The Impeachment of Andrew Johnson
»Initial Impeachment Discussions

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Harper's Weekly,
October 20, 1866 page 658

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The Report of the military board of inquiry into the New Orleans riot confirms the opinion which every intelligent reader had formed from the facts published at the time. It was a preconcerted massacre of white and colored Union men by late rebel soldiers, with the assistance of the mob and the police, under the general direction of Mayor Monroe, who while an unpardoned rebel, was elected to his office, and was pardoned by President Johnson expressly that he might assume it. The facts of the case are appalling. It is another of the tragical lessons which the people of this country can not safely disregard if they expect to restore public order and the authority of law. It shows us the imperative necessity of acting according to the facts, and not upon any general theory, however generous or plausible. The country must look the truth squarely in the face, and the truth is that the party which elected Monroe, and which planned and executed the fiendish slaughter in New Orleans, is the party with which the President and the Democratic party are allied, and which is again seeking the control of the Government. The success of the Democratic party would be the success of Mayor Monroe and the New Orleans conspirators; and whoever would not see a man like Monroe the chief magistrate of any city will not vote so as to put into power the party which palliates and defends his crimes.

Moreover, there is no reason to suppose that the bitterness and ferocity of feeling which is proved by this massacre to exist in one city is confined to that city. The riot at Memphis, if less elaborately organized, sprang from precisely the same spirit. The incredibly fierce tone of a large part of the newspapers in the late insurgent section, the private correspondence from the quarter of thousands at the North, universal experience and human nature itself, warn us that the worst of passions have survived actual hostilities; and that Generals Grant, Thomas, and Sheridan spoke merely the truth when they said that a military force must for a long time be maintained in that part of the country. Individual expressions of acquiescence are of little avail in the presence of the overwhelming evidence of the general hostile sentiment of the whole section. Any known Union man is, by the very nature of the case, a more competent witness of the actual condition of the South than any known late rebel. When an Alabama judge, like Mr. H. D. Clayton, lately a rebel general, in exhorting his fellow-citizens to their duty, tells them that they ought not to "sit down night and day cursing and gnawing their chains," but to conform to law, it is very evident that the spirit of the exhortation will hardly lead to a very hearty and zealous conformity. When the Bench can express its acquiescence in no more satisfactory terms, the "bar" at the neighboring grocery will be very likely to do what it can to avenge its "chains;" and when Union men declare that they live in constant peril their testimony is confirmed by the tone of such an "acquiescing" judge.

Does it surprise any one who reads the Report of which we are speaking, and who reflects upon the state of society which it reveals, that the delegates to the Loyal Southern Convention at Philadelphia spoke and speak as they did? Governor Orr, Mr. Alexander H. Stephens, and other late rebel leaders, who were sustained by the sympathy of their section during the war, and enjoyed the honors of the rebellion without the least apprehension of suffering after its overthrow either from the Government or from their neighbors, talk in very smooth and dainty phrase of acquiescence and forgetfulness and conciliation. But the men whom the rebels during the war hated and hunted, and whom after the war they still hate and persecute, may, it seems to us, be allowed a little rhetorical warmth in the expression of their feelings. They declare that in their judgment, if we would radically and rapidly establish order in the disturbed section, we must make the rebel chiefs ineligible to office and enfranchise all our friends of whatever color. That is the revolutionary and anarchical doctrine with which they are charged. The Report of the New Orleans Commission makes it seem simply common-sense.

It can not be doubted that the New Orleans massacre has done more than the abstract argument of a year to impress the country with the conviction that we can not wisely hope for peace at the South so long as inequality of guarantees of personal and political liberty endure. That is the question which will now be steadily agitated until it is settled. The temper of the people at present inclines them to leave its solution to the necessary operation of the Constitutional Amendment. But the refusal of that measure will indicate a spirit with which the people will take the heroic method. The signs of this resolution are too plain to be avoided. The prompt adoption or refusal of the Amendment by the unrepresented States, after the elections show that it is the present essential condition of restoration, will serve as a test of the actual situation of those States. Their persistent refusal will show that the quality of their acquiescence has been misapprehended, and in the light of that knowledge the next step will be taken. If they adopt it, as we believe they will, the whole difficulty will be made more simple, and we shall be inclined to anticipate a speedy and happy settlement of every question. But, as we remarked last week, Congress has not tied its own hands, and there is no power which can bind them. We may be very sure that the new Congress will fully represent the sentiment of the country, and that its action will be truly the popular will.

The Report of the Commission leaves the tragical part of the President in the New Orleans massacre unchanged. Indeed, it serves only to confirm the conviction that he had already taken sides against the Convention, and was therefore unable to act wisely or humanely. Nothing is sadder than to observe, in this as in all passing events, his utter inability to comprehend the situation, or to give even a logical appearance to his own acts. Yet it is fortunate that the path of duty has been made so plain to the country. If the President had been a shrewd or reticent man; had he attempted the demoralization of the Union party with greater skill; had he protected the plainest rights of American citizens by defending the debates of the Convention at New Orleans, it might have been less clear to the popular mind than it now is that the total defeat of the party and the policy with which he is allied is essential to the national welfare.

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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