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Why Did Republicans Want To Remove President Johnson From Office

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This stubbornness and refusal to cooperate with even moderate Republicans escalated once Congress came back into session in December of 1865,still without Southern representation and still dominated by Republicans steadfastly opposed to the leniency the new president was offering to the former Confederate states. Johnson vetoed both a civil rights bill designed to fight back the dreaded black codes and another measure to expand the functions of the Freedmenâs Bureau. His message to Congress about the latter veto included condescending language, like urging legislators to take âmore mature considerations.â The vetoes enraged Capitol Hill, especially the author of the bills, to whom Johnson had raised no objections when heâd sought the presidentâs opinions during the drafting process.

The legislative branch, as a consequence, did something that was then unprecedented in American history on a major piece of legislation: They overturned a presidential veto. Then they did it again. Ultimately, they turned back the presidentâs rejections of bills a stunning 15 timesâa record to this day, even though Johnson served a shorter term than most presidents. The Civil Rights Actâs veto override in the House prompted a spontaneous outburst of applause among both representatives and spectators the speaker found it impossible to restore order for several minutes.

A Republican Majority In Congress

When the Thirty-ninth Congress met in December 1865, the Republican Party held a strong majority in boththe Senate and the . Members of this , most of whom lived in the Northern , tended to favor protections for business interests, public support for internal improvements , and social reforms. Making up a very small minority of the Thirty-ninth Congress was the Democratic Party, which had been dominant in the South before the war. Democrats were opposed to the kinds of changes proposed by the Republicans, especially those that, they felt, took away individual freedom and control by making the too strong.

Among the Republicans in Congress, several subgroups existed. The largest of these was made up of moderates, whose approval would have to be won for any policy or law to be passed. The small group of conservatives did not have much of a voice, but the equally small group of Radicals, most of them veterans of the tough antislavery fight, were extremely vocal. Prominent Radicals in the Senate included

Summary Of The Articles

Both the first eight articles and the eleventh article adopted in the House related to Johnson violating the Tenure of Office Act by attempting to dismiss Secretary of War Stanton. In addition, several of these articles also accused Johnson of violating other acts, and the eleventh article also accused Johnson of violating his oath of office. The ninth article focused on an accusation that Johnson had violated the Command of Army Act. The tenth article charged Johnson with attempting, “to bring into disgrace, ridicule, hatred, contempt, and reproach the Congress of the United States”, but did not cite a clear violation of the law.

The eleven articles presented the following charges:

The articles of impeachment were presented to the Senate by John Bingham on March 4, 1868. As prescribed by the U.S. Constitution, chief justice of the United StatesSalmon P. Chase presided over the trial. The extent of Chase’s authority as presiding officer to render unilateral rulings was a frequent point of contention during the rules debate and trial. He initially maintained that deciding certain procedural questions on his own was his prerogative but after the Senate challenged several of his rulings, he gave up making rulings.

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Johnson’s Dismissal Of Secretary Of War Stanton

Harper’s Weekly

Johnson complained about Stanton’s restoration to office and searched desperately for someone to replace Stanton who would be acceptable to the Senate. He first proposed the position to General William Tecumseh Sherman, an enemy of Stanton, who turned down his offer. Sherman subsequently suggested to Johnson that Radical Republicans and moderate Republicans would be amenable to replacing Stanton with Jacob Dolson Cox, but he found the president to be no longer interested in appeasement. On February 21, 1868, the president appointed Lorenzo Thomas, a brevet major general in the Army, as interim secretary of war. Johnson thereupon informed the Senate of his decision. Thomas personally delivered the president’s dismissal notice to Stanton, who rejected the legitimacy of the decision. Rather than vacate his office, Stanton barricaded himself inside and ordered Thomas arrested for violating the Tenure of Office Act. He also informed Speaker of the HouseSchuyler Colfax and President Pro Tempore of the SenateBenjamin Wade of the situation. Thomas remained under arrest for several days before being released, and having the charge against him dropped after Stanton realized that the case against Thomas would provide the courts with an opportunity to review the constitutionality of the Tenure of Office Act.

Why Was Andrew Johnson Impeached

Andrew Johnson: Impeached

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

“Sir, the bloody and untilled fields of the ten unreconstructed States, the unsheeted ghosts of the two thousand murdered negroes in Texas, cry…for the punishment of Andrew Johnson.”Rep. William D. Kelley, calling for impeachment of Andrew Johnson

Library of Congress

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The Impeachment Trial Of Andrew Johnson: An Account


In May, 1868, the Senate came within a single vote of taking the unprecedented step of removing a president from office. Although the impeachment trial of Andrew Johnson was ostensibly about a violation of the , it was about much more than that. Also on trial in 1868 were Johnson’s lenient policies towards Reconstruction and his vetoes of the Freedmen’s Bureau Act and the Civil Rights Act. The trial was, above all else, a political trial.

