It is appropriate indeed that the first time voters will be offered an opportunity to weigh in on the question of whether to impeach President George W. Bush for high crimes and misdemeanors is at a New England town meeting in a community chartered two years before the Declaration of Independence was drafted.
After all, in a country founded on the principle that executives -- be they kings or presidents -- must be accountable to the people, patriots have always known that, as George Mason, the father of the Bill of Rights, told the Constitutional Convention of 1787: "No point is of more importance than that the right of impeachment should be continued. Shall any man be above Justice?"
In Newfane, Vermont, Dan DeWalt, who serves as an elected member of the town's Select Board, has answered that question as Mason intended. "We have an immoral government operating illegally," DeWalt explained, when he proposed that today's annual town meeting vote on articles of impeachment.
DeWalt gathered the necessary signatures to qualify the measure for consideration by the residents of Newfane, who were set to gather today in the southeast Vermont community's 174-year-old Union Hall to consider more than two dozen issues, most of which involve local taxes.
It is Article 29, proposed by DeWalt, that will draw national attention for the first time to the town meetings that have been held each march since 1774 in Newfane.
That article declares:
We the voters of Newfane would like Town Meeting, March 2006, to consider the following resolution:
Whereas George W. Bush has:
1. Misled the nation about Iraq's weapons of mass destruction;
2. Misled the nation about ties between Iraq and Al Quaeda;
3. Used these falsehoods to lead our nation into war unsupported by international law;
4. Not told the truth about American policy with respect to the use of torture; and
5. Has directed the government to engage in domestic spying, in direct contravention of U.S. law.
Therefore, the voters of the town of Newfane ask that our representative to the U.S. House of Representatives file articles of impeachment to remove him from office.
The defenders of the current regime have already ridiculed DeWalt for his audacious proposal, just as they have ridiculed the voters of Newfane for considering it -- and the state of Vermont for being home to so rebellious a community. "Why should the most powerful man in the world worry about what Vermont voters say at a town meeting?" they ask, in mocking tones. "Who do these profaners from Newfane think they are?"
But mockey and condemnation have always been the portion served up to those patriots who dare to challenge the corruptions of empire.
It was not easy to challenge a King George 230.
It is not easy to challenge a King George today.
But even the most conservative of the founders, Gouverneur Morris, told the Constitutional Convention during the debate on impeachment that a president must always be conscious of his secondary role in the scheme of the new Republic.
"This Magistrate is not the King," explained Morris. "The people are the King."
Today, the people of Newfane are King. As such, they are well suited to judge the high crimes and misdemeanors of George Bush, and to propose his prosecution by the authorities who were charged by the founders with the task of checking and balancing the executive branch of governnment and its excesses.