President Andrew Johnson Impeachment

Thomas' Legion
American Civil War HOMEPAGE
American Civil War
Causes of the Civil War : What Caused the Civil War
Organization of Union and Confederate Armies: Infantry, Cavalry, Artillery
Civil War Navy: Union Navy and Confederate Navy
American Civil War: The Soldier's Life
Civil War Turning Points
American Civil War: Casualties, Battles and Battlefields
Civil War Casualties, Fatalities & Statistics
Civil War Generals
American Civil War Desertion and Deserters: Union and Confederate
Civil War Prisoner of War: Union and Confederate Prison History
Civil War Reconstruction Era and Aftermath
American Civil War Genealogy and Research
Civil War
American Civil War Pictures - Photographs
African Americans and American Civil War History
American Civil War Store
American Civil War Polls
NORTH CAROLINA HISTORY
North Carolina Civil War History
North Carolina American Civil War Statistics, Battles, History
North Carolina Civil War History and Battles
North Carolina Civil War Regiments and Battles
North Carolina Coast: American Civil War
HISTORY OF WESTERN NORTH CAROLINA
Western North Carolina and the American Civil War
Western North Carolina: Civil War Troops, Regiments, Units
North Carolina: American Civil War Photos
Cherokee Chief William Holland Thomas
HISTORY OF THE CHEROKEE INDIANS
Cherokee Indian Heritage, History, Culture, Customs, Ceremonies, and Religion
Cherokee Indians: American Civil War
History of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indian Nation
Cherokee War Rituals, Culture, Festivals, Government, and Beliefs
Researching your Cherokee Heritage
Civil War Diary, Memoirs, Letters, and Newspapers
American Civil War Store: Books, DVDs, etc.

PRESIDENT ANDREW JOHNSON IMPEACHMENT

PRESIDENT ANDREW JOHNSON IMPEACHMENT

President Andrew Johnson Impeachment
President Andrew Johnson.jpg
President Andrew Johnson

The Impeachment of Andrew Johnson, 17th President of the United States, was one of the most dramatic events in the political life of the United States during Reconstruction, and the first impeachment in history of a sitting United States president. The Impeachment was the consummation of a lengthy political battle, between the moderate Johnson and the "Radical Republican" movement that dominated Congress and sought control of Reconstruction policies.

Johnson was impeached on February 24, 1868 in the U.S. House of Representatives on eleven articles of impeachment detailing his "high crimes and misdemeanors", in accordance with Article Two of the United States Constitution. The House's primary charge against Johnson was with violation of the Tenure of Office Act, passed by Congress the previous year. Specifically, he had removed Edwin M. Stanton, the Secretary of War (whom the Tenure of Office Act was largely designed to protect), from office and replaced him with Major General Lorenzo Thomas.

The House agreed to the articles of impeachment on March 2, 1868. The trial began three days later in the Senate, with Supreme Court Chief Justice Salmon P. Chase presiding. Trial concluded on May 26 with Johnson's acquittal, the votes for conviction being one less than the required two-thirds tally.

Senator David Trotter Patterson, son-in-law to President Johnson, believed that his father-in-law was "not guilty and that the charges against him were contrived." Patterson's vote was the difference between guilty and acquittal.

The impeachment and subsequent trial gained a historical reputation as an act of political expedience, rather than necessity, based on Johnson's defiance of an unconstitutional piece of legislation and with little regard for the will of the public (which, despite the unpopularity of Johnson, opposed the impeachment). Until the impeachment of Bill Clinton 131 years later, it was the only presidential impeachment in the history of the United States. See also President Andrew Johnson: History Homepage.

The Articles of Impeachment

On February 24, three days after Johnson's dismissal of Stanton, the House of Representatives voted 126 to 47 in favor of a resolution to impeach the President of high crimes and misdemeanors. The two sponsors of the resolution, Thaddeus Stevens and John A. Bingham were immediately dispatched to inform the Senate that the House had officially voted for impeachment.