Andrew Johnson was a lifelong Democrat and slave owner who won a place alongside Abraham Lincoln on the 1864 Republican ticket in order to gain the support of pro-war Democrats. Johnson was fiercely pro-Union and had come to national prominence when, as a senator from the important border state of Tennessee, he denounced secession as “treason.”

On April 11, 1865, Abraham Lincoln gave his last major address. Lincoln congratulated Lee on his surrender, announced that his cabinet was united on a policy of reconstructing the Union, and expressed the hope that the states of the Confederacy would extend the vote to literate negroes and those who served as Union soldiers. Then came the tragic events at the Ford Theater.

Events Leading to Impeachment

Thaddeus Stevens

Senator Charles Sumner

Senator Benjamin Wade

Secretary of War Edwin Stanton

Lorenzo Thomas

Board of Impeachment Managers

Senator Benjamin Curtis

Chief Justice Chase

Impeachment trial of Andew Johnson

Finally, for the President compared conviction to a despicable crime:

Charles Sumner: A Fierce Fighter For Black Rights

A U.S. senator for twenty-three years, Charles Sumner began his career as a passionate abolitionist. Once African Americans gained their freedom, Sumner led the fight to expand their political and civil rights. During the Reconstruction era, he was one of the most prominent of the Radical Republicans, who created a Reconstruction program that resulted in the nation’s first multiracial state governments.

Born in Boston, Massachusetts, in 1811, Sumner was the son of a prominent lawyer and politician. A shy and studious boy, he graduated from Harvard College at the age of nineteen. He went on to attend Harvard Law School and earned his degree in 1834, but he soon discovered that he did not care for practicing law. Sumner spent three years traveling through Europe, where he met some of the leading writers and political figures of the period. When he returned to Boston, he was in demand at parties and gatherings.

Nevertheless, Sumner found both his law practice and his social life unfulfilling. But a new interest in reform movements created a spark. He began to speak out for prison reform and against war, offending some listeners with his rather aggressive, self-righteous speaking style but impressing others. Sumner also became involved with the antislavery movement, and he was one of the few who spoke out against the nation’s war with Mexico .

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Race Riots In Memphis And New Orleans

Meanwhile, events occurring in two major cities of the South in the spring and summer of 1866 were causing great concern and horror in the North. The first occurred in May, when Memphis, Tennessee, became the scene of a bloody race riot. Following a collision of two taxis, one driven by a white and one by a black, police arrested the black driver. A group of black Civil War veterans came to the driver’s aid, and a fight broke out between them, the police, and a white crowd. The violence lasted for three days, during which time the Memphis police and other whites attacked blacks and invaded black neighborhoods, burning hundreds of homes, schools, and churches and raping several black women. In all, forty-six blacks and two whites were killed.

Less than two months later, bloody clashes broke out in , Louisiana, at a gathering of several hundred supporters of black suffrage. Union general Philip Sheridan , who would later serve as military governor of Louisiana, reported an “absolute massacre,” with thirty-four blacks and three white radicals killed and more than a hundred people injured. Both of these violent outbreaks helped to further discredit the president’s Reconstruction plan, as they seemed to many to prove what happened when former Confederates were treated too leniently.

Republicans Prepare To Shape Reconstruction

Andrew Johnson: The impeached president

Near the end of April, the Joint Committee on Reconstruction submitted its report on conditions in the South. Thetestimony that witnesses provided caused alarm and shock. Many instances of violence and injustice against blacks were reported by military officers, Freedmen’s Bureau agents, former slaves, and others, as was the continuing, bitter resentment that white Southerners held toward the U.S. government. The committee concluded that until the Southern states could guarantee civil rights for all citizens, and until the former leaders of the Confederacy had been excluded from holding public office, their legislators must not be allowed to participate in the federal government.

Johnson’s refusal to support the legislation that had united the Republican majority in Congress proved fatal to his program, for it had driven the moderates into the Radical camp. Johnson now lacked the support he needed to get his own policies approved and enacted. The Republicans, meanwhile, would now be able to create the kind of Reconstruction plan they had long and idealistically envisioned.

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Johnson was outraged. He saw the amendments as affronts to states rights and encouraged Southern states not to ratify them. This is a country for white men, and by God, as long as I am President, it shall be a government for white men, he wrote to Missouris governor.

As Johnson became more and more defiant, Congress became more and more determined to curb his power in a bid to save Reconstruction. They made their move by passing Reconstruction laws that were more sweeping than Johnsons planthen secured their ability to enforce them by passing the Tenure of Office Act. The law, which required the president to seek their approval before firing any executive officer theyd helped approve, would keep Johnson from sacking his Secretary of War, who was tasked with carrying out most of the Congressional Reconstruction plan.

