The Impeachment of Andrew Johnson
ĽOvert Obstruction of Congress

back to the Andrew Johnson Home Page

Harper's Weekly, August 24, 1867, page 530

go to the previous article in this section
go to the next article in this section

Harpweek Commentary:
  Suspension of Stanton

After Congress adjourned, President Johnson suspended Secretary of War Edwin Stanton and directed General Grant to take charge of the War Department ad interim. This riled Congress and stirred up impeachment talk once again, but he still had not committed an overt violation of the Tenure of Office Act.

In January 1868, the Senate passed a resolution reinstating Stanton as Secretary of War. Grant surrendered his ad interim office to Stanton, and Johnson was left with another congressional move to stalemate him.

If the request of the President to Mr. Stanton that he would resign the Secretaryship of War means that he is about undertaking to change all the military personnel under the Reconstruction bill, substituting men like Steedman and Rousseau for Sheridan and Schofield and Sickles, the deluge will not be after Mr. Johnson, but upon him. We do not believe that the country will submit to such a plain paralysis of its purpose.

The services of Mr. Stanton to this country are incalculable. It is not easy to conceive of a more efficient Secretary of War at a time when that office was of the very highest importance. The faults which were popularly ascribed to the Secretary, his abruptness, his brusqueness, were often merely a necessary decision and rapidity of action. A man in such an office at such a time may be pardoned if he does not stop to make bows, and if he speaks too crisply for common courtesy. Coming into the War Department at a time when the headquarters of General George B. M’Clellan were fast becoming the head bureau of the Government, and when even the President went to the General, instead of requiring the General to come to him, the Secretary of War taught General M’Clellan that the President was to be respected as his Commander-in-Chief. Mr. Stanton was never deceived in the character or the capacity of General M’Clellan. The Secretary’s comprehensive grasp of the vast duties of his office, his unquailing energy, his exhaustless industry, his silent fidelity, were no less remarkable than his heroic faith in the people and his inflexible determination that the war should be fought to an unconditional overthrow of the rebellion. When that result was almost accomplished he instantly repudiated the immense error of General Sherman; and when President Lincoln was murdered, and there was a moment of inexpressible confusion, it was the steady hand of the Secretary of War which seized the government and passed it to Mr. Lincoln’s lawful successor. During the melancholy and humiliating administration of Mr. Johnson, which has sought in every way to defeat the national victory and to demoralize the national mind, Mr. Stanton has tenaciously clung to the real issue, and he alone in the Cabinet has represented the national conviction and the national purpose. He, therefore, has been the especial object of the President’s hostility, and after a thousand rumors of his designed or attempted removal the President has at last formally summoned him to resign.

Mr. Stanton’s retirement would be a national misfortune. Upon the part of the President it would be another impotent blow at the purpose of the country, which he can not change. But if, as we said, he should go further, and by appointing his own creatures show an evident intention to defeat the objects sought by the Reconstruction bill, he would be hoist with his own petard.

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


Website design © 1998-2005 HarpWeek, LLC
All Content © 1998-2005 HarpWeek, LLC
Please submit questions to