Charles Swayne

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Charles Swayne
Judge of the United States District Court for the Northern District of Florida
In office
May 17, 1889 – July 5, 1907
Appointed byBenjamin Harrison
Preceded byThomas Settle
Succeeded byWilliam Bostwick Sheppard
Personal details
Born(1842-08-10)August 10, 1842
DiedJuly 5, 1907(1907-07-05) (aged 64)
EducationUniversity of Pennsylvania LL.B.

Charles H. Swayne (August 10, 1842 – July 5, 1907) was a United States federal judge who prevailed over an impeachment effort.

Born in Guyencourt, Delaware, Swayne received an LL.B. from the University of Pennsylvania in 1871. He was in private practice in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, from 1871 to 1885, and in Pensacola, Florida, from 1885 to 1889. In 1888, he was an unsuccessful Republican candidate for the Florida Supreme Court

District court appointment and impeachment[edit]

On May 17, 1889, Swayne received a recess appointment from President Benjamin Harrison to a seat on the United States District Court for the Northern District of Florida vacated by Thomas Settle. Swayne was formally nominated on December 5, 1889, and was confirmed by the United States Senate, and received his commission, on April 1, 1890.

Swayne was impeached by the United States House of Representatives on December 13, 1904. He was accused of filing false travel vouchers, improper use of private railroad cars, unlawfully imprisoning two attorneys for contempt, and living outside of his district. Swayne's trial consumed two-and-a-half months before it ended on February 27, 1905, when the Senate voted acquittal on each of the twelve articles. There was little doubt that Swayne was guilty of some of the offenses charged against him. Indeed, his counsel admitted as much, though calling the lapses "inadvertent." The Senate, however, refused to convict Swayne because its members did not believe his peccadilloes amounted to "high crimes and misdemeanors". Swayne thereafter continued serving on the court until his death, in 1907.

It was during the long Swayne trial that the suggestion first surfaced that a Senate committee, rather than the Senate as a whole, should receive impeachment evidence. Senator George F. Hoar of Massachusetts proposed that the presiding officer should appoint such a committee. While Hoar's proposal would eventually be embodied in Rule XI of the Senate's impeachment rules, in 1905 the resolution was referred to the Rules Committee, which took no action.[1]


  1. ^ "U.S. Senate: Impeachment".


Legal offices
Preceded by
Thomas Settle
Judge of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Florida
May 17, 1889 – July 5, 1907
Succeeded by
William Bostwick Sheppard