One week later, the House adopted eleven articles of impeachment against the president. The articles charged Johnson with:

1.Dismissing Edwin Stanton from office after the Senate had voted not to concur with his dismissal and had ordered him reinstated.
2.Appointing Thomas Secretary of War ad interim despite the lack of vacancy in the office, since the dismissal of Stanton had been invalid.
3.Appointing Thomas without the required advice and consent of the Senate.
4.Conspiring, with Thomas and "other persons to the House of Representatives unknown," to unlawfully prevent Stanton from continuing in office.
5.Conspiring to unlawfully curtail faithful execution of the Tenure of Office Act.
6.Conspiring to "seize, take, and possess the property of the United States in the Department of War."
7.Conspiring to "seize, take, and possess the property of the United States in the Department of War" with specific intent to violate the Tenure of Office Act.
8.Issuing to Thomas the authority of the office of Secretary of War with unlawful intent to "control the disbursements of the moneys appropriated for the military service and for the Department of War."
9.Issuing to Major General William H. Emory orders with unlawful intent to violate the Tenure of Office Act.
10.Making three speeches with intent to show disrespect for the Congress among
the citizens of the United States.

The eleventh article was a summation of the first ten.

To fulfill promises made during the impeachment trial, Johnson nominated John M. Schofield as War Secretary, who was confirmed. Stanberry resigned and Johnson replaced him with William M. Evarts as Attorney General. He maintained his opposition to the Reconstruction Acts and continued to veto bills seeking to admit seceded states under their provisions, and Congress continued to override his vetoes. Johnson persisted in his perceived role as protector of the white race. The President had measurable support to run for a full term and he was amenable to the idea. At the Democratic Convention, when he came in second on the first ballot and faded from there, it became clear that he was too unpopular to run. Horatio Seymour received the Democratic presidential nomination, which Johnson silently endorsed. One of Johnson's last significant acts as President was to grant unconditional amnesty to all Confederates on Christmas Day 1868, after the election of Ulysses S. Grant but before he took office in March 1869. Earlier amnesties, requiring signed oaths and excluding certain classes of people, had been issued by Lincoln and by Johnson.

WHY WAS ANDREW JOHNSON IMPEACHED?

President Andrew Johnson was impeached, but not removed from office. He was the first president to be impeached by the House of Representatives and tried by the Senate. Many Republican Senators put their political careers on the line by voting to acquit.

President Andrew Johnson Impeachment
President Andrew Johnson .jpg
President Andrew Johnson

The impeachment of President Andrew Johnson was a result of political conflict and the rupture of ideologies in the aftermath of the American Civil War. It rose from uncompromised beliefs and a contest for power in a nation struggling with reunification.

Before Abraham Lincoln was assassinated in 1865, he had formulated a plan of reconstruction that would be lenient toward the defeated South as it rejoined the Union. He planned to grant a general amnesty to those who pledged an oath of loyalty to the United States and agreed to obey all federal laws pertaining to slavery. (The exclusion to the general amnesty would be high-ranking Confederate officials and military leaders.)

Lincoln's plan also stated that when a tenth of the voters who had taken part in the 1860 election had agreed to the oath within a particular state, then that state could formulate a new government and start sending representatives to Congress.

After President Abraham Lincoln’s assassination, Andrew Johnson was intent on carrying out this plan when he assumed the Presidency. This policy, however, did not sit well with certain radical Republicans in Congress who wanted to set up military governments and implement more stringent terms for readmission of the seceded states. As neither side was willing to compromise, a clash of wills ensued.

The political backing to begin impeachment arrived when Johnson breached the Tenure of Office Act by removing Edwin Stanton, Secretary of War, from his cabinet. The Tenure of Office Act had been passed over Johnson's veto in 1867 and stated that a President could not dismiss appointed officials without the consent of Congress.

