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No, Congress did not expel 14 members in 1861 for failing to recognize Lincoln's election win

In the wake of Republicans failing to acknowledge Biden's victory, questions were raised about the potential expulsion of members of Congress.

No, Congress did not expel 14 members in 1861 for failing to recognize Lincoln's election win
WASHINGTON - JUNE 5: The U.S. Capitol is shown June 5, 2003 in Washington, DC. Both houses of the U.S. Congress, the U.S. Senate and the U.S. House of Representatives meet in the Capitol. (Photo by Stefan Zaklin/Getty Images)

Donald Trump is yet to concede the Presidential elections and is calling on Republicans and Vice President Mike Pence to not acknowledge Joe Biden's victory. With many Americans confused on the legalities of a possible rejection of Joe Biden's victory, there has been a Facebook post causing further confusion by claiming that there has been a precedent of members of Congress being expelled for refusing to acknowledge a Presidential election. So is there any truth to it? Do Congress members risk being ejected from their positions if they refuse to acknowledge Joe Biden's victory? A viral post on Facebook claimed that 11 senators and three U.S. House members were expelled from Congress for refusing to acknowledge Abraham Lincoln's electoral win in 1861. Trump and Republicans continue to make allegations of voter fraud across the country despite losing multiple lawsuits challenging the results of the election. 



 

The post was originally shared on the Facebook page of the band CAKE read: "In 1861, 11 senators and 3 representatives were expelled from Congress for supporting the insurrection and refusing to recognize Abraham Lincoln's electoral win." The post was later deleted from their page but similar versions of the post also sprung up online. 

Image Source: President Trump Participates In Thanksgiving Video Teleconference With Military Members. WASHINGTON, DC - NOVEMBER 26. (Photo by Erin Schaff - Pool/Getty Images)

 

Criteria for expulsion
According to Article I, Section 5 of the United States Constitution: "Each House may determine the Rules of its Proceedings, punish its Members for disorderly Behaviour, and, with the Concurrence of two thirds, expel a Member." While there are no specific criteria mentioned in the Consitution, past expulsions have always centered around disloyalty to the country or conviction of a criminal statutory offense involving abuse of one's official position, according to a Congressional Research Service Report. In American history, only 20 members of Congress have been expelled with five being from the House of Representatives while 15 being from the Senate. 

22nd September 1862: Abraham Lincoln (1809 - 1865), the 16th President of the United States of America (1861 - 1865), at the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation, which gave slaves their freedom. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

 

"Other than the two-thirds requirement, however, the Framers left it up to the House and Senate to determine their own rules and the type of behavior that might warrant expulsion from their respective chambers," states the U.S. House of Representatives' site. The idea of demanding a two-thirds majority was because expulsion would remove someone who was elected by the popular vote of their constituents. Even in cases where a member of Congress faces expulsion, they usually resign instead. 

14 Congress members expelled for disloyalty
Following Lincoln's victory in the Presidential election, Southern states seceded after refusing to comply with the government's call to end slavery. The Senate was in a pickle as the seats of Senators elected from Southern states were now left empty. Maine Senator William Pitt Fessenden said Southern states didn't have a right to break away from the Union and by choosing to leave the Senate, the members had in effect resigned from their seats. The Senate declared the seats as "vacant" following which the names of the Senators from the Southern states were removed from the Senate roll. 



 

Senator Daniel Clarke of New Hampshire called for the expulsion of 10 Southern senators and the resolution passed with a final 32-10 vote expelling the absent members. They were expelled for being absent and for being "engaged in said conspiracy for the destruction of the Union and Government, or, with full knowledge of such conspiracy, have failed to advise the Government of its progress or aid in its suppression." Later another Senator was expelled for disloyalty. Apart from the 11 Senators, three members of the House were also expelled in 1861 for their disloyalty to the Union as well, according to Congressional Research Service. So, there is no record of the members of Congress being expelled for failing to acknowledge Lincoln's election. 



 

The Confederacy committed treason
By forming a separate government within the Union, the confederacy had committed treason. The Law of Treason notes that "States have no power to form a Confederacy within the Union composed of any of its States," according to The New York Times. However, President Andrew Johnson pardoned former Confederates from the crime of treason in 1868, including Confederate President Jefferson Davis.