Ivanka Trump, daughter and White House adviser of President Trump, found a quote sure to please her father and cultural conservatives as the House wrapped up five grueling days of public impeachment hearings. So of course she shared it on Twitter: "A decline of public morals in the United States will probably be marked by the abuse of the power of impeachment as a means of crushing political adversaries or ejecting them from office." — Alexis de Tocqueville, 1835
Unfortunately, this is not something Tocqueville, that astute French observer over American democracy, ever wrote.
In fact, the quote comes from a 1889 book, American Constitutional Law, Volume 1, by a judge named John Innes Clark Hare. And he was actually describing the necessity of impeachment, even as he argued it had been abused on President Andrew Johnson.
Hare wrote that since the framers of the Constitution decided that, unlike under English law, the executive would be independent of the legislature, there must be "means of removing or punishing an incapable or corrupt president," so they created a system wherein the president "might be brought to trial, and if need be, deposed." There is an unavoidable risk of partisan abuse, he added, but:
It was necessary to choose between leaving the executive wholly irresponsible during his term of office, and subjecting his conduct to the revision of a tribunal that might not be impartial; and the latter alternative was justly though preferable. It was long since remarked by de Tocqueville that a decline of public morals in the United States would probably be marked by the abuse of power of impeachment as a means of crushing political adversaries or ejecting them from office. [John Innes Clark Hare, American Constitutional Law]
Impeachment, Hare wrote, "is one of many proofs that the framers of our Constitution ... intended that the traditional checks and balance-wheels of the monarchy should not be wanting in the republic." Peter Weber