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An introduction to the history of the impeachment of andrew johnson

Copy Link Johnson in Congress. Library of Congress On February 24, 1868, something extraordinary happened in the U.

The Impeachment of Andrew Johnson

Now, Johnson faced trial before the U. If convicted, he would be removed from office. He was a Union man, but his roots were in the South. The radicals, who included men like Thaddeus Stevens and Benjamin Butler, wanted to guarantee the rights of the freedmen.

Andrew Johnson

One way they tried to do so was by passing the Reconstruction Acts, laws that provided suffrage to freed slaves and prevented former Southern rebels from regaining control of the state governments. Believing the Acts to be wrong and unconstitutional, Johnson repeatedly blocked their enforcement.

He repeatedly gave pardons to ex-Rebels. He hampered military commanders' efforts to block the rise of Southern leaders to power.

In frequent speeches and interviews, Johnson publicly expressed his defiance of the Radical Republicans. They knew that their program for reconstruction of the South could not succeed with Andrew Johnson in office.

  1. These men had been placed under the keenest pressure to vote to convict. Aloof, gruff, and undiplomatic, Johnson constantly antagonized the Radicals.
  2. It is a singular fact that not one of the actors in that high scene was sure in his own mind how his one senator was going to vote, except, perhaps, himself.
  3. In recognition of this unwavering support, Lincoln appointed him May 1862 military governor of Tennessee, by then under federal control. He believed that placing power over whites in the hands of former slaves would create an intolerable situation.
  4. The seated associates of the senator on his feet fix upon him their united gaze.

The final blow came after the passage of the Tenure of Office Act in 1867. This law made it impossible for the president to dismiss important government officials without the permission of the Senate. The president had long wanted to dismiss the Secretary of War, Edwin M. Stanton was the only member of Johnson's cabinet who supported the Radical Republicans' program for reconstruction. On August 12, Johnson suspended Stanton. In his place, Johnson appointed the popular General Ulysses S. By doing so, Johnson hoped to challenge the constitutionality of the Tenure of Office Act.

When Congress reconvened, they overruled Stanton's suspension, and Grant resigned his position.

  • One way they tried to do so was by passing the Reconstruction Acts, laws that provided suffrage to freed slaves and prevented former Southern rebels from regaining control of the state governments;
  • The best chance for conviction seemed to rest with the eleventh article that charged the President with attempting to prevent Stanton from resuming his office after the Senate disapproved his suspension;
  • Arguments ranged from the technical to the hyperbolic;
  • Impeachment Johnson played into the hands of his enemies by an imbroglio over the Tenure of Office Act , passed the same day as the Reconstruction acts.

The event heightened Grant's popularity and depressed Johnson's -- at least as far as Republicans were concerned. Ignoring Congress, Johnson formally dismissed Stanton on February 21, 1868. With the support of the Republicans, Stanton responded by locking himself in his office and refusing to leave. Angered by Johnson's open defiance, the House of Representatives formally impeached him on February 24 by a vote of 126 to 47. They charged him with violation of the Tenure of Office Act and bringing into "disgrace, ridicule, hatred, contempt, and reproach the Congress of the United States.

  1. Except for veto overrides on two minor pieces of legislation, one in the Pierce and one in the Tyler administrations, it was the first successful override in the nation's history and portended serious trouble for the President and his reconstruction policies. The representatives of the people of the United States watch every movement of his features.
  2. Sharing the race and class prejudice of many poor white people in his state, he explained his decision.
  3. Political fixer Perry Fuller, a key contributer to Ross's Senate campaign, spent the night before the Senate vote with Ross, who until that time had indicated an intent to vote for conviction. The president was unable to block legislation that tipped the balance of power to the Congress over the Executive.
  4. Under this theory, the federal government might rule this territory as it pleases, admitting places as states under whatever rules it might prescribe.

Johnson's trial began on March 4th and continued for 11 grueling weeks. During that long period, the president's enemies had time to reconsider the Stanton dismissal.

  • In his excellent book Impeached;
  • According to Thomas's testimony , the two were surprisingly cordial after Stanton had Thomas arrested, at one point sharing a bottle of whiskey together.

Many of them were impressed with Johnson's good b ehavior during the trial. Johnson also took action to save himself. He promised to enforce the Reconstruction Acts and to give no more speeches attacking Congress. He also appointed a man well liked by most Republicans, General John M.

Schofield, as the new Secretary of War. On May 16, 1868, President Johnson escaped removal from office by just one vote. For the remainder of his time in office, he continued to veto reconstruction bills, but Congress overrode his vetoes. The Radical Republicans' program for reconstruction continued. In 1868, the Republican candidate, General Ulysses S. Grant, won the presidency. Learn More Related Features.