Andrew Johnson Impeachment Of A President Essay

, Research Paper















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Impeachment, in the United States and Great Britain proceeding by a legislature for the

removal of office of a public official charged with misconduct in office. Impeachment

compromises both the act of formulating the accusation and the resulting trial of charges; it is

frequently but mistakenly taken to mean removal from office of an accused official. An

impeachment trial may result in an acquittal or in a verdict of guilty. The U.S. Constitution, in

Article 1, Section 3 , provides for the impeachment of public federal officials and gives precise

directions for conducting impeachment. The House of Representatives initiates impeachment

proceedings by resolution and appoints a number of its members to act as managers in

prosecute the impeachment before the Senate, which serves as a court to try the official. The vice

president, who presides over the Senate, also presides at impeachment trials, except in the case of

an impeachment of the president. A two-thirds majority vote of the senators present at an

impeachment trial is necessary to secure a conviction.

The first president to be impeached was Andrew Johnson. The 17th president, Johnson

became president at a critical time in American history. He succeeded Abraham Lincoln when

Lincoln was assassinated in April 1865, only a few days after the Civil War ended. In addition to

these trying times, Johnson also had trouble cooperating with other political leaders while

proceeding to accomplish his goals.

Johnson was born in 1808 to Jacob and Mary Mcdonough Johnson in Raleigh, North Carolina.

In 1827 ,Johnson opened a tailor shop in a small frame building. Soon after opening that shop

Johnson married Eliza McCardle. She was intelligent and had some schooling. With the help of

his wife Johnson improved his reading and learned writing and arithmetic. In 1829 Johnson ram

successfully for alderman on a platform that appealed to Greenville?s working class. In 1834 he

was elected mayor of Greenville. Johnson then served in the Tennessee House of Rep.

from 1835 to 1837 and from 1839 to 1843, when he was elected to the state senate. In 1843,

Johnson became a member of the U.S. House of Representatives, the lower chamber of congress

where he served until 1853. In Congress he was a champion of the poor . He felt a kinship with

the working people and small farmers, and disliked people of wealth or privilege.

In June 1864 the Republicans met in Baltimore, Maryland, and renominated Lincoln. To

reward the Southerners who had remained loyal to the Union, Johnson was nominated to be vice

president, since Johnson was a War Democrat. In November the Lincoln -Johnson was elected.

Lincoln was assasinated only six weeks after Johnson was sworn in as vice president. Angry

at the assassination Johnson was at first inclined to be vindictive in his treatment of the

Confederate leaders, who also represented the privileged class that he hated. His attitude

towards the Confederacy won him the approval of the militant wing of the Republican Party

(Radical Republicans). However , to the surprise of the Radicals, Johnson soon dropped these

punitive activities for more constructive tasks. He began with the Johnsonian Reconstruction

which was at first accepted with the readmission of the Southern States. Then the Radicals were

outraged at this refusal to admit that the Southern states were traitors. A long battle between the

president and Congress began. The Radicals passed a bill to enlarge the scope of the

Freedmen?s Bureau, which Congress had established in March 1865 to help the freed slaves.

Johnson vetoed the bill. In July a second bill was enacted over his veto. The Radicals were

already angered with the president this just enraged them even more. The Tenure of Office Act

was passed in 1867. This act forbade the president from removing federal office holders

including Cabinet members, without the consent of the Senate. The other acts were vetoed by

Johnson, but were passed over his veto. Congress now seemed all-powerful since the majority

was Republican. The Tenure of Office Act angered Johnson , and even more were the acts that


The Secretary of War Stanton had been cooperating with the Radicals from the beginning of

Johnson?s presidency. In August 1867, while Congress was adjouned, Johnson suspended

Stanton and named General Ulysses S.Grant to the post. In January 1868 the Senate refused to

accept Stanton?s suspension. When Grant stepped out in favor of Stanton, the president again

dismissed Stanton and appointed General Lorenzo Thomas as Secretary of War. Congress seized

on the Stanton affair to remove Johnson from the presidency.

On Febuary 24,1868, a resolution of impeachment was passed by the House of

Representatives, and a committee was appointed to ?report the articles of impeachment? against

the president. The committee consisted of seven Radicals, including Thaddeus Stevens, all of

whom had voted for the impeachment resolution. By March 4 the committee had prepared 11

articles of impeachment, and on March 5 Chief Justice Chase began presiding

over the impeachment trial of President Johnson before the Senate. Of the 11 articles of

impeachment, 10 were related to Johnson?s violation of the Tenure of Office Act. The president

did not want to personally participate in trial. He left his defense to lawyers, who easily proved

that the president?s purpose in removing Stanton had been to test the constitutionality of the

Tenure of Office Act. Johnson?s lawyers argued that the act did not pertain to Stanton, since he

had been appointed by Lincoln, not by Johnson. The act applied to Cabinet officers, but only for

the term of office of the president who had appointed them.

On May 16 and May 26,1868,the Senate voted on three articles of impeachment. The

Radicals had been pressing hard for a solid Republican vote, which would have given them more

than two-thirds majority required for conviction. Surprisingly seven Republicans joined 12

Democrats in voting against conviction. The final count of 35 to 19 was one vote short of the

two-thirds majority needed for a conviction. Johnson was acquitted.


.1 Garraty, John A., The American Nation (HarperCollins CollegePublishers,1995)






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