist, transmitted to the Senate a letter from Senator Blount to James Carey, an interpreter for the Cherokee Nation. In the letter, undeniably written by Blount, the senator imprudently spelled out plans to launch an attack by Cherokee and Creek Indians and frontiersmen, aided by the British fleet, in order to wrest Louisiana and Florida away from the Spanish and turn them over to England. From this blatant conspiracy with the British, Blount stood to profit handsomely.

Blount’s highly incriminating letter was referred to a select Senate committee. The evidence against him was conclusive, and the committee recommended his expulsion for "a high misdemeanor, entirely inconsistent with his public trust and duty as a Senator." Blount’s grandiose plotting was so distasteful to his fellow senators that they expelled him on July 8, 1797, by a nearly unanimous vote of 2 to 1.

Blount’s expulsion did him little harm in Tennessee, where he was promptly elected speaker of the state senate. His problems with the federal Congress, however, were far from over. In 1798, Federalist leaders in the House, not content with his expulsion, adopted five articles of impeachment against Blount. His impeachment trial in the Senate in January 1799 was the first ever held. Blount’s lawyers argued vehemently that the Senate had no jurisdiction over their client, since he was a private citizen. By a vote of 14 to 11, his former colleagues agreed, refusing jurisdiction in the case.

Contents:

Related Resources

None available for this document.

Download Options


Title: Historical Almanac of the U.S. Senate

Select an option:

*Note: A download may not start for up to 60 seconds.

Email Options


Title: Historical Almanac of the U.S. Senate

Select an option:

Email addres:

*Note: It may take up to 60 seconds for for the email to be generated.

Chicago: Robert J. Dole, "The Expulsion of William Blount," Historical Almanac of the U.S. Senate: A Series of Bicentennial Minutes Presented to the Senate During the One Hundredth Congress (Washington, D.C.: U.S Government Printing Office, 1989), in Original Sources, accessed February 3, 2023, http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=8FLGHXXYKURJ1VN.

MLA: Dole, Robert J. "The Expulsion of William Blount." Historical Almanac of the U.S. Senate: A Series of Bicentennial Minutes Presented to the Senate During the One Hundredth Congress, Washington, D.C., U.S Government Printing Office, 1989, in , Original Sources. 3 Feb. 2023. http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=8FLGHXXYKURJ1VN.

Harvard: Dole, RJ 1989, 'The Expulsion of William Blount' in Historical Almanac of the U.S. Senate: A Series of Bicentennial Minutes Presented to the Senate During the One Hundredth Congress, U.S Government Printing Office, Washington, D.C.. cited in , . Original Sources, retrieved 3 February 2023, from http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=8FLGHXXYKURJ1VN.