Both Lincoln and Johnson had experienced problems with Stanton, an ally of the Radicals in Congress. Stanton's removal, therefore, was not only a political decision made to relieve the discord between the President and his cabinet, but a test for the Tenure of Office Act as well. Johnson believed the Tenure of Office Act was unconstitutional and wanted it to be legally tried in the courts. It was the President, himself, however, who was brought to trial.

The House of Representatives voted impeachment and the Senate tried the case. The trial lasted from March to May in 1868. In May, the Senate voted to acquit Andrew Johnson by a margin of 35 guilty to 19 not guilty - one vote short of the two-thirds needed to convict.

In 1926 the Supreme Court ruled all Tenure of Office Acts unconstitutional. See also President Andrew Johnson: History Homepage.

Sources: The White House; Andrew Johnson National Historic Site; National Park Service; Library of Congress; National Archives; senate.gov; bioguide.congress.gov.

Recommended Reading: Impeached: The Trial of President Andrew Johnson and the Fight for Lincoln's Legacy. Description: From School Library Journal: One of our more controversial political figures, Andrew Johnson came closer than any other U.S. President to being removed from office through impeachment. This study by Stewart (Summer of 1787: The Men Who Invented the Constitution), a Washington lawyer who has argued against impeachment in Senate proceedings, examines Johnson's rocky relationship with the post-Civil War radical Republicans. Continued below…

He breaks with those historians who have suggested that Johnson followed what would have been Lincoln's path to reconstruct the South, as he discusses the complex impeachment proceedings against Johnson and the effectiveness of the impeachment process in calming political tensions, if not in removing Presidents from office. Readers who wish to broaden their understanding of Lincoln in this anniversary year will do well to select this well-researched work even if their collection already includes such examinations as Howard Mean's narrower The Avenger Takes His Place: Andrew Johnson and the 45 Days That Changed the Nation.—Theresa McDevitt, Indiana Univ. of Pennsylvania Library. From Publishers Weekly: Fresh from his masterful The Summer of 1787, Stewart takes on one of the seamiest events in American history: the vengeful impeachment of Lincoln's successor as president; the Senate failed to convict Andrew Johnson by a single vote. At issue was the continuation of Lincoln's plans to reintegrate the South into the union after the Civil War. But also at stake, as always, was party politics. Stewart takes readers through a tangled web of motives and maneuverings in lively, unadorned prose. He's skilled at characterizing his large cast of characters and, as a lawyer, has a practiced nose for skullduggery, of which there was much. Corruption deeply marred the entire impeachment effort. Justifiably, Stewart holds his nose about most of the people involved and admires few of them. As he sums it up, in 1868 none of the country's leaders was great, a few were good, all were angry, and far too many were despicable. Stewart offers little analysis and advances no new ideas about what he relates, but he tells the story as well as it's ever been told. Black and white photos.

Site search Web search

Related Reading:

Recommended Reading: History of the Impeachment of Andrew Johnson: And His Trial by the Senate for High Crimes and Misdemeanors in Office (Forgotten Books) (Paperback). Description: The Impeachment of President Andrew Johnson was the biggest affair in the United States during Reconstruction. The President was being tried on charges for breaking the Tenure of Office Act by removing Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton from office and replacing him with Adjutant General Lorenzo Thomas. Vice President Andrew Johnson had succeeded to the presidency on April 15, 1865 after the assassination of Abraham Lincoln. His succession to the presidency had a negative outlook on the country which led to controversies between Johnson and the Radical Republicans. Continued below…

Edwin M. Stanton, Thaddeus Stevens and Benjamin F. Butler were the three most suspicious of the President and would usually meet with each other along with other Radicals at Stanton's office or Stevens' home to plan Johnson's impeachment. Table of Contents: Publisher's Preface; Preface; The Problem Of Reconstruction; The Baltimore Convention; Mr. Johnson's Accession To The Presidency; First Attempt To Impeach The President; The Tenure-of-office Act; Impeachment Agreed To By The House; Impeachment Reported To The Senate; Organization Of The Court Argument Of Counsel; Examination Of Witnesses And Their Testimony; A Conference Held And The First Vote Taken; The Impeachers In A Maze. A Recess Ordered; Was It A Partisan Prosecution?; The Constitutional Power Of Impeachment; Supplement.

