The Impeachment of Andrew Johnson
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Harper's Weekly, March 23, 1867, page 178

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The opening debate in the Fortieth Congress upon the Impeachment resolutions was not advantageous to the measure. Mr. Ashley’s (Representative James Ashley of Ohio) speech was hurtful to his own reputation and to his proposition. It was a mere philippic, so furious that the Speaker was compelled to call him to order, upon a subject which required the calmest and most temperate statement. Mr. Ashley accused the President of inciting a revolution and civil war. He insinuated a suspicion of his complicity in the assassination of his predecessor. He charged him with usurpation of power. He accused him of turning the White House into a den of thieves and pardon-brokers. He denounced the President’s "drunken electioneering tour." He described him as "the moral incubus which has blotted our history with its foulest blot;" and he affirmed that "the nation cries out in agony" for his removal.

We can not but think that Mr. Ashley was unduly excited. It is impossible not to remember that he made the same charges in more guarded language many weeks since. Either he made them upon evidence or without evidence, and from what Mr. Phillips called his "instincts." If he made them without evidence Mr. Ashley committed a very grave offense. But if he made charges with knowledge he could certainly, in the course of two months, have presented the proof to a committee composed of gentlemen who were certainly not unwilling to impeach. Yet after the most constant and diligent investigation the committee were not able to report that they had found adequate evidence upon which to recommend impeachment. Now if sufficient reasons for impeaching the President could not be discovered by a willing committee in a research of two months are they likely to be found at all?

The Committee reported, indeed, that the charges had not been "so entirely negative as to admit of no discussion," and they are of opinion that there is sufficient testimony to demand further investigation. But that is merely another way of saying that, after investigating for two months, they can not find sufficient proof of the Presidential offenses, against which Mr. Ashley declares that "the nation cries out in agony," to justify impeachment at present. We certainly have not changed our own opinion, that if an impeachment did not carry itself - if it were not a plain state necessity clearly above the charge of party purpose in the strict sense - if it were necessary to engineer and contrive it, then it could only result in the destruction of those who attempted it. Impeachment is not a measure of partisan warfare; it is a great Constitutional remedy for national peril.

Does that peril exist? We can not find any valid proof of it in the speeches of Mr. Ashley, or of Mr. Phillips, or of General Butler; nor have the Judiciary Committee been able to find it after two months of investigation. That the President has usurped powers is not denied. But the country, including General Butler in his letter to the Faneuil Hall meeting, condoned the usurpation at the time, and has now provided against its evil results. That he has corruptly used the pardoning power, or the appointing power, or has illegally returned property to rebels, General Butler charged in his speech and Mr. Ashley in his. But the exercise of the pardoning power and the use of the patronage are points very ill defined, and of various precedent; and unless the corruption were proved, or the misuse were flagrant, the country would not sustain an impeachment. Yet, had it been flagrant, would not the proof have been laid before the Committee during the two months of investigation?

General Butler, however, discarding all other charges, declared that if any man withstands the progress of the nation he must be removed by a Constitutional method. But if any man does so withstand the popular purpose, he is virtually and Constitutionally removed by being made harmless; and that is the present position of the President. He is powerless. The popular purpose is thus far maintained against him in the Constitutional way. If Mr. Ashley or General Butler can show that he is endeavoring the overthrow of the Government, or the corruption of officers, or that he refuses to execute the laws, then he can be as easily impeached as he is denounced. But when they urge his impeachment as an obstacle they surrender their case. Every President in opposition is an obstacle. Every majority in the House represents the purpose of the people. Impeach this President because he differs with this majority, and the precedent poisons all our politics. Every opposition President can then be impeached, and the House can easily dispense with him by following General Butler’s prescription of suspending him during trial, and suffering the trial to outlast his term.

Articles Related to Military Reconstruction:
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January 26, 1867, page 50

Congress and Impeachment
February 16, 1867, page 98

The Probability of Impeachment
February 23, 1867, page 114

The Louisiana Bill
March 2, 1867, page 130

March 9, 1867, page 146

The Thirty-Ninth Congress
March 9, 1867, page 146

The Veto of the Reconstruction Bill

March 16, 1867, page 162

The Fortieth Congress

March 30, 1867, page 195

The Fortieth Congress

April 6, 1867, page 211

Sprats and Vetoes

April 6, 1867, page 210

Adjournment of Congress

April 13, 1867, page 226

Prometheus Bound

March 2, 1867, page 137

The Result

March 30, 1867, page 194

The Southern Commanders

April 6, 1867, page 218

The Debate upon Impeachment

March 23, 1867, page 178

We Accept the Situation (cartoon)

April 13, 1867, page 240

The Big Thing (cartoon)

April 20, 1867, page 256

The End of Impeachment
June 22, 1867, page 386


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