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  • 1868
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between Mr. Johnson and those who on Mr. Lincoln’s death had assumed the leadership in the work of reconstruction and other matters of administration, came to take the opposite ground, from the first occupied by Sumner and other extremists in Congress–that the States lately in rebellion had destroyed themselves by their own act of war, and had thereby forfeited all the rights of Statehood and were but conquered provinces, subject solely to the will of the conqueror.

From that point their ways parted and widened from month to month, till bitter hostility, political and personal, came to mark even their official intercourse.

Mr. Johnson was practically unknown to the great mass of the people of the North till he succeeded to the Presidency. He was in no sense regarded as or assumed to be the leader of the dominant party; while those who on Mr. Lincoln’s death became leaders of the dominant party in opposition to Mr. Johnson’s administration and policies, were widely known and of long public experience, and had correspondingly the confidence of their party.

So, in the strife that ensued, as it became embittered with the lapse of time, Mr. Johnson was at great disadvantage, and made little or no headway, but rather lost ground as the controversy progressed. His moderate, conservative views, radically expressed, in regard to what should be the methods of reconstruction and the restoration of the Union, found little favor with the mass of the veterans of the Union armies who had but lately returned from the victorious fields of the South, their blood not yet cooled after the fury and heat of the strife while to many, who had witnessed the horrors of war at a safe distance, with the cessation of hostilities in the field, to which they had been only anxious spectators, became suddenly enthused over issues that others had fought out in battle, and vigorously vicious towards Mr. Johnson for presuming to treat the conquered people of the South as American citizens and entitled to the rights of such, after having laid down their arms and peacefully returned to their homes and their respective callings.

This temper, permeating, as it did, the dominant party of practically every Northern State, was not unstintingly reflected upon the National Capitol in the return to Congress of a large majority in both Houses, of men who sympathized with and reflected back again upon their constituents the most extreme views as to what should be the policy of the Government towards the South.

These views characterized the legislation of the time. Partisan rancor was unbridled, and found expression not only in coercive legislation of various grades of severity, but in placing the Southern States generally under almost absolute military control, and in the practical abrogation of the common rights of American citizenship in most of them.

Quite every act of this sort of legislation was passed over the official protest of the President, and each of these protests seemed but to add emphasis to each succeeding act of Congress in that line, till it seemed that there could be no end to the strife, so long as Mr. Johnson remained in the Presidential office.

The ostensible basis of the disagreement which in a few months after the accession of Mr. Johnson to the Presidency began to develop between himself and the Republican leaders in Congress, was the plan of reconstruction put in operation by him during the recess of Congress that year, 1865, and outlined in his North Carolina Proclamation. It availed not, that that plan had been adopted originally by Mr. Lincoln a few days before his death–that it had been concurred in by his entire Cabinet and would undoubtedly have been carried out successfully by him had he lived that plan was made the ground of criticism of Mr. Johnson by the extreme party element in control of Congress, which persistently accused him of having abandoned the plan initiated by Mr. Lincoln, and of setting up another of his own, for purely personal and ambitious purposes, and to the detriment of the peace of the country.

Mr. Johnson may have been opinionated and headstrong, a characteristic of a great many people of strong convictions of duty and purpose; while the overwhelming numerical strength of the dominant party in and out of Congress made it seemingly indifferent, reckless and inconsiderate of the convictions, as of the rights and prerogatives of the Chief Executive treating him more as a clerk whose sole duty it was to register without suggestion the decrees of Congress.

That Mr. Lincoln, had he lived, would have pursued much the same policy of reconstruction, is clearly indicated by the established fact that he had determined to adopt precisely the initial measures thereto which Mr. Johnson did inaugurate and attempt to carry out. But Mr. Lincoln’s superior ability in statecraft, his rare tact and knowledge of men, and his capacity for moulding and directing public opinion, seeming to follow where he actually led, would doubtless have secured a more favorable result. And more than all else, it can scarcely be doubted, that the unbounded confidence of the people in his patriotism and capacity to direct public affairs, would have enabled him to dictate terms of reconstruction strictly on the lines he had marked out, and would have commanded the general support of the country, regardless of partisan divisions, notwithstanding the well known fact that at the time of his death there were unmistakable indications of alienation from him of the extreme element of his party because of his conservative views as to the proper methods of reconstruction.

Meantime, in the effort to hamper the President, as far as it was possible for Congress to do, the Tenure-of-Office Act was passed, early in 1867. The ostensible purpose of that Act was to restrict the authority of the President in the selection of his Cabinet advisers, and his power over appointments generally. Its specific purpose, at least so far as the House of Representatives was concerned, and measurably so in the Senate, was to prevent his removal of the Secretary of War, Mr. Stanton, with the manifest if not avowed intent, as the sequel shows, to make that Secretary not only independent of his chief, but also to make him the immediate instrument of Congress in whatever disposition of the Army, or of military affairs generally relating to the government of the Southern States, the majority of Congress might dictate. In a word, the Congress, in that Act, virtually assumed, or attempted to assume, that control of the Army which the Constitution vests on the President.

The first effort to impeach the President, in 1867, was based upon a general accusation of high crimes and misdemeanors without literal specification. The second, in 1868, was based upon his alleged violation of the Tenure-of-Office Act, in the removal of Mr. Stanton.

While it is undoubted, as already shown, that Mr. Lincoln and Mr. Johnson were in accord as to the methods to be adopted for the restoration of the revolted States, it was Mr. Johnson’s misfortune that he had not Mr. Lincoln’s capacity for so great and so peculiar a task; though a gentleman of proven patriotism, ability, of a kindly, genial nature, and with record of valuable public service. Hampered by his lack of political finesse and intricate knowledge of state-craft, and in view of the conditions of that time, and the people with whom he had to deal, it was obvious from the outset that the result of the controversy could hardly be otherwise than disastrous to him. Mr. Lincoln would undoubtedly have been met by the same character of opposition, and from the same source. But there would have been the appearance at least of mutual concession, and while the APPEARANCE of concession would have been on Mr. Lincoln’s side, the actual concession, so far as essentials were involved, would have been on the other.

Mr. Johnson was a Democrat of pronounced type and profound convictions, and in no sense did he depart from his faith. He belonged to the school of Jackson and Jefferson. He had not the electric intuitions and impetuous will of the former, nor the culture and genius of the latter. He adhered more religiously to the letter of the Constitution than either. To him it was the one law of supreme obligation, that never ceased its guarantees. As fittingly expressed by one of his Counsel, Mr. Groesbeck, in the trial: “He was not learned and scholarly–not a man of many ideas or of much speculation–but the Constitution had been the study of his life, and by a law of the mind he was only the truer to that which he did know.”

As had Mr. Lincoln, Mr. Johnson keenly appreciated the importance of the people of the South returning at once to the Union, free and independent American citizens, clothed with all the rights, privileges and obligations common to such. In his Cabinet Councils, and to a degree supreme in that board sat William H. Seward, as he had throughout Mr. Lincoln’s administration, than whom the Republic has produced no wiser, more sagacious, or patriotic statesman. He gave the subject his intense devotion in the maturity of his great powers.

There too, sat Secretary Welles, another of Mr. Lincoln’s advisers, and a devoted friend of the Constitution and the sanctity of the Union. Each of these men, thoroughly patriotic, and efficient, and untiring in the administration of their respective Departments, had commenced with the deluge of blood, and they now hoped to crown their official careers by a triumphant peace that would Honor their lives and glorify the Nation. These men had a salutary influence over Mr. Johnson, and greatly modified the asperities of his disposition.

Mr. Johnson believed, as did Mr. Lincoln, that the revolted States were still States of the Union–that all the pretended acts of secession were null and void, and that the loyal people therein had the right to reconstruct their State Governments on the basis proposed to them first by Mr. Lincoln, and after him by Mr. Johnson, and thus the right to representation in the General Government.

It was upon this question that parties divided during the reconstruction period. Mr. Lincoln, foreseeing danger in such a division, was anxious to bring those States into such relation that the people generally would consider them as virtually in the Union, without reference to the abstract question. It was with this view, undoubtedly, that he advocated the admission of Members and Senators whenever one-tenth of the voting population of 1860 should organize State Governments and ask for readmission. He would not only not countenance, but repelled the doctrine of “State Suicide,” as it was called, and which came to characterize the methods of reconstruction subsequently adopted.

It is true, that on many occasions Mr. Johnson charged that the Congress was only a Congress of part of the States, and that its acts were therefore without validity. Yet he continued to execute those laws, and what to him was a very unpleasant duty, the law which set aside the State Governments organized under his own direction, so that notwithstanding his violent denunciations of the acts of Congress, and his personal opinions, he did not presume to act upon them. Angry and undignified language was uttered on both sides. Many of his speeches were violent and in bad taste and temper. So were a great many speeches uttered by senators and members of the House, and those bodies too often acted upon them.

It is therefore but repeating recorded history to say that Mr. Johnson was earnestly seeking to carry out Mr. Lincoln’s plan of reconstruction, which was upon consultation with his entire Cabinet, more especially with Mr. Stanton, adopted by him as the basis for the restoration of the revolted States.

Yet, with these facts of record, that action was afterwards assailed by the Republican leaders in and out of Congress, who assumed to have become Mr. Lincoln’s executors in the work of reconstruction, as not only an abandonment of the plan instituted by him, but a surrender of the issues fought out and the results accomplished by the war just closed notwithstanding very many of these critics of Mr. Johnson had but a few months before criticised Mr. Lincoln with quite equal severity for his suggestion of this same method of restoration.

Nor will it suffice to say that, though professing submission and loyalty, the people of the South were still hostile to the Union, and that there was no safety there for Union men. It is true that there came to be violence and disorder there upon the rejection by Congress of Mr. Johnson’s plan of restoration.