 

Recommended Reading: Andrew Johnson : A Biography (Signature Series) (Hardcover). Description: On April 14, 1865, just as the American Civil War came to an end, Abraham Lincoln was assassinated by a Confederate actor. The next morning Andrew Johnson was suddenly elevated to the position of president of the United States at a time when the nation was still suffering from the effects of war. This biography explores the enigma of the homeless and uneducated tailor whose spectacular rise to power ended in disgrace. It relates how his term in office undermined the process of reconstruction and left a legacy of racism. Over a century later, Johnson remains the only president of the United States to have been impeached. The author explores Johnson's undeniable skills as a political leader and his stubborn attachment to a mythical view of the America of his youth, which proved to be his undoing. Continued below…

From Library Journal: Known for his Carl Schurz: A Biography (LJ 2/15/82), Trefousse delivers the first Johnson study in years, a definitive assessment of his career and presidency. Johnson's papers and other sources reveal his fatal idealization of the agrarian utopia, his fierce advocacy of strict Constitutional constructionism, and his imprudent insistence upon the Republican Party’s adoption of his views on race. Trefousse demonstrates that Johnson, because of his upbringing, was out of step with the great changes emerging at the end of the Civil War. His stubborn attachment to his increasingly archaic views was responsible for his political and military success, but also for his impeachment. A brilliant, compassionate portrait of a dynamic era of social change and national healing, and of the tragic failure of an American leader. Not to be missed. --Susan E. Parker, Harvard Law Sch. Library. About the Author: Hans L. Trefousse is professor of history at Brooklyn College and the Graduate Center of the City University of New York. His other books include The Radical Republicans, a path breaking history of Reconstruction.

 

Recommended Reading: The Presidency of Andrew Johnson (American Presidency Series) (Hardcover). Description: Andrew Johnson, who became president after the assassination of Lincoln, oversaw the most crucial and dramatic phase of Reconstruction. Historians have therefore tended to concentrate, to the exclusion of practically everything else, upon Johnson's key role in that titanic event. Although his volume focuses closely on Johnson's handling of Reconstruction, it also examines other important aspects of his administration, notably his foreign, economic, and Indian policies. As one of the few historians to do this, the author provides a broader and more balanced picture of Johnson's presidency than has been previously available. Continued below…

Johnson has always been an enigma: much is known about what he did, little about why he did it. He wrote few letters, kept no diary, and rarely confided in anyone. Most historians either admire or despise him, depending on whether they consider his Reconstruction policies right or wrong. Castel achieves an objective reassessment of Johnson and his presidential actions by examining him primarily in terms of his effectiveness in using power and by not judging him--as most other scholars have--on moralistic or ideological grounds. The book begins with an overview of America at the end of the Civil War and a description of Johnson's political career prior to 1865. Castel recounts the drama of Johnson's sudden inheritance of the presidency upon Lincoln's death and then examines how Johnson organized and operated his administration. Johnson's formulation of a Reconstruction policy for the defeated South comes under special scrutiny; Castel evaluates Johnson's motives for that policy, its implementation, and its reception in both North and South. He descries and analyzes Johnson's quarrel with the Republican dominated Congress over Reconstruction, the triumph of the Republicans in the election of 1866, the president's frustrated attempt to remove Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton from office, his bitter dispute with General Ulysses S. Grant, and his impeachment by Congress. Johnson's impeachment trial is covered in detail; Castel explains how it was that Johnson escaped conviction and removal from office by the narrowest possible margin. The book concludes with a discussion of Johnson's place in history as judged by scholars during the past one hundred years. This study sheds light on the nation's problems during the chaotic period between 1865 and 1869 and contributes a great deal to a much improved understanding of the seventeenth president. This book is part of the American Presidency Series.

