The Impeachment of Andrew Johnson
ĽOvert Obstruction of Congress

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July 1867 - January 1868

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by John Adler, Publisher

On March 2, 1867, Congress passed the Tenure of Office Act over President Johnson’s veto. It prohibited the Chief Executive from removing appointed government officials, including Cabinet officers, without Senate approval. The law was specifically aimed at protecting the tenure of Secretary of War Edwin Stanton who supported Congressional Reconstruction. Harper’s Weekly only noted the Tenure of Office Act in its "Domestic Intelligence" column of news briefs. 

On July 20, Congress adjourned without taking any action on impeachment, despite lengthy discussions on the topic.

In June, Johnson’s Attorney General, Henry Stanbery, released his analysis of Congress’ Reconstruction Acts. It was a narrow interpretation aimed at limiting the effectiveness of the commanding generals in charge of implementing Congressional Reconstruction policy in the South. Johnson also replaced two of the key generals, Philip Sheridan in the Louisiana-Texas district and Daniel Sickles in the Carolinas.

In July, Congress reconvened to pass the Third Reconstruction Act in response to Stanbery’s ruling. The law explicitly made the provisional civil governments subordinate to military rule, and enhanced the authority of the military commanders.

On August 12, 1867, Johnson suspended Stanton as Secretary of War and appointed General Grant acting Secretary. Since Congress was in recess, this controversial move by the President was legal under the terms of the Tenure of Office Act. In January, 1868, after Congress reconvened, they refused to consent to Stanton’s removal, so Grant voluntarily surrendered the office back to Stanton.

That set the stage for Johnson’s final act of defying Congress which led to impeachment proceedings after sixteen months of discussion about all aspects of it. The President finally committed an overt act by removing Secretary of War Stanton in violation of the Tenure of Office Act.

Many of the considerations concerning impeachment were carefully reviewed and evaluated in the Harper’s Weekly editorials during the July 1867 – February 1868 period. These editorials, along with others that appeared earlier and later in Johnson’s term have been included in a special Index to Impeachment Arguments – Pro and Con. They should be of interest as a basis of comparison with the current political environment.

Articles Related to Overt Obstruction of Congress:
February 2, 1867, page 67
February 16, 1867, page 99
March 16, 1867, page 163

How Long?
June 29, 1867, page 402

Reconstruction and Obstruction
July 6, 1867, page 418

The Summer Session
July 6, 1867, page 418

The Fortieth Congress
July 17, 1867, page 467

Thanks to the District Commanders
July 27, 1867, page 467

Impeachment Postponed
July 27, 1867, page 467

A Desperate Man
August 13, 1867, page 546

The Secretary of War
August 24, 1867, page 530

Samson Agonistes at Washington (cartoon)
August 24, 1867, page 544

The Stanton Imbroglio (illustrated satire)
August 24, 1867, page 542

Secretary Grant
August 31, 1867, page 546

Southern Reconstruction
August 31, 1867, page 547

The Political Situation
September 7, 1867, page 562

General Thomas
September 7, 1867, page 563

Southern Reconstruction
September 7, 1867, page 563

The General and the President
September 14, 1867, page 578

General Sickles Also
September 14, 1867, page 579

Southern Reconstruction
September 21, 1867, page 595

The President’s Intentions
September 28, 1867, page 610

October 5, 1867, page 626

The Main Question
October 5, 1867, pages 626-627

Suspension during Impeachment
October 19, 1867, page 658

"Disregarding" The Law
November 2, 1867, page 691

December 14, 1867, page 786

General Grant’s Testimony
December 14, 1867, page 786

The President’s Message
December 14, 1867, page 787

General Grant’s Letter
January 1, 1868, page 2

Secretary Stanton’s Restoration
January 25, 1868, page 51

Reconstruction Measures
January 25, 1868, page 51

The President, Mr. Stanton and General Grant
February 1, 1868, page 66

Romeo (Seward) to Mercutio (Johnson) (cartoon)
February 1, 1868, page 76

The War Office
February 1, 1868, page 77

Secretary’s Room in the War Department (illus)
February 1, 1868, page 77

The New Reconstruction Bill
February 8, 1868, page 83


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