These were the inevitable results of the conditions. There would also have been disorder and violence in the North and to a far greater degree, had the results of the war been reversed–an arbitrary and tyrannical system of restoration insisted upon–the established order of things destroyed homes broken up the people impoverished, and hordes of unscrupulous adventurers swarmed up from the South and overrun the country in pursuit of schemes of political chicanery and personal ambition, peculation and plunder, as was the South after the close of the war.

But when the fight was on, an overwhelmingly partisan House, as a last resort, in the hope of at once ending, by removal, all opposition on the part of the President to the views and aims of the dominant party in Congress, resorted to the first project of impeachment set out in the succeeding chapter.



The initiation of formal proceedings for the impeachment and removal of President Johnson occurred in the House of Representatives on January 7th, 1867, in the introduction of three separate resolutions for his impeachment, by Messrs. Loan and Kelso, of Missouri, and Mr. Ashley of Ohio. As Mr. Ashley’s Resolution was the only one acted on by the House, only the proceedings had thereon are here given, as follows:

Mr. Speaker:–I rise to perform a painful but, nevertheless, to me, an imperative duty; a duty which I think ought not longer to be postponed, and which cannot, without criminality on our part, be neglected. I had hoped, sir, that this duty would have devolved upon an older and more experienced member of this House than myself. Prior to our adjournment I asked a number of gentlemen to offer the resolution which I introduced, but upon which I failed to obtain a suspension of the rules.

Confident, sir, that the loyal people of this country demand the adoption of some such proposition as I am about to submit, I am determined that no effort on my part shall be wanting to see that their expectations are not disappointed. * * * On my responsibility as a Representative, and in the presence of this House, and before the American people, I charge Andrew Johnson, Vice President and acting President of the United States, with the commission of acts which in contemplation of the Constitution, are high crimes and misdemeanors, for which, in my judgment, he ought to be impeached. I therefore submit the following:

I do impeach Andrew Johnson, Vice President and acting President of the United States, of high crimes and misdemeanors:

I charge him with a usurpation of power and violation of law:

In that he has corruptly used the appointing power;

In that he has corruptly used the pardoning power;

In that he has corruptly used the veto power;

In that he has corruptly disposed of public property of the United States;

In that he has corruptly interfered in elections, and committed acts which, in contemplation of the Constitution, are high crimes and misdemeanors: Therefore,

BE IT RESOLVED, That the Committee on the Judiciary be, and they are hereby, authorized to inquire into the official conduct of Andrew Johnson, Vice President of the United States, discharging the powers and duties of the office of President of the United States, and to report to this House, whether, in their opinion, the said Andrew Johnson, while in said office, has been guilty of acts which are designed or calculated to overthrow, subvert, or corrupt the Government of the United States, or any department or office thereof; and whether the said Andrew Johnson has been guilty of any act, or has conspired with others to do acts, which, in contemplation of the Constitution, are high crimes and misdemeanors, requiring the interposition of the constitutional power of this House; and that said committee have power to send for persons and papers, and to administer the customary oath to witnesses.

The question was taken on agreeing to the Resolution; and it was decided in the affirmative–yeas 107, nays 39, not voting 45.

On the 2nd of March, 1867, the subject of impeachment again came up in the House, and the following proceedings were had:

Mr. Wilson, of Iowa, (Rep.)–I am directed by the Committee on the Judiciary to present a report relative to the official conduct of the President of the United States.

Mr. Eldridge, (Dem.)–Mr. Speaker, I wish to raise a question of order: I see by the clock that it is almost three o’clock in the morning; and I believe this is the Sabbath day. I think we should not do any more business tonight, except it be business of necessity or charity.

The Speaker.–This, in parliamentary view, is Saturday. The clerk will read the report submitted by the gentleman from Iowa.

The clerk read as follows:

The Committee on the Judiciary, charged by the House with examination of certain allegations, of high crimes and misdemeanors against the President of the United States, submit the following report:

On the 7th day of January, 1867, the House, on the motion of the Hon. James M. Ashley, a Representative from the State of Ohio, adopted the following preamble and resolutions, to-wit:

The duty imposed upon this committee by this action of the House, was of the highest and gravest character. No committee during the entire history of the Government, has ever been charged with a more important trust. The responsibility which it imposed was of oppressive weight, and of a most unpleasant nature. Gladly would the committee have escaped from the arduous labor imposed upon it by the Resolution of the House; but once imposed, prompt, deliberate, and faithful action, with a view to correct results, became its duty, and to this end it has directed its efforts.

Soon after the adoption of the Resolution by the House, Hon. James M. Ashley communicated to the committee, in support of his charges against the President of the United States, such facts as were in his possession, and the investigation was proceeded with, and has been continued almost without, a day’s interruption. A large number of witnesses have been examined, many documents collected, and everything done which could be done to reach a conclusion of the case. But the investigation covers a broad field, embraces many novel, interesting, and important questions, and involves a multitude of facts, while most of the witnesses are distant from the Capital, owing to which the committee, in view of the magnitude of the interests involved in its action, have not been able to conclude its labors, and is not therefore prepared to submit a definite and final report. If the investigation had even approached completeness, the committee would not feel authorized to present the result of the House at this late period of the session, unless the charges had been so entirely negative as to admit of no discussion, which, in the opinion of the committee, is not the case.

Certainly no affirmative report could be properly considered in the expiring hours of this Congress.

The committee not having fully investigated all the charges prepared against the President of the United States, it is deemed inexpedient to submit any conclusion beyond the statement that sufficient testimony has been brought to its notice to justify and demand a further prosecution of the investigation.

The testimony which the committee has taken will pass into the custody of the Clerk of the House, and can go into the hands of such committee as may be charged with the duty of bringing this investigation to a close, so that the labor expended upon it may not have been in vain.

The committee regrets its inability definitely to dispose of the important subject committed to its charge, and presents this report for its own justification, and for the additional purpose of notifying the succeeding Congress of the incompleteness of its labors, and that they should be completed.

James F. Wilson, Chairman.
Francis Thomas,
D. Morris,
F. E. Woodbridge,
George S. Boutwell,
Thomas Williams,
Burton C. Cook,
William Lawrence,

Mr. Ancona, the only Democrat on the committee, presented a minority report, as follows:

The subscriber, one of the Judiciary Committee, to which was referred by the House the inquiry into the official conduct of His Excellency, the President of the United States, with a view to his impeachment upon certain charges made by Hon. James M. Ashley, begs leave to submit the following report:

The Committee refuses to allow a Report to be made giving to the House at this time upon grounds which are no doubt satisfactory to themselves; therefore, I cannot report the evidence upon which my conclusion is based, which I would gladly do did the Committee deem it expedient. The examination of witnesses and the records was commenced, as appears by the majority report, about the time of the reference, to-wit: on the 7th day of January, 1867, and continued daily. A large number of witnesses has been examined, and everything done that could be, to bring the case to a close, as appears by the majority report: and the majority have come to the conclusion “that sufficient testimony had been brought to its notice to justify and demand a further prosecution of the investigation.” I have carefully examined all the evidence in the case, and do report that there is not one particle of evidence to sustain any of the charges which the House charged the Committee to investigate, and that the case is wholly without a particle of evidence upon which impeachment could be founded, and that with all the effort that has been made, and the mass of evidence that has been taken; the case is entirely void of proof. I furthermore report that the most of the testimony that has been taken is of a secondary character, and such as would not be admitted in a court of justice.

In view of this conclusion I can see no good in a continuation of the investigation. I am convinced that all the proof that can be produced has been before the Committee, as no pains have been spared to give the case a full investigation. Why, then, keep the country in a feverish state of excitement upon this question any longer, as it is sure to end, in my opinion, in a complete vindication of the President, if justice be done him by the committee, of which I have no doubt,

A. J. Rogers.

The two reports were ordered printed and laid on the table.

This session of the House, and with it the Thirty-Ninth Congress, ended a few hours later, the legislative day continuing till twelve o’clock, noon, on Sunday, March 3rd. The House adjourned sine die at that hour, when all unfinished business lapsed.


The first session of the Fortieth Congress began on Monday, March 4th, 1867, and on the 7th, in the House of Representatives, Mr. Ashley (Rep.) offered the following Preamble and Resolutions:

Whereas the House of Representatives of the Thirty-Ninth Congress adopted, on the 7th of January, 1867, a Resolution authorizing an inquiry into certain charges preferred against the President of the United States; and whereas the Judiciary Committee, to whom said Resolution and charges were referred, with authority to investigate the same, were unable for want of time, to complete said investigation before the expiration of the Thirty-Ninth Congress; and whereas in the report submitted by said Judiciary Committee on the 2nd of March they declare that the evidence taken is of such a character as to justify and demand a continuation of the investigation by this Congress; therefore:

Be it Resolved by the House of Representatives, That the Judiciary Committee, when appointed, be, and they are hereby, instructed to continue the investigation authorized in said Resolution of Jan. 7th, 1867, and that they have power to send for persons and papers, and to administer the customary oath to witnesses; and that the committee have authority to sit during the sessions of the House and during any recess which Congress or this House may take.

Resolved, That the Speaker be requested to appoint the Committee on the Judiciary forthwith, and that the Committee so appointed be directed to take charge of the testimony taken by the Committee of the last Congress; and that said Committee have power to appoint a clerk at a compensation not to exceed six dollars per day, and employ the necessary stenographers.

At the close of the debate on Mr. Ashley’s Resolution, it was adopted without a division, its form being changed to the following:

Resolved, That the Committee on Judiciary be requested to report on the charges against the President as aforesaid, on the first day of the meeting of the House after the recess hereafter to be determined.

Congress adjourned a few days later. It re-assembled on the 3rd of July, and on the 11th the following resolutions was offered by Mr. Stevens, (Rep.) of Pennsylvania:

Resolved, That the Committee on the Judiciary, to whom was referred the Resolution and Documents relative to the Impeachment of the President, be directed to report the evidence at this session, with leave to make further report if they shall deem proper.

