The Impeachment of Andrew Johnson
»Initial Impeachment Discussions

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Harper's Weekly,
August 25, 1866, page 530

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No event since the end of the war has so profoundly moved the country as the massacre at New Orleans, and none of the circumstances connected with it have been regarded with more painful surprise than the action of the President. Ever since the meeting of Congress last December he has strenuously insisted that the late rebel States, by conforming to certain terms which he had named, without consultation with Congress, were fully restored to their equal relations in the Union with the loyal States. He has publicly denounced Senators and Representatives as traitors and disunionists because they did not agree with him. He has vetoed the most important bills passed by Congress, assigning among his reasons in every instance that legislation during the exclusion from representation of the States in question was of doubtful constitutionality. He has uniformly spoken of those States as no longer in an exceptional situation, insisting that war was over, that all its methods were at an end, and that nothing remained to complete the normal condition of the Union but the admission of representatives duly qualified.

Louisiana is one of these States. The President told us that it was upon exactly the same footing in the Union as New York, and was to be treated by the national authorities exactly as New York is treated. He had recognized its local State Government as no less valid and independent within its constitutional sphere than that of New York, and however opinions as to the constitutionality or good policy or common-sense of his views may have differed, no one, we suppose, doubted that they were sincerely held and would honestly control his action.

But the President has suddenly shown that, while he denounces the Legislative branch of the Government as disorganizing or treasonable for not assenting to his theory, he does not mean to be bound by it himself. While he and his supporters are vociferously accusing Congress of revolutionary intentions because it does not immediately recognize what he calls the lawful representatives of Louisiana, he himself calls to account and peremptorily disregards the Governor of Louisiana, whom he has recognized as a lawful Governor as much as Governor Fenton of New York. He does in that State what he knows would not be for a moment tolerated in this.

On the 21st of July the President issues the following extraordinary order to the Governor of Louisiana, who, let it be remembered, he asserts is the peer of the Governor of Pennsylvania, of Massachusetts, of Illinois, or of any other State. "I have been advised that you have issued a proclamation convening the Convention elected in 1864. Please inform me under and by what authority this has been done, and by what authority this Convention can assume to represent the whole people of the State of Louisiana." This is the order of a superior to a subordinate agent. This is a message which the commander-in-chief may properly send to a provisional lieutenant. But it is a message which the President of the United States has no more rightful authority to send to the Governor of New York than the Queen of England has. And when such a missive is forwarded by a President who has been for months tediously reiterating that the rights of the States are in imminent danger of being destroyed by despotic centralization it is both ludicrous and alarming; ludicrous, because the executive act is such a ridiculous contradiction of the executive assertion; and alarming, because it shows either the President’s incapacity to comprehend the limits of the executive power, or his determination to disregard them at his pleasure.

The President’s "policy" thus proves to be the President’s pleasure. When it is convenient for him to treat a State as fully in the Union the President’s "policy" requires us to assent. When it is convenient to consider it as under absolute military supervision the President’s "policy" requires us to say Amen. If the President blows hot, we must agree that it is war. If he blows cold, we must declare it is exceeding chilly. If he denounces Congress as revolutionary for not recognizing the representatives of Louisiana, we must beg him to sweep it out of the Capitol. If he turns on his heel and refuses to recognize the Governor of Louisiana, we must vow that he is the savior of the Constitution.

The whole melancholy history justifies Congress. It has steadily refused to act upon a visionary theory, "a pernicious abstraction." Familiar with the causes of the war, understanding the vast social convulsions that always attend so fierce a struggle, and knowing that statesmanship deals with facts, it has not foolishly supposed that every thing was settled because insurgents had laid down their arms, nor assumed that States still quivering with hatred and hostility could be admitted to a share in the Government without patient inquiry and deliberation. It has asked only that the facts be ascertained, not assumed. Without hostile emotion, without vindictiveness, it has required that no State deliberately withdrawing its representatives, in order to destroy the Government, shall claim to have them readmitted except upon terms of reasonable precaution, and that rebellion shall not be rewarded by increased political power. Whether Congress, in its prudent care, is less patriotic, constitutional, and reasonable than the President in his immoderate haste -   whether its calm and consistent policy is not as respectful of just State rights as the capricious, arbitrary, and utterly illogical and inconsistent conduct of the President -  whether, in settling a civil war, it is more revolutionary to deprive a State of its national representation until it conforms to reasonable terms, than to deprive it of its local government at the executive pleasure -  are questions upon which we believe there is very little difference among the loyal people of the United States.

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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