The Impeachment of Andrew Johnson
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News Article
Harper's Weekly,
March 14, 1868, page 163

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Of this all-absorbing episode of the times we give in this issue of the Weekly a full account, with illustrations of the principal and most interesting events.

The offense for which the President has been impeached is the violation of the Tenure-of-Office Bill, which he believes and declares to be unconstitutional. This act was passed by Congress and vetoed by the President; subsequently (on March 2, 1867) the bill was passed over his veto, and thereby became a law. In suspending rather than removing Mr. Stanton on a previous occasion, the President seemed desirous of accomplishing his purpose in accordance with the provisions of the law; and with the same view he sent a message to the Senate giving his reasons for the suspension. The Senate, on hearing these reasons, disapproved of his action and Mr. Stanton was restored to his office. Mr. Johnson seemingly acquiesced in this decision; matters became more quiet; it seemed as if the rest of his term was to be spent in comparative peace; and so disposed was Congress to remove all obstructions to the harmonious action of the various bodies composing the Government, and to cease all action having the slightest resemblance to personal persecution of the President, that on February 13 the Impeachment Committee of the House of Representatives refused to entertain a proposition for impeachment, holding that up to that time the President had done nothing for which he could properly be impeached.

But the President reopened upon Congress on the 21st of February. Finding it impossible to rid himself of the obnoxious Secretary by suspension, he issued an order removing him, and another order appointing Adjutant-General Thomas Secretary of War ad interim. It may be that he misinterpreted the spirit, which led the House to propose impeachment in December last by a vote of 107 to 57; he may have attributed this action to fear and hesitancy. But he claims that from the first it was his purpose to maintain his right of removal, and in his late message to the Senate he, moreover, submits that to this case of Mr. Stanton the Tenure-of-Office Bill has no application, since the commission held by the Secretary was given by President Lincoln. The attempted removal of Secretary Stanton, the appointment of General Thomas, and the announcement of these acts to the Senate and House of Representatives was made on February 21, and, as already described in a previous issue, great excitement ensued through out Washington, and indeed throughout the whole country. General Thomas formally demanded possession of the War Department, was refused, arrested for interfering with the duties of the War-office, and finally discharged on bail. The House of Representatives resolved on February 24, by a vote of 126 yeas to 47 nays, to impeach the President; on February 25 the announcement of this action was made to the Senate, and the committee at once began to prepare the indictment. All of these events are fully illustrated in this issue of the Weekly.

The articles of impeachment presented by the committee February 29 are ten in number. The substance of the charges against the President is: That he, unmindful of the high duties of his office, of his oath of office, and of the requirement of the Constitution that he should take care that the laws be faithfully executed, issued an order for the removal of Secretary Stanton, with an intent to violate the Tenure-of-Office Bill; issued another order appointing Adjutant-General Thomas Secretary of War ad interim, without legal authority and in violation of the Tenure-of-Office Bill and of the Constitution; conspired with General Thomas and others to hinder Secretary Stanton, by intimidation and threats, from holding the office of Secretary of War, to prevent the execution of the Tenure-of-Office Bill, and to seize the property of the United States in the War Department; intended in the appointment of Thomas, to unlawfully disburse moneys appropriated for the military service and for the War Department; and in disregard of the Constitution and the laws of Congress duly enacted, as commander-in-Chief of the Army of the United States, did bring before himself in Washington William H. Emory, a major-general by brevet in the army of the United States, actually in command of the department of Washington and the military forces thereof, and did then and there, as such Commander-in-chief, declare to and instruct said Emory that part of a law of the United States, passed March 2, 1867, entitled "An act making appropriations for the support of the army for the year ending June 30, 1868, and for other purposes," especially the second section thereof, which provides among other things that "all orders and instructions relating to military operations issued by the President or Secretary of War shall be issued through the General of the Army, and in case of his inability, through the next in rank," was unconstitutional and in contravention of the commission of said Emory, and therefore not binding on him as an officer in the army of the United States, which said provision of law had been theretofore duly and legally promulgated by general order for the government and direction of the army of the United States, as the said Andrew Johnson then and there well knew, with intent thereby to induce said Emory in his official capacity as commander of the Department of Washington to violate the provisions of said act, and to take and receive, act upon and obey such orders as he, the said Andrew Johnson, might make and give, and which should not be issued through the General of the Army of the United States, according to the provisions of the said act. Each of these acts of the President are in the indictment styled "a high misdemeanor in office," with the exception of the conspiracy to seize upon the property of the War Department, which is pronounced a "high crime."

The "Guard before the War-office," illustrated on page 164, is the usual guard of honor which has for years paced before the Seventeenth Street front of the Department, and is not, as many have supposed, a special guard detailed to protect Mr. Stanton at this juncture. Persons enter the Department freely and without challenge from the sentry.

The next sketch (in chronological order) represents General Thomas demanding the War office of Mr. Stanton. This scene took place on February 21. General Thomas presented the order of the President appointing him Secretary of War ad interim to Mr. Stanton in the latter’s room of the War-office. He was courteously received by the Secretary, who asked time to consider, and General Thomas left with a notice that he would formally demand possession of the Department at nine o’clock on the following day. In the mean time he was arrested on complaint of Secretary Stanton, and, on examination before Judge Cartter, was released on bail. He subsequently again demanded possession of the War-office and was again refused. His trial came off on Monday, February 24, but no one appearing against him, he was discharged. He subsequently sued Secretary Stanton for false imprisonment, laying his damages at $150,000. Our sketch of the Courtroom represents the scene of February 22.

As of great interest in this connection we give on pages 168 and 169 a large and beautiful engraving of the House of Representatives, showing the principal features of the architecture, and containing portraits of several of the most distinguished representatives of the present Congress. On the occasion of the adoption of the impeachment resolution, February 24, the galleries of the House were crowded to overflowing, and the whole House presented the busy and interesting aspect delineated in our sketch.

Next in the order of their occurrence is the event illustrated in our engraving on the first page, representing Messrs. Stevens and Bingham announcing the passage of the Impeachment resolution to the Senate. This proceeding occurred on February 25. Mr. Stevens, too feeble to walk from his residence to the Senate chamber, was carried to its entrance in an arm-chair by two stout colored men, and leaning on the arm of Mr. Bingham and supporting himself by a cane, he entered the Hall, followed by a large delegation from the House, which took position in various parts of the lobby. The Sergeant-at-arms announced a message from the House of Representatives, and Mr. Stevens, pale, emaciated, deathlike in appearance, but in a stern, vigorous voice, and in a bold, lofty manner, made this formal announcement to the Senate:

In obedience to the order of the House of Representatives, we appear before you in the name of the House of Representatives and of all the people of the United States. We do impeach Andrew Johnson, President of the United States, of high crimes and misdemeanors in office; and we further inform the Senate that the House of Representatives will in due time exhibit articles against him, and make good the same, and in their name we demand that the Senate take order for the appearance of said Andrew Johnson to answer said impeachment.

Mr. Wade, President of the Senate, announced that "the Senate would take order in the premises," the usual reference to a committee was made. And the Representatives withdrew.

Since the completion of these preliminary steps the committee on Impeachment have been busily engaged in preparing the indictment. One of our engravings on this page represents the Committee in session in their room engaged in this important labor.

March 14, 1868 page 164


March 14, 1868 page 164

March 14, 1868 page 164

March 14, 1868 page 164

March 14, 1868 pages 168-169

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