That the impeachment enterprise was waning, and that its forces had received little encouragement during the recess of the Congress that had just closed, was evidenced by the fact that there could not be mustered ayes enough to put the resolution to a vote, and Mr. Wilson, of Iowa, moved the following substitute:

Resolved, That the Committee on Judiciary be, and they are hereby, authorized and directed to have the usual number of copies of the evidence taken by said committee relative to the Impeachment of the President, printed and laid on the desks of Members of the House on the first day of the next Congress, whether adjourned or regular.

The Resolution was adopted by a vote of 85 to 48, whereupon Mr. Stevens dejectedly remarked that, “after the vote which had been taken on this resolution, indicating the views of a majority of the House in regard to it, I am willing to abandon it. I therefore move that the Resolution as amended be laid on the table,” which motion was agreed to.

On the 15th of July, 1867, Mr. Farnsworth, (Rep.) of Illinois, offered the following resolution and demanded the previous question thereon:

Resolved, That the Committee on the Judiciary be discharged from the further consideration of the question of the Impeachment of the President of the United States, and that the testimony already taken by said committee be printed for the use of the House.

The resolution was not seconded, and went over under the rules.

On the 25th of Nov. 1867, Mr. Boutwell (Rep.), on behalf of the Judiciary Committee, submitted the report of the majority of that committee, of the testimony taken in behalf of the proposed impeachment of the President. The report recommended his impeachment.

Mr. Wilson, submitted the report of the minority of the Committee (himself and Mr. Woodbridge), and moved the adoption of the following resolution:

Resolved, That the Committee on the Judiciary be discharged from the further consideration of the proposed impeachment of the President of the United States, and that the subject be laid upon the table.

Mr. Marshall, on behalf of himself and Mr. Eldridge, the two Democratic members of the committee, stated that though they had not signed the minority report submitted by Mr. Wilson, they joined in support of the resolution submitted by him, and asked leave to introduce and have printed separate views.

This, the first session of the Fortieth Congress, then adjourned, Dec. 2nd, 1867.

The second session of the Fortieth Congress was begun on the same day, and on the 5th, the impeachment question came up in its order in the House, on the resolution reported from the Judiciary Committee:

That Andrew Johnson, President of the United States, be impeached of high crimes and misdemeanors.

After a brief discussion of the order of business, the House adjourned for that day.

The debate was closed on the 6th, by Messrs. Boutwell and Wilson, the members of the Committee on the Judiciary having Charge of the impeachment measure. The closing passages of Mr. Boutwell’s speech were as follows:

What is our position to-day? Can this House and the Senate, with the knowledge they have of the Presidents purposes and of the character of the men who surround him, give him the necessary power? (to remove alleged dishonest officials.) Do they not feel that if he be alloyed such power these places will be given to worse men? Hence, I say that with Mr. Johnson in office from this time until the 4th of March, 1869, there is no remedy for these grievances. These are considerations why we should not hesitate to do that which justice authorizes us to do if we believe that the President has been guilty of impeachable offenses.

Mr. Speaker, all rests here. To this House is given by the Constitution the sole power of impeachment; and this power of impeachment furnishes the only means by which we can secure the execution of the laws, and those of our fellow citizens who desire the administration of the law ought to sustain this House while it executes that great law which is in its hands and which is nowhere else, while it performs a high and solemn duty resting on it by which that man who has been the chief violator of law shall be removed, and without which there can be no execution of the law any where. Therefore the whole responsibility, whatever it may be, for the non-execution of the laws of the country, is, (in the presence of these great facts) upon this House. * * * I think that we can not do otherwise than believe, that he has disregarded that great injunction of the Constitution to take care that the laws be faithfully executed, that there is but one remedy. The remedy is with this House, and it is nowhere else. If we neglect or refuse to use our powers when the case arises demanding decisive action, the Government ceases to be a Government of law and becomes a Government of men.

Mr. Wilson, Chairman of the Committee, closed the debate in the following remarks:

The gentleman from Massachusetts has remarked that the President may interfere with the next Presidential election in the Southern States; that he may station soldiers at the voting places and overawe the loyal people of those States, especially the colored vote: and we must, I suppose, guard against the possibility of this by his impeachment and removal from office. This position, if I state it correctly, is startling. Are we to impeach the President for what he may do in the future? Do our fears constitute in the President high crimes and misdemeanors? Are we to wander beyond the record of this case and found our judgment on the possibilities of the future? This would lead us beyond the conscience of this House.

Sir, we must be guided by some rule in this grave proceeding–something more certain than an impossibility to arraign the President for a specific crime–and when the gentleman from Massachusetts, in commenting on one of the alleged offenses of the President, that we could not arraign him for the specific crime, he disclosed the weakness of the case we are now considering. If we cannot arraign the President for a specific crime, for what are we to proceed against him? For a bundle of generalities such as we have in the volume of testimony reported by the committee to the House in this case? If we cannot state upon paper a specific crime, how are we to carry this case to the Senate for trial?

At the close of his speech, Mr. Wilson moved to lay the subject of impeachment on the table, and the yeas and nays were ordered.

Several motions were then made–to adjourn, to adjourn to a day certain, etc.–which with roll calls practically consumed the day, and the motion of Mr. Wilson went over.

The next day, Dec. 7th, the question again came up in its order, and after several unsuccessful attempts to procure a vote on Mr. Wilson’s motion to lay the Impeachment Resolution on the table, Mr. Wilson, by agreement, withdrew his motion, and called for the yeas and nays on the adoption of the resolution:

That Andrew Johnson, President of the United States, be impeached for high crimes and misdemeanors.

The yeas and nays were ordered, and the vote was yeas 57, nays 108.

So the resolution to impeach the President was rejected by the very emphatic vote of 67 to 108–nearly two to one–and by a House two-thirds Republican.

So ended the first effort to impeach the President–the first formal action to that end having been taken on January 7, 1867, and the final vote at the close, and its abandonment, December 7, 1867.

For eleven months the overwhelming Republican majority of the House had been vigorously active in its search for evidence of criminality on the part of the President that would warrant the basing of an impeachment. No effort was left untried–no resource that promised a possible hope of successful exploitation was neglected. Republican partisans were set to the work of sleuth-hounds in the search for testimony in maintenance of the charges preferred, and an ever ready partisan press teemed from the beginning to the end of that time with animadversions upon Mr. Johnson’s administration and denunciation of his alleged desertion of Mr. Lincoln’s plan of restoration, of treachery to the party that had elected him, and a demand for his impeachment.

To be lukewarm in that controversy, or even to fail to join in the popular denunciation of Mr. Johnson was to put one’s self at once under suspicion with the great mass of the dominant party, and without the pale of its consideration.

For eleven months the country was kept in the throes of partisan turmoil–and for what? Simply to depose a President who had disappointed the partisan and personal expectations and schemes of a rule or ruin faction which was able, under the peculiar conditions of the time, to subordinate to its purposes a large proportion of the dominant party of that day.

The following are the material portions of the testimony taken by the House Committee on the Judiciary under authority of the resolutions passed by the House of Representatives on March 7, 1867, for the impeachment of Andrew Johnson.

Eighty-nine witnesses were summoned before the committee. All of them were rigidly examined, and several of them were called and examined the second and third times. Their testimony fills more than twelve hundred octavo pages of print.

The first witness was Gen. L. C. Baker, of the War Department. His testimony related principally to a certain letter alleged to have been written by Mr. Johnson, in 1864.

The first question propounded to him by Mr. Ashley, was as follows:

I wish you to state to the committee the contents, as nearly as you can, of a letter which you have in your possession, written by Andrew Johnson, some time in the early part of 1864, to a Southern man, giving information as to the troops about the Capitol and elsewhere, and advice to Jefferson Davis. State where that letter is, and give the contents as nearly as you can, the history of it.

Mr. Baker answered that he knew there was a letter of that kind, purporting to have been written by Andrew Johnson, when he was acting Governor of Tennessee. That the letter was dated at Nashville and directed to Jefferson Davis, and related to some declared policy that had been adopted by the Confederacy–that the letter was being used to secure an appointment–that reference was made to troops, but nothing about localities where stationed, or numbers, and nothing about shipment of armor, and that the letter was stolen from Andrew Johnson’s table and never sent.

The question was then asked of the witness by Mr. Ashley:

State whether the whole import of the letter written by Mr. Johnson, was not to turn the whole power which he possessed in Tennessee, in a certain contingency, over to the rebel cause?

Answer–No. I did not have that opinion of the letter exactly. From what I recollect of it, the thing was that he was making a proposition making suggestions as to what their policy should be.

Ques.–And if they accepted it?

Ans.–If they accepted it, my impression was that he was going with them.

Ques.–With the rebels?

Ans.–Yes sir.

Question by the Chairman.–If there are any other letters that you have seen of Mr. Johnson’s written by him to any person connected with the Confederate Government, or proposing to change the Administration of the Government in their favor after he became President, or anything of a public nature affecting the interests of the United States, please state it and state all you know about such letters.

Ans.–I do not know of any letters of that character–or of any other letters.

This constituted the substance of Gen. Baker’s testimony. His examination was very lengthy, embracing more of this character of testimony, and about pardon brokerage, and other alleged corrupt practices–all evidencing a determination and expectation to fix upon Mr. Johnson a disposition to disloyalty and corruption, both before and after his succession to the Presidency, but no such testimony was obtained.

A considerable portion of the investigation was devoted to Mr. Johnson’s business and personal affairs, such as could have no possible connection with or indicate implication in corrupt or disloyal practices of any sort.

