"Mr. Speaker, I rise to a question of constitutional privilege. On my own responsibility as a Member of this House I impeach Andrew William Mellon, Secretary of the Treasury of the United States, for high crimes and misdemeanors."
Before a silent House of Representatives stood Wright Patman, a pink- cheeked, curly-headed young Democratic Congressman from Texas repeating an ancient and awful parliamentary ritual. A legislative neophyte in his second term, he should, by rights, have been sitting quietly in a back row listening to his elders debate great issues. Instead, he was leaping recklessly forward to invoke the most solemn provision of the Constitution to remove from the Cabinet its most venerable member.
This rather personable impeacher, aged 38, comes from Cass County, in the northeastern corner of his State, where hillbillies corner their rabbits in hollow logs and take Levi Garrett snuff (between lower lip and teeth) with their politics. Like many of his neighbors, Congressman Patman is a "hard-shelled" Baptist, frowning upon music, dancing, cards. Two years in the Army made him an ardent American Legionary. A good rabble-rouser, with a quick twangy tongue, he served four years in the Texas Legislature, five years as a local district attorney. Elected to Congress in 1928, he refused to be suppressed with other obscure newcomers. Insistently he demanded that the Government cash its soldier bonus certificates in full. Secretary Mellon tut-tutted him as a wild young man. But Congressman Patman kept harping away on his issue until he had started a backfire among the veteran vote that was stopped only when Congress, over the President's veto, raised the loan value of bonus certificates to 50%. In that fight was born his dogged antagonism for Mr. Mellon which culminated in impeachment proceedings.
One morning last week the House Judiciary Committee assembled to ponder the Patman charges, to see if they warranted action by the whole House. In the spacious mahogany-trimmed committee room was held a field day for Texans. Congressman Patman prosecuted Mr. Mellon; Alexander White Gregg, Texas-born son of a deceased Texas Congressman, defended Mr. Mellon. Congressman Hatton Sumners of Dallas, Judiciary chairman, presided as judge. Notably absent was Mr. Mellon who at that precise moment was appearing down the corridor before the Ways & Means Committee with his plan for tax-upping.
Congressman Patman spent two days trying to make out a prima jade case that Mr. Mellon's services violated a statute of 1789 which provided: No person appointed to the office of Secretary of the Treasury shall directly or indirectly be concerned or interested in carrying on the business of trade or commerce or be owner in whole or in part of any sea vessel. . . .