The Impeachment of Andrew Johnson
»Remainder of Term and Life

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Harper's Weekly, March 13
, 1869, page 162

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HarpWeek Commentary:
  Ulysses S. Grant was inaugurated as President on March 4, 1869, about five days after this editorial, along with cartoons by Thomas Nast and others, appeared.

Andrew Johnson retires from the Presidency without the regret of a single person who does not fear removal from office and with certainly as little general respect as attended the retirement of Mr. Pierce or Mr. Buchanan. They were all, indeed, politicians of the same school, and that the worst school in American politics -  a school which demanded moral and intellectual sophistication, and required its followers to defend the worst form of despotism as harmonious with the Democratic principle. It is a school whose political ascendancy in this country for more than a generation not only brought the country to the verge of ruin, but made the name of Democracy odious in the mind of honorable and intelligent men every where. It gave the country such Presidents as Polk, Pierce, Buchanan, and Andrew Johnson. Judged by the tenets of such a school, and by such representative chiefs, what was so natural as the universal official foreign sneer that greeted the beginning of the rebellion?

Mr. Johnson was elected by the Republicans, but he was never in sympathy with the principles of the party. His nomination was a departure from the rule which political managers should never forget, to trust in emergencies none but those who are beyond doubt. Had the war been a question of saving the Union only, Mr. Johnson was as good a candidate as any. But it was a question of saving the Union upon Republican principles, and he was therefore as bad a candidate as could have been selected. The melancholy spectacle of his inauguration was full of foreboding. The black shadows of murderous conspiracy amidst which he took his seat, only deepened the gloom occasioned by his verbose threats of rigor, and the conviction of his dullness and narrowness grew with every speech he made.

In the first development of his policy he claimed to follow the precedent of Mr. Lincoln. But Mr. Lincoln had no Procrustean policy; and it was possible for Mr. Johnson neither to comprehend the character nor to assume what is granted to so few men, the exquisite good sense and sagacity of his predecessor. Among the most melancholy displays of this melancholy Administration have been the reiterations of Senators Dixon and Doolittle that to blame Mr. Johnson was to blame Mr. Lincoln. Whenever that assertion was repeated a profound sense of the hopelessness of debate must have fallen upon the Senate. It is not easy to imagine two men more radically and absolutely different in character, temperament, wisdom, and political principle; and the man who could gravely defend Mr. Johnson’s veto of the Civil Rights Bill, for instance, because Mr. Lincoln wanted to recognize a certain government in Arkansas, might amuse and exasperate, but he could not persuade nor win respect.

When the differences between the President and Congress deepened we strove in these columns, so far as practicable and honorable, to postpone the evil day, and to put the President in the position of one who had left the party that elected him rather than in that of a chief whom the party had deserted. The Philadelphia movement failed, not because there were not shrewd men connected with it, but because it was a deliberate invitation to the conscience and patriotism of the country which had lavished life and money and freed the slaves, to trust every thing in the future to Andrew Johnson, the rebel leaders and the Democratic party. The New Orleans massacre was merely a vivid illustration of the inevitable result of the Philadelphia policy of "peace and fraternity." Then the desperate struggle between the Executive and the Legislative power was joined; and then, unquestionably, except for the perfectly steady attitude of the loyal country at the elections Andrew Johnson would have shown himself as daring as he was dogged. Could he have had his way all that was really gained by the war would have been as far as possible surrendered. He meant to betray and abandon the Freedmen, and the World admits that could they have been kept from the suffrage the ex-rebel States would have been Democratic. With those States restored under ex-rebel ascendancy allied with the kind of Democracy that was revealed in the World during the Presidential campaign, and which saw in Wade Hampton a typical American citizen, and in General Lee a grand old soldier, the work of Andrew Johnson would have been complete.

He failed, and failed utterly; failed so miserably that, in the last weeks of his Administration, he could only revenge himself by absurd attempts wantonly to vex his successor. He nominated to the Senate for consul to Havana a soldier who was conspicuously the enemy of General Grant, and for minister to Chile, General Grant’s brother-in-law and friend. Mr. Johnson’s Administration has had, however, the good result of proving the character of the people. At every moment of his evil career it has been evident that the country condemned him; and undoubtedly it anticipated his removal when he was impeached. There verdict against him failed of the necessary two-thirds vote, but it was recorded in the heart of the people as it will be in history; and the enthusiastic election, as his successor, of the man whom he had sought publicly to brand as a liar, contemptuously dismissed a President who will be remembered for not one wise work or one truly honorable action.

Articles Related to the Remainder of Johnson's Term and Life:
The Democratic Convention (Give me another Horse) (cartoon)
July 25, 1868, page 480

All Quiet on the Potomac (cartoon)
October 31, 1868, page 695

Andrew Johnson
March 13, 1869, page 162

The Political Death of the Bogus Caesar (cartoon)
March 13, 1869, page 164

A. J. Returns to his First Love (cartoon)
March 6, 1869, page 160

"Farewell, A Long Farewell, To All My Greatness!" (cartoon)
March 13, 1869, page 176

Preparing To Go Out (cartoon)
March 13, 1869, page 171

Home At Last (cartoon)
April 24, 1869, page 267

November 6, 1869, page 707

"Poor Andy" (cartoon)
November 20, 1869, page 752

Mr. Seward
March 20, 1869, page 178

The Whirligig Of Time (cartoon)
February 20, 1875, page 164

Death of Andrew Johnson
August 14, 1875, page 655

The Late Andrew Johnson (illus)
August 14, 1875, page 665


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