The Impeachment of Andrew Johnson
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Harper's Weekly,   December 7, 1867, page 770

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Experience has taught us that the nomination to the Vice-Presidency must be hardly less carefully considered than that for the Presidency. Three times, as we all now carefully remember, but as we shall be very likely to forget in the nominating convention, the Vice-President has succeeded to the Presidency and betrayed the party that elected him. What was the reason of so singular a fact?

The first instance was that of John Tyler, of Virginia, elected upon the ticket with General Harrison. The country had been financially prostrated. As usual under such circumstances change itself seemed to promise relief, and "Tippecanoe and Tylertoo" were fairly sung into office. There was probably less reasoning and more feeling in that campaign than in any other since the Constitution was framed. The election was an act of enthusiasm, although enthusiasm was impossible for General Harrison, and was a ludicrous idea in connection with John Tyler. It was a Whig victory. General Harrison was "a good enough" Whig for a figure-head, and John Tyler was in good standing in the party. General Harrison lived but a short time after his inauguration, and Mr. Tyler became President. He was a man probably of even less capacity than Mr. Johnson, and early in his term began to intrigue for the succession. For this purpose he deserted his own party, and was deserted by the other after it had used him. Like the fisher in the ballad, he slipped from the solid earth toward the outstretched arms of the false water spirit, but found no embrace, and sank hopelessly and forever.

The second instance was that of Millard Fillmore, of New York, elected upon the ticket with General Taylor. This also was a Whig victory. General Taylor lived rather more than a year after his inauguration, and Mr. Fillmore succeeded to the Presidency. The condition of the Whig party was peculiar. The Mexican war and the discussions incident to it had developed a strong anti-slavery sentiment in its ranks, and threatened to divide it. In the State of New York Senator Seward was known to be a political anti-slavery man, and Mr. Fillmore was of the opposite or Southern tendency. They were in some sense also rivals; and during the year of General Taylor’s official life it was understood that Mr. Seward had more influence with him than the Vice-President had. When the Vice-President, therefore, became President Mr. Seward had no further influence at the White House. The vital breach in the Whig party made by the Texan and Mexican debate was widened by the compromise legislation of 1850. The Fugitive Slave Law of that year was signed by President Fillmore, and he lost the confidence of the great body of the earnest and active Whigs. In 1852 the Whig party disappeared, and while the mass of it united with the Free-Soil Democrats in forming the Republican party, a few, like Mr. Fillmore and Mr. Washington Hunt in New York, and afterward Mr. Robert C. Winthrop in Massachusetts, drifted into the Democratic ranks.

The third instance of the defection of a Vice-President from the party that elected him is Andrew Johnson, of Tennessee. In his case, as in the others, it was political ambition, and consequent political blindness, that explain his conduct. The controlling motive of his action has undoubtedly been the hope of a re-election. The siren that charmed Tyler sang to him a little, until he lost his course and went upon the rocks; and there he will struggle until he too disappears.

The Republican party is soon to nominate a Vice-President. Its great majorities are reduced in many States. It has been obliged to carry many burdens. Every thing that is deranged by the hurricane of civil war is laid to its account. The time is undoubtedly critical. But the purpose of the loyal people of the country is unchanged, and what they ask is security that their purpose shall be wisely and faithfully pursued. The Republican party, therefore, if it would retain popular support, must show by its nominations both for President and Vice-President that its policy is to be as sagacious and practical as it is resolute and patriotic and pure. It must regild the letters that spell equal rights upon its banner, but it must show also a clear appreciation of the meaning of equal rights; a steady hostility to mere partisan intrigue and corruption; a heroic refusal to add other issues to those which are paramount; and withal a plain and practical and sagacious method of dealing with the financial difficulties, and relieving the burdens of the country.

Its nominations must be a kind of earnest of this disposition. For Vice-President its first question must be, whether it would willingly nominate the proposed candidate for President. It must consider whether he be a man of such spotless personal character, so true in work and deed, that he can be wholly trusted. It must ask whether he be a man well known to the whole country for ability, and endeared by public service and political fidelity. If the proposed candidate be such a man, every honest citizen may gladly vote for him. But if he be a mere partisan politician, with no evidence of statesmanlike ability; who, if he has been in office, has been an intriguer in the politics of his own State; who has prostituted his patronage to his own personal ambition, and has been surrounded not by the best men, but by the small men of his party; and who has been long and painfully plotting to secure a nomination – if he be such a man – and such men appear as candidates in every nominating convention–then he is precisely the one whom the party ought not to nominate. Let us put something more than a politician into the chair which may become that of the President of the United States at a moment of great gravity. We do not want a man of local, limited reputation, but one whose name is his credential. There are many such among our friends: many in whose sagacity as well as fidelity the country confides. There are men whose frank, simple, dignified, independent, and faithful public careers are the earnest of the qualities which the possible Presidency demands. Among such men let us look for a Vice-President; and then, should calamity come, we know that the country will be secure.

Articles relating to Johnson's Background:
Andrew Johnson (small bio)

June 25, 1864, page 402

The Union Nominations
June 25, 1864, page 402

President Andrew Johnson
May 13, 1865, page 289

The President and the Secretary of State
May 20, 1865, page 306

Andrew Johnson
September 15, 1866, page 583

Andrew Johnson
September 15, 1866, page 584

The Vice-Presidency
September 14, 1867, page 578

The Vice-Presidency
December 7, 1867, page 770


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