 
Recommended Viewing: The History Channel Presents The Presidents(DVD: 6 Hours). Description: THE PRESIDENTS is an unprecedented eight-part survey of the personal lives and legacies of the remarkable men who have presided over the Oval Office. From George Washington to George W. Bush, THE PRESIDENTS gathers together vivid snapshots of all 43 Commanders in Chief who have guided America throughout its history--their powerful personalities, weaknesses, and major achievements or historical insignificance. Based on the book To the Best of My Ability, edited by Pulitzer Prize-winner James McPherson, THE PRESIDENTS features rare and unseen photographs and footage, unexpected insight and trivia from journalists, scholars, and politicians such as Walter Cronkite, David Brinkley, Wesley Clark, Bob Dole, and former President Jimmy Carter. Continued below...
Viewed within the changing contexts of each administration, the Presidency has never seemed more compelling and human. Narrated by Edward Herrmann ("The Aviator"), this three-DVD set is a proud addition to the award-winning documentary tradition of THE HISTORY CHANNEL®. DVD Features: Feature-length Bonus Program "All The Presidents' Wives"; Timeline of U.S. Presidents; Interactive Menus; Scene Selection, and more!
 

Recommended Reading: Race and Reunion: The Civil War in American Memory. Description: From Publishers Weekly: Almost all the dominant views of the Civil War and its aftermath, including Reconstruction and "reunion," prevalent in this country until the coming of the civil rights movement, were the direct result of an extensive Southern propaganda war, argues Blight (Amherst College professor of history and black studies), remnants of which are still flourishing in various racist subcultures. As W.E.B. Du Bois noted a century ago, shortly after the war, the North was tacitly willing to accept the South's representation of the conflict in exchange for an opening of new economic frontiers. Continued below…

Blight sets out to prove this thesis, surveying a mass of information (the end notes run to almost 100 pages) clearly and synthetically, detailing the mechanics of mythmaking: how the rebels were recast as not actually rebelling, how the South had been unjustly invaded, and how, most fabulously of all, the South had fought to end slavery which had been imposed upon it by the North. His argument that this "memory war" was conducted on a conscious level is supported by the Reconstruction-era evidence of protest, by blacks and whites alike, that he unearths. Yet these voices failed to dissuade the vast majority of Americans both North and South who internalized some version of the story. This book effectively traces both the growth and development of what became, by the turn of the 20th century and the debut of The Birth of a Nation, the dominant racist representation of the Civil War. A major work of American history, this volume's documentation of the active and exceedingly articulate voices of protest against this inaccurate and unjust imagining of history is just one of its accomplishments. (Feb. 19) Forecast: This book will be the standard for how public perceptions of the Civil War were formed and propagated in a manner directly analogous to today's doublespeak and spin control. It will be a regular on course syllabi, and will be glowingly reviewed, but the wealth and diversity of sources may keep some general readers away. From Booklist: The year 1913 saw two separate ceremonies commemorating great events 50 years previously: elderly Union and Confederate veterans shook hands at the Gettysburg battlefield, and W.E.B DuBois staged an elaborate "National Emancipation Exposition." Together they struck discordant chords of memory about the Civil War, which Blight examines in this incisive discussion of how the conflict was popularly remembered in the half-century following Appomattox. He closely examines the types of memorializations of the war, such as the creation and observance of Memorial Day, the erection of statues to Robert E. Lee and Robert Gould Shaw, soldiers' reunions, soldiers' memoirs, popular literature, and anniversary orations by such figures as Frederick Douglass. Within these modes of expression Blight recounts the strong tide in the post-war years for "reunion on Southern terms," politically by the overthrow of the Republican Reconstruction governments in the South, and ideologically in "Lost Cause" writings justifying secession and slavery. Freed blacks suffered the consequence of the ascendance of a sentimental view of the war and amnesia about its central issue.

Return to American Civil War Homepage

Best viewed with Google Chrome

Google Safe.jpg