A strenuous effort appears to have been made by the Committee throughout a long and searching examination of witnesses, and constitutes a conspicuous feature of that investigation, to establish the charges of corruption and disloyalty in the sale of public property, railways, etc., that had been constructed and equipped, or seized and operated, by the Government in connection with its military operations in the South. Such an accusation had been made with great pertinacity by Mr. Johnson’s opponents, and was also then believed by a great many people to be true.

Among the parties examined by the committee, were Mr. James and Mr. Burns, of Nashville, Tenn., and Senator Fowler, of that State, and also the Secretary of war, Mr. Stanton. No facts whatever were elicited showing a privity to corruption in these matters on the part of Mr. Johnson.

The information obtained from Mr. Stanton, however, put an effectual estoppel to further investigation of the charge of corrupt or disloyal disposal of public property by the President. The following are extracts from Mr. Stanton’s testimony, as given on February 11, 1867:

Shortly after the surrender of the rebel armies, the attention of the War Department was directed to the proper disposition to be made of the railroads and railroad stock throughout the rebel States which came into our possession, either by capture or construction. It was the subject of a good deal of consultation and conference between the Secretary of War and the Quartermaster General. It was the opinion of the Secretary of War that it was wholly impracticable for the General Government to operate these roads under any system, and that it would be greatly to the advantage of the country to make such disposition as would allow them, its speedily as possible, to become what they were designed for channels of commerce and trade between the States, and that any terms on which that could be done would be advantageous. This was especially the case in regard to the Western and Southwestern roads, where it was said there were large amounts of cotton that would be available to remove North, in exchange for supplies to go South, of which it was said they were greatly in want.

Ques.–In case of the construction of a railroad by the Government, the Government furnishing the material and the labor, what has been the custom of the Department in surrendering such roads to the companies claiming them?

Ans.–In all instances, I think such roads have been surrendered in the same manner as if they had been constructed by the companies. That subject was talked of a good deal in conference between myself and the Quartermaster General. My own views, that the great object on the part of the Government, was to get these roads operated; and that to go into an inquiry as to the cost of construction, would be impracticable, either as to the cost of construction or as to any certain rule of compensation, because many of them were constructed under the pressure of war, and for temporary Purposes. The object of arriving at the cash value or equivalent for the roads was not only impracticable, but really of very little practical interest in comparison with the great end of having the channels of commerce in the rebel states opened and carried on, with a view of getting out their produce, furnishing supplies, and getting commerce in its regular channels. In my own view, that appeared to be the most, certain and most speedy system of reconstruction we could adopt, and that it would tend more to establish harmony than any other thing that could be done by the Government. In view of all this, and after the most deliberate consideration we could give it, it was the opinion of the Quartermaster General and myself–certainly my own–that it would be impracticable to make any distinction: and so far as I know, no distinction was made in any part of the country in reference to roads built by the Government and roads that had been constructed by Companies before the war commenced.

Mr. Stanton was asked this question:

Suppose the Government, at his own expense, had constructed seventy miles of railroad in one of the rebel States, and that, at the close of the war, a company should apply to the Executive Department of the Government for a transfer of the road so constructed to it; by what authority or provision of law would Executive Department be authorized to transfer the road so constructed to the company making the application?

Mr. Stanton answered:

I do not know of any act of Congress that directly, in terms, would authorize any such transfer; but regarding the construction of the road, in time of war, simply as a means, or instrument, of carrying on war, when the war was over I would consider it strictly proven and within the scope of the power of the General Commanding, or especially of the President of the United States, as the Commander-in-Chief of the Army, to render that instrument as available for peace purposes as possible. And inasmuch as the road would be entirely useless unless it was operated, and it would be for the benefit and interest of the public, to have it operated as speedily as possible, I think it would be in the interest of a wise discretion, and exercising proper authority, to turn over that road to any company or individual who would operate it; for, in that way, he would be applying the war material to the only available use to which it could be applied. * * * I would regard the rolling stock as coming, to a certain extent, within the same principle. * * * No transfer of title was at any time made, so far as I know, or could be made, but only possession turned over. When the military use was no longer required, the railroads were turned over to their original owners, or their representatives, with permission to use them. These railroads, their plant and track fixtures, real property, of which the military authorities had only the possessory right and use, but the rolling stock and equipments, and iron not laid down, were personal property, which, by capture, or purchase, or construction, belonged to the United States. Sale could be made, and was made, of the personal property at values estimated by the proper officers. That which constituted real estate, to-wit, the railroad track, fixtures, etc., the military authorities might abandon altogether, or relinquish control and turn over possession to those who would make a beneficial use of it by working the road. Being in the nature of real estate, no title of the Government or of other persons could be divested and conveyed by military authority, but only the control relinquished and the use permitted during the existence of military authority in the department where the roads were situated.

The trend of a large portion of the testimony of witnesses called by this committee to testify as to the charges preferred against Mr. Johnson and relating to other allegations of the indictment, quite clearly indicated that the charges were based solely upon common street rumor, invented and given currency in partisan antagonism and for partisan purposes, and that the witnesses were called in the hope and expectation, on the part of the majority of the House, of developing proof of disloyalty and corruption on the part of the President, and, if not criminal connivance, at least, criminal knowledge of a conspiracy for the assassination of Mr. Lincoln.

But these expectations and hopes, in all respects, were so utterly disappointed, that there was pathos, at least, as the investigation was protracted from month to month, with no indication of the hoped for development, in the despondent inquiry of Mr. Thaddeus Stevens to one of his colleagues of the Impeachment Committee, as the inquest approached a close without results–“Well, HAVE YOU GOT ANYTHING, ANYHOW?” It was more an ejaculation of anger and disgust at failure, than a query of one seeking hoped for information.



Mr. Johnson’s alleged violation of the act of Congress known as the Tenure-of-Office Act, constituted the ostensible basis of his impeachment in 1868. As stated, it had been passed for the purpose of restricting the power of the President over Executive appointments. That Act, therefore, becomes a very important and conspicuous incident in the impeachment affair, as its alleged violation constituted the only material accusation, set out in various forms, in the entire list of charges.

The proceedings had on the passage of that bill are inserted at some length here, as a technical knowledge of its history, character and purpose, is essential to a correct apprehension of the controversy that had arisen between the President and Congress.

The Tenure-of-Office bill was introduced in the Senate by Mr. Williams, of Oregon, Dec. 3rd, 1866, and on the 5th was referred to the Committee on Retrenchment. On the 10th Mr. Edmunds, in the name of the committee, reported it back to the Senate with the following remarks:

The joint select Committee on Retrenchment, to whom was referred the bill to regulate the tenure of offices, have had the same under consideration, and have instructed me to report the bill back, with a recommendation of certain amendments, which being adopted, the committee are of the opinion that the bill ought to pass. I beg leave to say in connection with this report that we have reported this bill and these amendments regulating removals from office and appointments to office so far as concerns officers whose nominations require the confirmation of the Senate, and have adopted what appears to us to be a feasible scheme in that respect, in no spirit of hostility to any party or administration whatever, but in what we conceive to be the true Republican interest of the country, under all administrations, under the domination of all parties in the growth which is before us in the future; and in that spirit I shall ask the attention of the Senate to the bill when it comes to be considered. I move that the amendment be printed, and that the bill be made the special order for Thursday next, at one o’clock.

On the 10th of January, 1867, on motion of Mr. Edmunds, the bill was taken up for consideration. As the first section of the bill was the only portion over which there was any serious controversy, or pertinent to this recital, only that section is produced here. It is as follows:

That every person (excepting the Secretaries of State, of the Treasury, of War, of the Navy, and of the Interior, the Postmaster General, and the Attorney General), holding any civil office to which he has been appointed by and with the advice and consent of the Senate, and every person who shall hereafter be appointed to any such office, and shall become duly qualified to act therein, is, and shall be, entitled to hold such office until a successor shall have been in like manner appointed and duly qualified, except as herein otherwise provided.

Mr. Howe objected to the exception of the Cabinet officers from the operation of the bill, and Mr. Edmunds responded that:

It did seem to the Committee, after a great deal of consultation and reflection, that it was right and just that the Chief Executive of the Nation, in selecting these named Secretaries, who, by law, and by the practice of the country, and officers analogous to whom by the practice of all other countries, are the confidential advisers of the Executive respecting the administration of all his Departments, should be persons who were personally agreeable to him, in whom he could place entire confidence and reliance, and that whenever it should seem to him that the state of relations, between him and any of them had become such as to render this relation of confidence and trust and personal esteem inharmonious, HE SHOULD IN SUCH CASE BE ALLOWED TO DISPENSE WITH THE SERVICES OF THAT OFFICER IN VACATION AND HAVE SOME OTHER PERSON ACT IN HIS STEAD. We thought that so much discretion, so much confidence, so much respect ought to be properly attributed to the Chief Magistrate of the Nation. It may happen that at some particular time–some people may suppose that it has happened now–the Chief Magistrate for the time being ought not to be invested with such powers; but the Committee have recommended the adoption of this rule respecting the tenure-of-office as a permanent and systematic, and as they believe, an appropriate regulation of the Government for all administrations and for all time; and it did appear to them (whether the reason may command itself to the Senate or not), that it was just to the Executive, and on the whole best for the interest of the Nation, that he should be allowed during a recess of the Senate to change his confidential advisers if it should appear to him to be fit, subject to that general responsibility which every officer must be held to the public and to the Senate when they meet again.

Mr. Williams said:

I prepared the original bill in this case, which contains in different words the exception contained in the amendment reported by the Committee. I do not regard the exception as of any real practical consequence, because I suppose if the President and any head of a Department should disagree so as to make their relations unpleasant, and the President should signify a desire that the head of a Department retire from the Cabinet, THAT WOULD FOLLOW WITHOUT ANY POSITIVE ACT OF REMOVAL ON THE PART OF THE PRESIDENT.

