Sunday, September 26, 2010

A Matter of Impeachment


The very first impeachment hearing to oust a sitting U.S. President began in March, 1867 with President Andrew Johnson as the target. The 11 articles of impeachment centered on violations of the Tenure of Office Act.

Congress wanted to protect Edwin Stanton, Secretary of War, and keep him as a member of Johnson’s cabinet. President Johnson was attempting to replace Stanton with Lorenzo Thomas.

Johnson had vetoed the Tenure of Office Act and that had prompted Congress to override the veto. Johnson felt the law was unconstitutional since it limited executive power regarding removing a Cabinet member at will.

President Johnson wanted to remove Stanton because they continually disagreed over Johnson’s Reconstruction policies. Stanton also had continually involved himself in departments other than the War Department such as the State Department, and there were charges Stanton had the Secret Service follow President Johnson. Congress and Stanton argued under the new law President Johnson did not have the right to remove Stanton.

Lorenzo Thomas was not President Johnson’s first or second choice for the job. President Johnson had first approached Ulysses S. Grant and then William Sherman, but they both turned him down.

Once Lorenzo Thomas accepted the position he personally visited Stanton to give him the news and in retaliation Stanton had Thomas arrested. To keep Lorenzo Thomas from taking possession of his office Stanton barricaded himself, and impeachment proceedings began against Johnson.

Johnson argued a particular clause of the Tenure of Office Act stated then current secretaries could hold their posts throughout the term of the president who appointed them. Since Lincoln had appointed Stanton and Stanton had served out Lincoln’s term President Johnson argued he had the right to replace him.

Votes were taken on three of the articles of impeachment and each came down in Johnson’s favor. The Senate decided it would not proceed on the remaining eight articles and the hearing was over after three months.

Of course, those who wanted the President impeached argued Republican senators had been bribed with promises of patronage jobs and cash bribe

Take a look at the image with this post again…..notice the two little boys in the right lower corner. Head on over to History Is Elementary for more about them…..

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