The new Republic was not many years of age before the House exercised the right of impeachment for high crimes and misdemeanors, given it by the Constitution. In 1803 it preferred articles against John Pickering; and he was tried in the old Senate Chamber in the next year. The question, " Is the Court of opinion that John Pickering be removed from the office of judge of the district court of the district of New Hampshire ? " was submitted to the Senate, sitting as the court, on March 12th, and decided in the affirmative by a vote of 20 to 6.

On the 5th of January, 1804, Mr. J. Randolph, by a speech in the House of Representatives, initiated the proceedings which led to the impeachment and trial of Samuel Chase, one of the associate justices of the Supreme Court of the United States. Eight articles of impeachment were found by the House, and seven managers selected to conduct the trial on its behalf. The grounds of the impeachment were that Samuel Chase had been irregular, arbitrary and prejudicial in the conduct of certain trials presided over by him while on circuit. The first of these was the trial of John Fries, charged with treason, held in the city of Philadelphia during the months of April and May, 1800, whereat " Samuel Chase . . . did in his judicial capacity, conduct himself in a manner highly arbitrary, oppressive and unjust." The next was the trial in Richmond, in May of the same year, of James Thompson Callender, arraigned for libel upon John Adams, then President of the United States. It was charged also that, in the trial of a case at Newcastle, Delaware, Chase had descended from the dignity of a judge, refused to discharge the grand jury and stooped to the level of an informer; and that, in a trial held at Baltimore in May, 1803, he had perverted his official right and duty by addressing the grand jury in an intemperate and inflammatory political harangue with intent to incite their fears and resentment, and those of the good people of Maryland, against their State government and constitution.

Before the day assigned for receiving the answer of Chase, this chamber, says the report of the trial, " was fitted up in a style of appropriate elegance. Benches, covered with crimson, on each side, and in a line with the chair of the President, were assigned to the members of the Senate. On the right and in front of the chair, a box was assigned to the managers, and, on the left, a similar box to Mr. Chase, and his counsel, and chairs allotted to such friends as he might introduce. The residue of the floor was occupied with chairs for the accommodation of the Members of the House of Representatives; and with boxes for the reception of the foreign Ministers, and civil and military officers of the United States. On the right and left of the chair, at the termination of the benches of the members of the court, boxes were assigned to stenographers, the permanent gallery was allotted to the indiscriminate admission of spectators. Below this gallery, and above the floor of the House, a new gallery was raised, and fitted up with peculiar elegance, intended, primarily, for the exclusive accommodation of ladies. But this feature of the arrangement made by the Vice-President, was at an early period of the trial abandoned, it having been found impracticable to separate the sexes ! At the termination of this gallery, on each side, boxes were specially assigned to ladies attached to the families of public characters. The preservation of order was devolved on the Marshal of the District of Columbia, who was assisted by a number of Deputies".

The trial began on Monday, February 4, 1805. About a quarter before ten o'clock, the court was opened by proclamation—all the members of the Senate, thirty-four, attending. " The Senate Chamber, which is very extensive, was soon filled with spectators, a large portion of whom consisted of ladies who continued with little intermission to attend during the whole course of the trial. Samuel Chase being called to make answer to the articles of impeachment . . . appeared attended by Messrs. Harper, Martin and Hopkinson, his counsel; to whom seats were assigned." The trial did not end until Friday, March 1st, when Aaron Burr, Vice-President during Jefferson's first administration, arose and said: " It appears that there is not a constitutional majority of votes finding Samuel Chase, Esquire, guilty, on any one Article. It therefore, becomes my duty to declare that Samuel Chase, Inquire, stands acquitted of all the articles exhibited by the House of Representatives against him." It is a curious coincidence that Burr, who presided over the impeachment court, was himself not long after tried for treason, and acquitted, before John Marshall, who had sat with Chase upon the bench, and who, like Burr, was disliked and distrusted by Jefferson.