14. William Blount was the first federal official to be impeached in the United States
Although relatively unknown today, William Blount represented North Carolina at the Constitutional Convention, and signed the subsequent document. In June, 1790, he accepted the position of Governor of the new territory of Tennessee. When Tennessee became a state in 1796 he accepted a position as one of the two new Senators. Throughout his political career he speculated in land in the nearby territories in the west. Falling land prices promised financial ruin, and fears that France would take over the Spanish territories in Louisiana and Florida further threatened his financial standing. Blount conspired with fellow Tennessee politicians and speculators to launch a joint British-American expedition to seize Spanish territories in Florida and Louisiana. Both New Orleans and Pensacola were to be targets of attack by the British Navy, supported by American militia. In the spring of 1797 the plan was revealed in a letter written by Blount.
By July, the House of Representatives prepared articles of impeachment, and the Senate expelled him by a vote of 25-1. When impeachment articles arrived in the Senate, Blount’s counsel argued that body had no jurisdiction, since Blount no longer served as a member of the Senate. He fled to Tennessee, where he remained a popular figure, enjoying the support of a rising figure in that state, Andrew Jackson. But his national reputation was in tatters. Newspapers, in the partisan style of the time, excoriated him, though for different reasons. Anti-federalist papers accused him of being in a larger plot, developed by Revolutionary France, and attempted to link Jefferson to the conspiracy. George Washington, by then retired at Mount Vernon, called for him to be “held in detestation by all good men”. He remained active in Tennessee state politics until his death in 1800, likely from cholera.