Mr. Fessenden said:

The Constitution imposes upon the President of the United States the duty of executing the laws; it does not impose that duty upon the Secretaries. They are creatures of the law and not of the Constitution directly. Some, and perhaps the greater part, of their functions are as advisers of the President and to aid him in executing the laws in their several Departments. There are some duties that are specifically conferred upon them by Congress. Their relation to the President, as has been well said by gentlemen, is that mostly of confidential advisers. With the exception of the particular duties imposed upon them by law, and on the Secretary of the Treasury more than on the others, they do nothing of their own motion, but act by order of the President in discharging the particular duties of their office. * * * That being the peculiar condition of affairs it has always been considered since the foundation of the Government, as a matter of course, as a general rule–there may have been one or two exceptions, and I think there have been, but I am not very positive on that point–that the President might select such persons as he pleased to be members of his Cabinet. Of course the confirmation of the Senate is necessary; but the general idea of the Senate has been, whether they liked the men or not, to confirm them without any difficulty, because in executing the great and varied interests of this great country it is exceedingly important that there should be the utmost harmony between those who are charged with that execution.

The bill passed as reported and went to the House. That body amended it by making Cabinet officers non-removable by the President without the consent of the Senate, and sent the bill back to the Senate, when Mr. Sherman said:

It (the Tenure-of-Office bill) ought to have been passed, and probably would have been passed, long ago, if a different condition of affairs had existed before. But when you propose to extend that principle to Cabinet officers, a very different state of affairs arises, and different circumstances apply to this subject. Now I say, that if a Cabinet officer should attempt to hold his office for a moment beyond the time when he retained the entire confidence of the President, I would not vote to retain him, NOR WOULD I COMPEL THE PRESIDENT TO LEAVE ABOUT HIM IN THESE HIGH POSITIONS A MAN IN WHOM HE DID NOT ENTIRELY TRUST, both personally and politically. It would be unwise to require him to administer the Government without agents of his own choosing. It seems to me, therefore, that it would be unwise for the Senate to engraft in this bill a provision that would enable a Cabinet officer to hold on to his office in violation of the will of his Chief. * * * Suppose the personal relations between a Cabinet officer and the President became so unpleasant that they could have no personal intercourse. The Senator from Wisconsin (Mr. Howe), says in such a case the Cabinet officer would resign. Suppose he should hold on to his power and position–what then? There is no power to remove him, and the President can have no intercourse with him. Would you compel such a state of affairs? It seems to me that it would be unwise to do so. That the Senate had no such purpose is shown by its vote twice to make this exception. That this provision does not apply to the present case, is shown by the fact that its language is so framed as NOT TO APPLY TO THE PRESENT PRESIDENT. * * * It would not prevent the present President from removing the present Secretary of War, the Secretary of the Navy, or the Secretary of State.

A considerable number of Senators participated in the debate, which was able and exhaustive to an exceptional degree, on both sides, and occupied several days in the various stages of the proceeding.

Mr. Edmunds closed the debate in the Senate with the following remarks:

I do not rise to prolong the debate, but only to express the hope that the debate on this question may terminate–that we may come to a vote. * * * While I should be glad to occupy some time in reply to some things that have fallen in the course of this debate, I feel it to be due to the business of the Senate to abstain. I hope the Senate will disagree to this amendment, (made by the House) and adhere to the bill as it stands.

The vote was then taken, and resulted in 17 for agreeing to the House amendment, and 28 against it.

The action of the Senate was reported to the House and Conference Committees were appointed by the two houses.

On the 18th of February, the following substitute for the first section of the bill was reported by the Committee of Conference and adopted by both Houses, and the bill went to the President:

Provided, That the Secretaries of State, of the Treasury, of War, of the Navy, and of the Interior, the Postmaster General and the Attorney General, shall hold their offices respectively FOR AND DURING THE TERMS OF THE PRESIDENT BY WHOM THEY MAY HAVE BEEN APPOINTED, and for one month thereafter, subject to removal by and with the advice and consent of the Senate.

On Monday, March 2nd, 1867, the President returned the bill to the Senate, in which house it had originated, with his objections thereto, as follows:

To the Senate of the United States:

I have carefully examined the bill to regulate the tenure of certain civil offices. The material portion of the bill is contained in the first section, and is of the effect following, namely:

“That every person holding any civil office to which he has been appointed by and with the advice and consent of the Senate, and every person who shall hereafter be appointed to any such office, and shall become duly qualified to act therein, is and shall be entitled to hold such office until a successor shall have been appointed by the President, with the advice and consent of the Senate, and duly qualified; and that the Secretaries of State, of the Treasury, of War, of the Navy, and of the Interior, the Postmaster General, and the Attorney General, shall hold their offices respectively for and during the term of the President by whom they may have been appointed, and for one month thereafter, subject to removal by and with the advice and consent of the Senate.”

These revisions are qualified by a reservation in the fourth section, “that nothing contained in the bill shall be construed to extend the term of any office the duration of which is limited by law.” In effect the bill provides that the President shall not remove from their places any of the civil officers whose terms of service are not limited by law without the advice and consent of the Senate of the United States. The bill, in this respect, conflicts, in my judgment, with the Constitution of the United States. The question, as Congress is well aware, is by no means a new one. That the power of removal is constitutionally vested in the President of the United States is a principle which has been not more distinctly declared by judicial authority and judicial commentators than it has been uniformly practiced upon by the legislative and executive departments of the Government. The question arose in the House of Representatives so early as the 16th day of June, 1789, on the bill for establishing an executive department, denominated “The Department of Foreign Affairs.” The first clause of the bill, after recapitulating the functions of that officer and defining his duties, had these words: “To be removable from office by the President of the United States.” It was moved to strike out these words, and the motion was sustained with great ability and vigor. It was insisted that the President could not constitutionally exercise the power of removal exclusive of the Senate; that the Federalist so interpreted the Constitution when arguing for its adoption by the several States; that the Constitution had nowhere given the President power of removal, either expressly or by strong implication; but on the contrary, had distinctly provided for removals from office by impeachment only. A construction which denied the power of removal by the President was further maintained by arguments drawn from the danger of the abuse of the power; from the supposed tendency of an exposure of public officers to capricious removal; to impair the efficiency of the civil service; from the alleged injustice and hardship of displacing incumbents, dependent upon their official stations, without sufficient consideration; from a supposed want of responsibility on the part the President, and from an imagined defect of guarantees against a vicious President, who might incline to abuse the power.

On the other hand, an exclusive power of removal by the President was defended as a true exposition of the text of the Constitution. It was maintained that there are certain causes for which persons ought to be removed from office without being guilty of treason, bribery, or malfeasance, and that the nature of things demands that it should be so. “Suppose,” it was said, “a man becomes insane by the visitation of God, and is likely to ruin our affairs; are the hands of Government to be confined front warding off the evil? Suppose a person in office not possessing the talents he was judged to have at the time of the appointment, is the error not to be corrected; suppose he acquire vicious habits and incurable indolence, or totally neglect the duties of his office, which shall work mischief to the public welfare, is there no way to arrest the threatened danger? Suppose he become odious and unpopular by reason of the measures he pursues, and this he may do without committing any positive offense against the law, must he preserve his office in despite of the popular will? Suppose him grasping for his own aggrandizement and the elevation of his connections by every means short of the treason defined by the Constitution, hurrying your affairs to the precipice of destruction, endangering your domestic tranquility, plundering you of the means of defense, alienating the affections of your allies, and promoting the spirit of discord, must the tardy, tedious, desultory road, by way of impeachment, be traveled to overtake the man who, barely confining himself within the letter of the law, is employed in drawing off the vital principle of the Government?” The nature of things, the great objects of society, the express objects of the Constitution itself require that this thing should be otherwise. To unite the Senate with the President “in the exercise of the power” it was said, would involve us in the most serious difficulty. “Suppose a discovery of any of these events should take place when the Senate is not in session, how is the remedy to be applied? The evil could be avoided in no other way than by the Senate sitting always.” In regard to the danger of the power being abused if exercised by one man, it was said “that the danger is as great with respect to the Senate, who are assembled from various parts of the continent, with different impressions and opinions;” that such a body is more likely to misuse the power of removal than the man whom the united voice of America calls to the presidential chair. As the nature of Government requires the power of removal, it was maintained “that it should be exercised in this way by the hand capable of exerting itself with effect, and the power must be conferred on the President by the Constitution as the executive officer of the Government.” Mr. Madison, whose adverse opinion in the Federalist had been relied upon by those who denied the exclusive power, now participated in the debate. He declared that he had reviewed his former opinions, and he summed up the whole case as follows:

“The Constitution affirms that the executive power is vested in the President. Are there exceptions to this proposition? Yes, there are. The Constitution says that in appointing to office the Senate shall be associated with the President, unless, in the case of inferior officers, when the law shall otherwise direct. Have we (that is, Congress) a right to extend this exception? I believe not. If the Constitution has invested all executive power in the President, I return to assert that the Legislature has no right to diminish or modify his executive authority. The question now resolves itself into this: is the power of displacing an executive power? I conceive that if any power whatever is in the Executive, it is in the power of appointing, overseeing, and controlling those who execute the laws. If the Constitution had not qualified the power of the President in appointing to office by associating the Senate with him in that business, would it not be clear that he would have the right by virtue of his executive power to make such appointment? Should we be authorized, in defiance of that clause in the Constitution–the executive power shall be vested in the President–to unite the Senate with the President in the appointment to office? I conceive not. It is admitted that we should not be authorized to do this, I think it may be disputed whether we have a right to associate there in removing persons from office, the one power being as much of an executive nature as the other; and the first is authorized by being excepted out of the general rule established by the Constitution in these words: ‘The executive power shall be vested in the President.'”