Or so they thought. True to form, Johnson vetoed the bill. Congress then overrode the veto and the Tenure of Office Act went into law on March 3, 1867.

But Johnson wouldnt be checked so easily. He gave his Secretary of War, Republican Reconstruction supporter Edwin Stanton, the boot by suspending him from his office while Congress was on recess. In a letter, Stanton responded angrily that I am compelled to deny your right under the Constitution and laws of the United Statesto suspend me from office. But he had no alternative, he wrote, and stepped aside for Ulysses S. Grant, whom Johnson had appointed as interim Secretary of War.

The Republican Plan For Reconstruction

Debate and discussion about the shape that Reconstruction should take finally resulted in the ReconstructionAct of 1867, which was passed over Johnson’s veto in March. The act divided the ten Southern states into five military districts ruled by military commanders, who were authorized to use the Army to protect lives and property. To be readmitted to the Union, the new state governments would have to write constitutions that guaranteed suffrage for all male citizens, and the constitutions would have to be approved by a majority of registered voters. In addition, each state must ratify the Fourteenth Amendment.

Three subsequent Reconstruction acts refined some of the issues brought up by the first. The second act empowered the military commanders to register voters, set up elections, and adopt state constitutions even if Southerners did nothing. The third act declared that the temporary military governments took precedence over the civil governments elected under Johnson’s program. The fourth act made it harder for citizens to prevent the ratification of state constitutions.

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Votes On The Articles

One week after it voted to impeach Johnson, the House adopted 11 articles of impeachment against the president. The first nine articles were approved on March 2, while the last two were approved on March 3, 1868. The third and fourth articles each received a single Democratic vote in support of them . The tenth article was the only to have Republican opposition, with twelve Republicans casting votes against it. However, two other members of the Republican caucus that were not formally part of the Republican Party voted against nearly every article of impeachment .

Notes:^ Schuyler Colfax was serving as Speaker of the House. Per House rules, “the Speaker is not required to vote in ordinary legislative proceedings, except when such vote would be decisive or when the House is engaged in voting by ballot.”

On March 2, the House voted to ratify the nine articles of impeachment referred to it by the committee of seven. These articles were “strictly legalistic” and molded on criminalindictment. Eight concerned the violation of the Tenure of Office Act, while the ninth accused him of violating the Command of Army Act by pressuring General William H. Emory to ignore Acting Secretary of War Grant and instead take orders directly from Johnson.

After a series of speeches during debate, Thaddeus Stevens took the floor to criticize the committee of seven for going too easy on Johnson, declaring,



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The Radical Republicans in Congress differed with Andrew Johnson about how deeply the federal government would be involved in changing southern governments and southern society after the Civil War during the period called Reconstruction. Johnson, who was from Tennessee, was considered too soft on the former Confederate states. For example, he agreed to permit state governments to grant amnesty to former rebels. He angered the Radical Republicans in Congress by refusing to recharter the Freedman’s Bureau in 1866. The Freedman’s Bureau was intended to help former slaves find family members and receive other services, such as education. In addition, some…

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Johnson’s Bold Reconstruction Stance

After the assassination of President in April 1865, , a former U.S. senator from Tennessee, was thrust unexpectedly into the highest office in the nation. Instead of waiting for Congress to convenean event scheduled for December 1865Johnson abruptly put into effect his own plan for readmitting the Southern states into the Union and reorganizing their state governments.

Expected to deal harshly with those who had rebelled against the Union, Johnson surprised everyone by treating them leniently. Owing to Johnson’s liberal signing of presidential pardons, many Confederate military and civil leaders were able to regain power in . The governments they formed then went about trying to recreate the conditions of slavery, using laws called Black Codes to limit the economic options and of the former slaves.

Andrew Johnsons Challenging Presidency

Once in office, Johnson focused on quickly restoring the Southern states to the Union. He granted amnesty to most former Confederates and allowed the rebel states to elect new governments. These governments, which often included ex-Confederate officials, soon enacted black codes, measures designed to control and repress the recently freed slave population.

When the U.S. Congress convened in December 1865, it refused to seat the newly elected Southern members, and Johnson found himself at odds with the legislature, particularly the Radical Republicans, who viewed the presidents approach to Reconstruction as too lenient.

In 1866, Johnson vetoed the Freedmens Bureau bill and the Civil Rights bill, legislation aimed at protecting blacks. That same year, when Congress passed the 14th Amendment granting citizenship to blacks, the president urged Southern states not to ratify it . During the 1866 congressional elections, Johnson launched a multiple-city speaking campaign, dubbed a swing around the circle, in which he attempted to win support for his Reconstruction policies. The tour proved to be a failure, and the Republicans won majorities in both houses of Congress and set about enacting their own Reconstruction measures.

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