The Impeachment of Andrew Johnson
»Initial Impeachment Discussions

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Harper's Weekly,
December 22, 1866, page 803

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Congress has begun its work with a will. It seems very conscious that it is not to remain in session for eight months, and that after the long debates of the year the country looks seriously for results. There has been some boyish effervescence, and, of course, there has been a profuse shower of propositions from every side to solve the problem of the time. We repeat the hope which we expressed during the last winter, that some representative whose radical convictions are as unquestionable as those of Mr. Thaddeus Stevens will save Congress and the country from the disgrace of his unchecked talk and action. The motion of this gentleman that the House should adjourn during the reading of the President’s Message was not so much an insult to the President as to the whole country; and his remarks at the banquet of reception were both untimely and foolish.

That the President has disgracefully assailed Mr. Stevens is true. Does Congress then mean to make the President its model of decency? He is quite as good at the game of vindictive vituperation as Mr. Stevens. Did the President help himself or his cause by the 22d of February speech or by his Western speeches? Will Congress help itself by imitating him? Mr. Thaddeus Stevens should be taught that Congress is the immediate representative of the people of the United States, and that its forgetfulness of dignity and propriety is infinitely more offensive than that of the Executive officer.

It is a very common and a totally false idea that decency of manner and language is incompatible with strong conviction or effective action. We hear it said that the President is a coarse man and must be coarsely encountered. No conclusion could be more untrue. A Congress which should steadily pursue its course, tranquilly fulfilling the popular will, quietly passing necessary bills over the Executive veto, without a word of derision or acrimony, and while it paralyzed any unwise or dangerous Executive attempts, preserved profound silence toward the Executive officer, would confound him a thousandfold more than a Congress which bandied insults with him. And so a leader who should represent the unbending popular will, and refuse to abandon himself to rhetorical or sarcastic fury, would have a power in the House, with the country, and over the Executive, which Mr. Thaddeus Stevens, with all his brilliant antics, can never reach. Let us hope that some members will reflect that it was the apparent assent of the House to the vagaries of Mr. Thaddeus Stevens a year ago which so seriously disturbed its hold upon many of the most loyal men in the country, who, however, had no alternative but to support Congress when the issue was fairly joined in the canvass. If it be an impeachable offense, as General Butler seems to suppose, for the Executive Department of the Government to bring the Legislative into contempt, what is the remedy when the Legislative branch retorts? May not that account be considered settled, and the Impeachment be reserved?

The very power of Congress, however and its support by the country, will tend to make it moderate and mannerly. There is really no contest between it and the President, for the force is too much on one side. Even the Democrats desert him. Surely no public man ever encountered such sudden and bitter retribution. It is not much more than a year since the chief orator at the Democratic Albany meeting nominated him for next President. And now a Democratic leader in the House says that to attempt to shoulder the present Executive would destroy any party. After that nothing can be said. The country has a right to expect hearty, honest, and efficient work from its representatives, and neither sneers nor sarcasms upon the President. There was a time when they were legitimate weapons, but it is happily passed.

Articles Related to the Initial Impeachment Discussions:
The President Judged by Himself

August 25, 1866, page 530

Reconstruction and How it Works (cartoon)
September 1, 1866, pages 552-553

Which Is The More Illegal (cartoon)
September 8, 1866, page 569

The New Orleans Report
October 20, 1866, page 658

The New Orleans Massacre
IMarch 30, 1867, page 202

Text from Illustration of Andy’s Trip

October 27, 1866, pages 680-681

The Great Campaign of ’66
September 29, 1866, page 610

What Next?
October 27, 1866, page 674

King Andy (cartoon)
November 3, 1866 page 696

Shall the President be Impeached?
November 3, 1866, page 690

The Popular Will
November 24, 1866, page 738

Andy Makes a Call on Uncle Sam, Who Rises to the Occasion (cartoon)
December 1, 1866, page 768

Impeachment and General Butler
December 15, 1866, page 786

December 22, 1866, page 803

What Next?
December 29, 1866, page 818


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