The question thus ably and exhaustively argued was decided by the House of Representatives, by a vote of 34 to 20, in favor of the principle that the executive power of removal is vested by the Constitution in the Executive, and in the Senate by the casting vote of the Vice President. The question has often been raised in subsequent times of high excitement, and the practice of the Government has nevertheless conformed in all cases to the decision thus early made. * * * Chancellor Kent’s remarks on the subject are as follows:

“On the first organization of the Government it was made a question whether the power of removal in case of officers appointed to hold at pleasure resided nowhere but in the body which appointed, and, of course, whether the consent of the Senate was not requisite to remove. This was the construction given to the Constitution while it was pending for ratification before the State conventions by the author of the Federalist. But the construction which was given to the Constitution by Congress, after great consideration and discussion, was different. The words of the act (establishing the Treasury Department) are: ‘And whenever the same shall be removed from office by the President of the United States, or in any other case of vacancy in the office, the assistant shall act.’ This amounted to a legislative construction of the Constitution, and it has ever since been acquiesced in and acted upon as decisive authority in the case. It applies equally to every other officer of the Government appointed by the President, whose term of duration is not specially declared. It is supported by the weighty reason that the subordinate officers in the executive department ought to hold at the pleasure of the head of the Department, because he is invested generally with the executive authority, and the participation in that authority by the Senate was an exception to a general principle and ought to be taken strictly. The President is the great responsible officer for the faithful execution of the law, and the power of removal was incidental to that duty, and might often be requisite to fulfill it.”

Thus has the important question presented by this bill been settled, in the language of the late Daniel Webster (who, while dissenting from it, admitted that it was settled), by construction, settled by precedent, settled by the practice of the Government, and settled by statute.

The events of the last war furnished a practical confirmation of the wisdom of the Constitution as it has hitherto been maintained in many of its parts, including that which is now the subject of consideration. When the war broke out rebel enemies, traitors, abettors, and sympathizers were found in every department of the Government, as well in the civil service as in the land and naval military service. They were found in Congress and among the keepers of the Capitol, in foreign missions, in each and all of the Executive Departments, in the judicial service, in the Post Office, and among the agents for conducting Indian affairs; and upon probable suspicion they were promptly displaced by my predecessor, so far as they held their offices under executive authority, and their duties were confided to new and loyal successors. No complaints against that power or doubts of its wisdom, were entertained in any quarter.

Having at an early period accepted the Constitution in regard to the executive office in the sense in which it was interpreted with the concurrence of its founders, I have found no sufficient grounds in the arguments now opposed to that construction or in any assumed necessity of the times for changing those opinions. For these reasons I return the bill to the Senate, in which House it originated, for the further consideration of Congress, which the Constitution prescribes. Insomuch as the several parts of the bill which I have not considered are matters chiefly of detail, and are based altogether upon the theory of the Constitution from which I am obliged to dissent, I have not thought it necessary to examine them with a view to make them an occasion of distinct and special objections. Experience, I think, has shown that it is the easiest, as it is also the most attractive, of studies to frame constitutions for the self-government of free States and nations.

But I think experience has equally shown that it is the most difficult of all political labors to preserve and maintain such free constitutions of self government when once happily established. I know no other way in which they can be preserved and maintained except by a constant adherence to them through the various vicissitudes of national existence, with such adaptations as may become necessary, always to be effected, however, through the agencies and in the forms prescribed in the original constitutions themselves. Whenever administration fails or seems to fail in securing any of the great ends for which Republican Government is established, the proper course seems to be to renew the original spirit and forms of the Constitution itself.

Andrew Johnson

The bill was promptly passed in both Houses over the President’s veto and became a law.

As pertinent and incident to the history of this controversy, is the communication of the President notifying the Senate of the suspension of Mr. Stanton, Aug. 12, 1867. The President said:

The Tenure-of-Office Act did not pass without notice. Like other acts, it was sent to the President for approval. As is my custom I submitted it to the consideration of my Cabinet for their advice whether I should approve it or not. I was a grave question of constitutional law, in which I would of course rely mostly upon the opinion of the Attorney General, and of Mr. Stanton, who had once been Attorney General. EVERY MEMBER OF MY CABINET ADVISED ME THAT THE PROPOSED LAW WAS UNCONSTITUTIONAL. All spoke without doubt or reservation; but MR. STANTON’S CONDEMNATION OF THE LAW WAS THE MOST ELABORATE AND EMPHATIC. He referred to the Constitutional provisions, the debates in Congress, especially to the speech of Mr. Buchanan when a Senator, to the decisions of the Supreme Court, and to the usage from the beginning of the Government through every successive administration, all concurring to establish the right of removal as vested in the President. To all these he added the weight of his own deliberate judgment, and advised me that it was my duty to defend the power of the President from usurpation and veto the law.

During the recess of Congress in the Summer of 1867, the President suspended Mr. Stanton from the War Office and appointed Gen. Grant Secretary of War ad interim. Gen. Grant was then understood as supporting the President in his controversy with Mr. Stanton, and promptly accepted the appointment, holding it until the following December, when the change was duly reported to the Senate. The Senate refused to sanction Mr. Stanton’s suspension, and he consequently resumed his position of Secretary of War and retained it until the close of the Impeachment trial–the Senate then, in effect, by rejecting the Impeachment, declaring that the President had the right to remove him.

Very naturally, after Mr. Stanton’s restoration to the War Office by the refusal of the Senate to sanction his suspension, the relations between himself and the President were embittered and many efforts were made by mutual friends to induce Mr. Stanton to resign. Conspicuous among these were Gen. Grant, the General of the Army, and Gen. Sherman, the next in rank, as shown in the following note from Gen. Sherman to the President; but a few weeks before the crisis came. It explains itself, as showing the relations then subsisting between the parties mentioned:

332 K St., Washington, Jan, 18th.

I regretted, this morning, to say that I had agreed to go down to Annapolis, to spend Monday with Admiral Porter. Gen. Grant has to leave for Richmond on Monday morning at 6 o’clock. At a conversation with the General, after an interview wherein I offered to go with him on Monday morning to Mr. Stanton and say it was our joint opinion that he should resign, it was found impossible by reason of his going to Richmond and my going to Annapolis. The General proposed this course. He will tell you to-morrow and offer to go to Mr. Stanton to say that for the good of the service of the country he ought to resign–this on Sunday. On Monday, I will call on you, and if you think it necessary, I will do the same–call on Mr. Stanton and tell him he should resign. If he will not, then it will be time to consider ulterior measures. In the meantime, it also happens that no necessity exists for precipitating measures.

Yours truly, W. T. Sherman.

On Saturday, February 23, 1868, the day following the removal of Mr. Stanton, Mr. Johnson sent to the Senate the name of Mr. Thomas Ewing, senior, of Ohio, as his successor. The Senate had adjourned for the day when the President’s Secretary reached the Capitol, between 12 and 1 o’clock, but the nomination was formally communicated on the following Monday. Of this nomination, Mr. Blaine has written, that “no name could have given better assurance of good intentions and upright conduct than that of Mr. Ewing. He was a man of lofty character, of great eminence in his profession of the law, and with wide and varied experience in public life. He had held high rank as a Senator in the Augustan period of the Senate’s learning and eloquence, and he had been one of the ablest members of the distinguished Cabinets organized by the only two Presidents elected by the Whig Party. He had reached the ripe age of seventy-eight years, but still in complete possession of all his splendid faculties. He had voted for Mr. Lincoln at both elections, had been a warm supporter of the contest for the Union, and was represented by his own blood on many of the great battlefields of the war.”

No notice was taken by the Senate of this nomination.

Here was offered an opportunity for the settlement of the dispute over the War Office on fair and honorable terms to all parties concerned. But that was not what the impeachers wanted. They wanted to get Mr. Johnson out. They thought they had a pretext that they could sustain by making it a party question, and did not want a settlement on any other terms–so no attention was given to Mr. Ewing’s nomination. It was ignored and the impeachment movement went on.


Mr. Johnson’s veto of the Tenure-of-Office Bill, and the passage of that bill over his veto, of course intensified the antagonism between himself and Congress. He not unnaturally regarded that Act as an infringement of the Executive function which it was his duty to his office and to himself to resent. The culmination came upon his official notification to the Senate on February 21st, 1868, of his removal of Mr. Stanton from the office of Secretary of War, and his appointment of Gen. Lorenzo Thomas as Secretary ad interim, nothwithstanding the assumed interdiction of the Tenure-of-Office Act.

Immediately on receipt of this notification, the Senate went into executive session, and the following proceeding was had:

IN EXECUTIVE SESSION Senate of the United States February 21st, 1868

Whereas, The Senate have read and considered the communication of the President, stating that he had removed Edwin M. Stanton, Secretary of War, and had designated the Adjutant General of the Army to act as Secretary of War ad interim. interim.. Therefore,

Resolved, by the Senate of the United States, That under the Constitution and laws of the United States, the President has no power to remove the Secretary of War and designate any other officer to perform the duties of that office ad interim.

The journal of the Senate shows that this Resolution was adopted by the following vote:

Yeas–Messrs. Cameron, Cattell, Cole, Conkling, Cragin, Drake, Ferry, Harlan, Morrill of Maine, Morrill of Vermont, Morton, Patterson of New Hampshire, Pomeroy, Ramsay, Ross, Sprague, Stewart. Sumner. Thayer, Tipton, Trumbull. Van Winkle, Wade, Willey Williams. Wilson. Yates–23.

Nays–Messrs. Buckalew, Davis, Doolittle, Edmunds, Hendricks, Patterson of Tennessee–6.

Absent or not voting–20. Note. (Note–It is due to myself to say here, that the entry of my name in the above vote, was incorrect. My distinct recollection is, that though present, I declined to vote, and from the consideration mentioned. I was totally unaware of my name being recorded as voting on the proposition until long after I left the Senate, when of course there was no opportunity to secure a correction of the journal.)

This was an extraordinary proceeding. A proposition to impeach the President had till recently been pending in the House for nearly a year, and the ingenuity of the majority had been taxed to the utmost to find some basis for an indictment upon which a successful impeachment might be possible. There is ground for the suggestion that much was hoped for in that direction from the Tenure-of-Office Bill, at least so far as the House was concerned. That hoped for opportunity had now come–nor is it an unreasonable surmise, that this very extraordinary action of the Senate was forced by outside as well as inside influences for the purpose of testing the Senate, and committing it in advance and in anticipation of the preferment of another impeachment by the House.

As to the question of the guilt or innocence of the President of the commission of an impeachable offense, this vote of the Senate was in the nature of a vote of “guilty.” It was therefore to a degree an impeachment and conviction combined by the Senate, prior to the bringing of an accusation by the House of Representatives, the constitutional body for the preferment of an impeachment of the President–and was an improper, and not far removed from an indecent proceeding on the part of the Senate. In effect, the President was thereby condemned by the Senate without trial, and his later arraignment was simply to receive sentence-it being solely upon the removal of Mr. Stanton that the impeachment was brought by the House.

It is noticeable, and possibly indicative, that the names of twenty out of fifty-four members of the Senate do not appear in this list–a very unusual occurrence in divisions of that body; especially in the exciting conditions that then prevailed. The absentees, or at least abstentions from voting, were fifteen Republicans and five Democrats, more than one-third of the body. That very unusual absence or abstention from voting may well be attributed to the very proper hesitancy of Senators to commit themselves in advance, either way, on a proposition that was reasonably certain to lead to an impeachment of the President, then virtually pending and imminent in the House, and upon which the Senate was equally certain to be called upon to act.

The action of the President was also communicated to the House of Representatives by Mr. Stanton, at the same hour of the same day, February 21st, 1868, in the following communication, enclosing a copy of the President’s notification of his dismissal.

War Department,
Washington City, Feb. 21, 1868.

Sir:–Gen. Thomas has just delivered to me a copy of the enclosed order, which you will please communicate to the House of Representatives.

(Signed) E. M. Stanton, Secretary of War. Hon. Schuyler Colfax, Speaker House of Representatives.

This gave new life to the impeachment cause, which had a few weeks before been defeated in the House and since then had, for lack of material, been laming, to the discouragement of many of its advocates: and the gleeful ejaculations, on the floor of the House, in the lobbies, and on the streets, on receipt of this news, and more especially after the action of the Senate became known, which was not long in reaching the public, with a common greeting slid clasping of hands: “Well, we’ve got him now!”

The communication of Mr. Stanton to the House of Representatives was immediately, after reading, referred to the Committee on Reconstruction.

In the evening of the same day, Mr. Covode, of Pennsylvania, offered a resolution to impeach the President, which was also referred to the same Committee.

On the next day, Feb. 22d, 1868, Mr. Stevens, Chairman of that Committee, made the following report:

The Committee on Reconstruction, to whom was referred, on the 27th day of January last, the following resolution:

“Resolved, That the Committee on Reconstruction be authorized to inquire what combinations have been made or attempted to be made to obstruct the due execution of the laws; and to that end the committee have power to send for persons and papers and to examine witnesses oil oath, and report to this House what action. if any, they may deem necessary; and that said committee bade leave to report at any time.”

And to whom was also referred, on the 21st day of February, instant, a communication from Hon. Edwin M. Stanton, Secretary of War, dated on said 21st day of February, together with a copy of a letter from Andrew Johnson, President of the United States, to the said Edwin M. Stanton, as follows:

Executive Mansion, Washington. D. C., Feb. 21, 1868.

Sir:-By virtue of the power and authority vested in me, as President, by the Constitution and laws of the United States, you are hereby removed from office as Secretary for the Department of War, and your functions as such will terminate upon the receipt of this communication.

You will transfer to Brevet Major General Lorenzo Thomas, Adjutant General of the Army, who has this day been authorized and empowered to act as Secretary of War ad interim, all records, books, papers, and other public property now in your custody and charge.

Respectfully yours. Andrew Johnson.
Hon. Edwin M. Stanton, Washington, D. C.

And to whom was also referred by the House of Representatives the following resolution, namely:

“Resolved, That Andrew Johnson, President of the United States, be impeached of high crimes and misdemeanors.”

Have considered the several subjects referred to them, and submit the following report:

That in addition to the papers referred to the committee, the committee find that the President, on the 21st day of February, 1868, signed and issued a commission or letter of authority to one Lorenzo Thomas, directing and authorizing said Thomas to act as Secretary of War ad interim, and to take possession of the books, records, and papers, and other public property in the War Department, of which the following is a copy:

Executive Mansion,
Washington, Feb. 21, 1868.

Sir:–Hon. Edwin M. Stanton having been this day removed from office as Secretary for the Department of War, you are hereby authorized and empowered to act as Secretary of War ad interim, and will immediately enter upon the discharge of the duties pertaining to that office. Mr. Stanton has been instructed to transfer to you all the records, books, papers, and other public property now in his custody and charge.

Respectfully yours, Andrew Johnson.

To Brevet Major General Lorenzo Thomas, Adjutant General of the United States Army. Washington, District of Columbia.

Official copy respectfully furnished to Hon. Edwin M. Stanton.

L. Thomas. Secretary of War ad interim.

Upon the evidence collected by the committee, which is herewith presented, and in virtue of the powers with which they have been invested by the House, they are of the opinion that Andrew Johnson, President of the United States, be impeached of high crimes and misdemeanors. They therefore recommend to the House the adoption of the accompanying resolution. Thaddeus Stevens, George S.Boutwell, John A. Bingham, C. T. Hulburd, John F. Farnsworth, F. C. Beaman, H. E. Paine.

Resolution providing for the impeachment of Andrew Johnson, President of the United States.

Resolved, That Andrew Johnson, President of the United States, be impeached of high crimes and misdemeanors in office.

The following is a brief synopsisof the debate which ensued: Mr. Stevens, of Pennsylvania. Mr. Speaker, it is not my intention in the first instance to discuss this question; and if there be no desire on the other side to discuss it we are willing that the question should be taken upon the knowledge which the House already has. Indeed, the fact of removing a man from office while the Senate was in session without the consent of the Senate, if there were nothing else, is of itself, and always has been considered, a high crime and misdemeanor, and was never before p racticed. But I will not discuss this question unless gentlemen on the other side desire to discuss it. It they do, I shall for the present give way to them and say what I have to say in conclusion.

Mr. Brooke, (Dem. of N. Y.) Mr. Speaker, I had hoped to have an opportunity, at least, to submit a minority report before we entered upon this august proceeding of impeaching the chief executive officer of this Government. Bat after a session of the Committee on Reconstruction, hardly an hour in length, violating an express rule of this House by sitting during the session-for Rule 72 provides that no committee shall sit during the session of the House without special leave-we have been summoned upon a very partial submission of facts, without any comprehension, in reality, of the charges which are made against the President of they United States, upon a new indictment, in a new form once more, and in a more alarming manner than ever, in this but a partial Congress, representing but a section of a portion of the people-in my judgment not representing the people of the United States at allto act as a grand jury, with a large portion of that grand jury excluded from the juryroom here; and suddenly, impromptu perhaps, a vote is to be forced this very day-to impeach the President of the United States!

I am utterly inadequate to discharge the duty which has devolved upon me on this august day, the anniversary of the birthday of the Father of his country. I am utterly unable upon this occasion either to do my duty to the people or to express myself with that deep solemnity which I feel in rising to resist this untoward, this unholy, this unconstitutional proceeding. Indeed, I know not why the ghost of impeachment hag appeared here in a new form. We have attempted to lay it hitherto, and we have successfully laid it. upon the floor of this House. But a minority of the party on the other side, forcing its influence and its power upon a majority of a committee of this House, has at last succeeded in compelling its party to approach the House itself in a united, and therefore in a more solemn form, and to demand the impeachment of the President of the United States.

Sir, we have long been in the midst of a revolution. Long, long has our country been agitated by the throes of that revolution. But we are now approaching the last and the final stage of that revolution in which, like many revolutions that have preceded it. a legislative power not representing the people attempts to depose the executive power, and thus to overthrow that constitutional branch of the Government.

There is nothing new in all this. There is nothing new in what we are doing, for men of the present but repeat the history of the past. We are traversing over and over again the days of Cromwell and Charles I and Charles II, and we are traversing over and over again the scenes of the French revolution, baptized in blood in our introductory part, but I trust in God never again to be baptized by any revolutionary proceeding on the part of this House.

I have not and never have been a defender of all the opinions of General Jackson, but those on the other side who pretend to hold him as authority and those on this side who have ever held him as authority will find that in uttering the opinions which I have I but reutter the opinions which he advanced in his veto of July 10, 1832, when he said:

“The Congress, the Executive, and the court must each for itself be guided by its own opinion of the Constitution. Each public officer who takes the oath to support the Constitution swears that he will support it as he understands it, and not as it is understood by others.”

The President of the United States has given his opinion upon the official tenure-of-office act and upon the Constitution of the United States by the appointment of Adjutant General Thomas as Secretary of War ad interim. and because of the exercise of that Constitutional right we are called upon here at once to pronounce him guilty of high crimes and misdemeanors and to demand his deposition and degradation therefor. * * * * *

Mr. Spalding, (Rep. of Ohio). Mr. Speaker, I feel myself to be in no proper frame of mind or heart to attempt rhetorical display on this occasion. I can appreciate the sentiments of the gentleman from New York [Mr. Brooks] when he says the question before us is filled with solemnity; but when he attempts by gasconade to deter members on this side of the House from the conscientious discharge of their duty I say to my friend that he has :.mistaken his calling.” Sir, no more important duty could be devolved upon this House of Representatives than that of considering the question whether articles of impeachment shall be preferred against the Chief Magistrate of the United States; and for long months, ay, for more than a year, sir. I have resisted, with all my efforts and all my personal influence, the approach of that crisis which is now upon us and before us. The President has clone many, very many, censurable acts: but I could not, on my conscience. say that he should be holden to answer upon a charge of “high crimes and misdemeanors” until something could be made tangible whereby ha had brought himself in open conflict with the Constitution and laws of the Union.

It has seemed to me, sir, for weeks, that this high officer of our government was inviting the very ordeal which, I am sorry to say, is now upon us, and the dread consequences of which will speedily be upon him. He has thrown himself violently in contact with an Act of Congress passed on the 2d day of March last by the votes of the constitutional two-thirds of the Senate and two-thirds of the House of Representatives over his veto assigning his reasons for withholding his assent. Now, it matters not how many acts can be found upon the statute books in years gone by that would sanction the removal of a cabinet officer by the President; the gentleman from New York numbers three. He may reckon up thirty or three hundred and still if, within the last six or nine months, Congress has, in a constitutional manner, made an enactment that prohibits such removal, and the executive wantonly disregards such enactment and attempts to remove the officer, he incurs the penalty as clearly and as certainly as if there never had been any legislation to the contrary. That subsequent enactment, if it be constitutional, repeals, by its own force, all other prior enactments with which it may conflict; and in nothing is that enactment more significant than in this, that the President shall not remove any civil officer, who has been appointed by and with the advice and consent of the Senate, without the concurrence of that body, when it is itself in session.

Mr. Bingham, (Rep.) of Ohio. Mr. Speaker, all right-minded men must concede that the question under consideration is one of supreme moment to till the people of the Republic. I protest for myself, sir, that I am utterly incapable of approaching the discussion of this question in the spirit of a partisan. I repel, sir, the intimation of the gentleman from New York, Mr. Brooks, that I am careless of the obligation of my oath or unconcerned about the supremacy of the Constitution and the laws. I look upon the Constitution of the country as the very breath of the nation’s life. I invoke this day upon the consideration of this great question the matchless name of Washington, as did the gentleman, and ask him, in the consideration of the matter now before us, to ponder upon those deathless words of the Father of our Country, wherein he declares that “the Constitution which at any time exists, till changed by an explicit and authentic act of the whole people, is sacredly obligatory upon all”–upon all sir, from the President to the humblest citizen–standing within the jurisdiction of the Republic. Washington but echoed the words that himself and his associates had imbedded in the text of the Constitution, that “this Constitution and the laws passed in pursuance thereof shall be the supreme law of the land.” It shall be supreme over every officer; it shall be supreme over every State; it shall be supreme over every territory; it shall be supreme upon every deck covered by your flag in every zone all round the globe. Every man within its jurisdiction, official and unofficial, must bow to the supremacy of the Constitution.

The gentleman says that the issue involved is an issue about an office. I beg the gentleman’s pardon. The issue involved is whether the supremacy of the Constitution shall be maintained by the people’s Representatives. The President of the United States has assumed, sir, to set himself above the Constitution and the laws. He has assumed to defy the law, he has assumed to challenge the people’s Representatives to sit in judgment upon his malfeasance in office. Every man who has considered it worth while to observe my conduct touching this question that has so long agitated this House and agitated this country may have discovered that I have kept myself back and have endeavored to keep others back from making any unnecessary issue between the President and Representatives of the people touching the manner in which he discharged the duties of his great office. I had no desire, sir, to have resort unnecessarily to this highest power reposed by the people in their Representatives and their Senators for the vindication of their own violated Constitution and violated laws. Notwithstanding there was much in the conduct of the President to endanger the peace and repose of the country, yet, so long as there was any doubt upon the question of his liability to impeachment within the text and spirit of the Constitution, I was unwilling to utter one syllable to favor such a proposition or to record a vote to advance it. * * *

Mr. Beck, (Dem. of Ky.) The single question upon which the decision of this House is now to be made is that the President has attempted to test the constitutionality of a law which he believes to be unconstitutional. All the testimony heretofore presented upon which to base an impeachment of the President was decided by even a majority of the Republican members of this House to be insufficient to justify impeachment. All questions growing out of the combinations and conspiracies lately charged upon the President were ruled by the Reconstruction Committee to be insufficient, and were not brought before this House. And the sole question now before us is, is there anything in this last act of the President removing Mr. Stanton and appointing Adjutant General Thomas Secretary of War ad interim to justify his impeachment by this House?

I maintain that the President of the United States is in duty bound to test the legality of every law which he thinks interferes with his rights and powers as the Chief Magistrate of this nation. Whenever he has powers conferred upon him by the Constitution of the United States, and an act of Congress undertakes to deprive him of those powers, or any of them. he would be false to his trust as the Chief Executive of this nation, false to the interests of the people whom he represents, if he did not by every means in his power seek to test the constitutionality of that law, and to take whatever steps were necessary and proper to have it tested by the highest tribunal in the land, and to ascertain whether he has a right under the Constitution to do what he claims the right to do, or whether Congress has the right to deprive him of the powers which he claims have been vested in him by the Constitution of the United States, and that is all that he proposes to do in this case. * * *

Mr. Logan, (Rep. of Ills.) Now, Mr. Speaker, let us examine this question for a moment. It seems to me very plain and easy of solution. It is not necessary, in order to decide whether this action of the President of the United States comes within the purview and meaning of this statute, for us to talk about revolutions or what this man or that man has said or decided. What has been the act of the President is the question. The law is plain. If the President shall appoint or shall give a letter of authority or issue a commission to any person, without the consent of the Senate, he is guilty of–what? The law says of a high misdemeanor. And, under and by virtue of the Constitution, the President can be impeached–for what? For high crimes or misdemeanors. This law declares the issuing a commission to, or giving a letter of authority to, or appointing to or removing from office, any person. without the advice and consent of the Senate of the United States, shall be a high misdemeanor, which is within the meaning and within the pale of the Constitution of the United States.

Now, what is the evidence presented to this body by one of its committees? It is of this character: The Secretary of War, Edwin M. Stanton, has been declared by a solemn vote of the Senate to be the Secretary of War, by virtue of–what? By virtue of an appointment to that office; by reason of the fact that Andrew Johnson did not relieve him from office when he had the right to present the name of somebody else–soon after his taking the presidential chair–not the right to turn him out, but the right to nominate some one else to the senate and ask them to confirm him to that office. That the President failed to do. Then, acting under the provisions of this statute, the President suspended Mr. Stanton as Secretary of War, but the Senate passed upon that act, and decided that the reasons given by the President for suspending Mr. Stanton were not satisfactory; and accordingly, by virtue of this law, Mr. Stanton was confirmed and reinstated in his position as Secretary of War.

Now, all this having been done, it cannot certainly be claimed that the President, in his recent course in regard to Mr. Stanton, has acted without any intention of violating the law. Nor can it be claimed that the President is ignorant of the law. * * *

Mr. Holman (Dem., Ind.) We have listened to much excited eloquence upon this question. It is too manifest that Congress, moving on with that impetus which is ever the result of excessive political power. seeks to usurp those powers which are by the Constitution vested in the other Departments of the Government. I do not propose to discuss this subject or answer the speech of the gentleman from Illinois [Mr. Logan] with any words of my own. I have before me a paper which is full of mature wisdom and patriotic counsel, a speech that comes from the solemn past, yet speaks to every heart that beats for the Union of these States, and the prosperity of the American people; a voice that is answered back from every battlefield of the Revolution, and from the grave of every soldier who has fallen in defense of American liberty. I ask that this speech may be read to the House, as appropriate to this day, the 22nd of February, a day once so venerated. I ask that this immortal address to the American people, a speech that needs no revision: a speech in which there can be no interruptions made in this moment of passion, be read to the American Congress, for I can well afford to be silent while that great voice speaks to the Representatives of the people of this Republic.

The Clerk commenced the reading of Washington’s Farewell Address.

Mr. Peters: I rise to a question of order. I insist that that address is not germane to the question before the House.

Mr. Holman: I insist that it is exceedingly germane.

Mr. Lawrence, of Ohio: Allow me to suggest that it is germane, for the reason that it relates to retirement from office. [Laughter.]

Mr. Peters: That is too remote.

The Speaker pro tempore, (Mr. Blaine, in the chair.) The Chair sustains the point of order.

Mr. Holman: I hope no gentleman will object to the completion of the reading: it will only occupy the time I am entitled to.

Mr. Peters: It is doubtless very instructive, and so would a chapter of the Bible be. but it has nothing to do with the question before the House, and I insist upon the point of order.

The Speaker pro tempore. Up to this point the discussion has been pertinent and germane to the question–very closely so–and the Chair is compelled to rule, the question of order being raised, that this is not germane or in order. The gentleman from Indiana will proceed in order.

Mr. Holman: I suppose, Mr. Speaker, the Constitution of the United States would scarcely be in order. I will not ask to have it read.

The debate continued in the vein illustrated in the foregoing extracts, from the morning of February 22, notwithstanding it was a National Holiday, such was the haste of the impeachers, to the evening of the 24th, almost without interruption. It was at times illustrated by marked ability, and on the Republican side by intense bitterness and partisan malignity. A large number of the members of the House participated in the debate.

Mr. Thaddeus Stevens then closed the debate in the following arraignment of the President:

Now in defiance of this law. (the Office-Tenure Act) Andrew Johnson, on the 21st day of February, 1868, issued his commission or letter of authority to one Lorenzo Thomas, appointing him Secretary of War ad interim, and commanded him to take possession of the Department of War and to eject the incumbent. E M. Stanton, then in lawful possession of said office. Here, if this act stood alone, would be an undeniable official misdemeanor–