Impeachment of Andrew Johnson

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Theodore R. Davis's illustration of President Johnson's impeachment trial in the Senate, published in Harper's Weekly. Andrew Johnson impeachment trial.jpg
Theodore R. Davis's illustration of President Johnson's impeachment trial in the Senate, published in Harper's Weekly.

Andrew Johnson, the 17th President of the United States, was impeached on February 24, 1868, when the United States House of Representatives resolved to impeach the President, adopting eleven articles of impeachment detailing his "high crimes and misdemeanors", in accordance with Article Two of the United States Constitution. The House's primary charge against Johnson was violation of the Tenure of Office Act, passed by the U.S. Congress in March 1867, over the President's veto. Specifically, he had removed from office Edwin McMasters Stanton, the Secretary of War—whom the Act was largely designed to protect—and attempted to replace him with Brevet Major General Lorenzo Thomas. (Earlier, while the Congress was not in session, Johnson had suspended Stanton and appointed General Ulysses S. Grant as Secretary of War ad interim.)

Andrew Johnson 17th president of the United States

Andrew Johnson was the 17th president of the United States, serving from 1865 to 1869. Johnson assumed the presidency as he was vice president of the United States at the time of the assassination of Abraham Lincoln. A Democrat who ran with Lincoln on the National Union ticket, Johnson came to office as the Civil War concluded. He favored quick restoration of the seceded states to the Union. His plans did not give protection to the former slaves; he came into conflict with the Republican-dominated Congress, culminating in his impeachment by the House of Representatives. He was acquitted in the Senate by one vote. Johnson's main accomplishment as president is the Alaska purchase.

President of the United States Head of state and of government of the United States

The president of the United States (POTUS) is the head of state and head of government of the United States of America. The president directs the executive branch of the federal government and is the commander-in-chief of the United States Armed Forces.

United States House of Representatives lower house of the United States Congress

The United States House of Representatives is the lower chamber of the United States Congress, the Senate being the upper chamber. Together they compose the legislature of the United States.


The House approved the articles of impeachment on March 2–3, 1868, and forwarded them to the Senate. The trial in the Senate began three days later, with Chief Justice Salmon P. Chase presiding. On May 16, the Senate failed to convict Johnson on one of the articles, with the 35–19 vote in favor of conviction falling short of the necessary two-thirds majority by a single vote. A ten-day recess was called before attempting to convict him on additional articles. The delay did not change the outcome, however, as on May 26, it failed to convict the President on two articles, both by the same margin; after which the trial was adjourned.

United States Senate Upper house of the United States Congress

The United States Senate is the upper chamber of the United States Congress, which along with the United States House of Representatives—the lower chamber—comprises the legislature of the United States. The Senate chamber is located in the north wing of the Capitol, in Washington, D.C.

Chief Justice of the United States senior justice of the Supreme Court of the United States

The Chief Justice of the United States is the chief judge of the Supreme Court of the United States, and as such the highest-ranking judge of the federal judiciary. Article II, Section 2, Clause 2 of the Constitution grants plenary power to the President of the United States to nominate, and with the advice and consent of the United States Senate, appoint a chief justice, who serves until they resign, are impeached and convicted, retire, or die.

Salmon P. Chase Chief Justice of the United States

Salmon Portland Chase was a U.S. politician and jurist who served as the sixth Chief Justice of the United States. He also served as the 23rd Governor of Ohio, represented Ohio in the United States Senate, and served as the 25th United States Secretary of the Treasury. Chase was therefore one of a few US politicians who served in all three branches of the federal government.

This was the first impeachment of a President since creation of the office in 1789. The culmination of a lengthy political battle between Johnson, a lifelong Democrat, and the Republican majority in Congress over how best to deal with the defeated Southern states following the conclusion of the American Civil War, the impeachment and subsequent trial (and acquittal) of Johnson were among the most dramatic events in the political life of the nation during the Reconstruction Era. Together, they have gained a historical reputation as an act of political expedience rather than necessity, based on Johnson's defiance of an unconstitutional piece of legislation and conducted with little regard for the will of a general public which, despite the unpopularity of Johnson, opposed the impeachment.

Democratic Party (United States) Major political party in the United States

The Democratic Party is one of the two major contemporary political parties in the United States, along with its rival, the Republican Party. Tracing its heritage back to Thomas Jefferson and James Madison's Democratic-Republican Party, the modern-day Democratic Party was founded around 1828 by supporters of Andrew Jackson, making it the world's oldest active political party.

Republican Party (United States) Major political party in the United States

The Republican Party, also referred to as the GOP, is one of the two major political parties in the United States; the other is its historic rival, the Democratic Party.

American Civil War Civil war in the United States from 1861 to 1865

The American Civil War was a civil war fought in the United States from 1861 to 1865, between the North and the South. The most studied and written about episode in U.S. history, the Civil War began primarily as a result of the long-standing controversy over the enslavement of black people. War broke out in April 1861 when secessionist forces attacked Fort Sumter in South Carolina shortly after Abraham Lincoln had been inaugurated as the President of the United States. The loyalists of the Union in the North proclaimed support for the Constitution. They faced secessionists of the Confederate States in the South, who advocated for states' rights to uphold slavery.

Johnson is one of only three presidents against whom articles of impeachment have been reported to the full House for consideration. In 1974, during the Watergate scandal, the House Judiciary Committee approved articles of impeachment against Richard Nixon, who resigned from office rather than face certain impeachment by the full House and the almost certain prospect of being convicted at trial in the Senate and removed from office with loss of pension and other benefits. In 1998, Bill Clinton was in fact impeached; he, like Johnson, was acquitted of all charges following a Senate trial (with 50 votes for conviction and 50 for acquittal on the count eliciting the most votes for removal).

Watergate scandal Political scandal that occurred in the United States in the 1970s

The Watergate scandal was a major political scandal that occurred in the United States during 1972 to 1974, following a break-in by five men at the Democratic National Committee (DNC) headquarters at the Watergate office complex in Washington, D.C. on June 17, 1972, and President Richard Nixon's administration's subsequent attempt to cover up his involvement. After the five burglars were caught and the conspiracy was discovered—chiefly through the work of a few journalists, Congressional staffers and an election-finance watchdog official—Watergate was investigated by the United States Congress. Meanwhile, Nixon's administration resisted its probes, which led to a constitutional crisis.

United States House Committee on the Judiciary Standing committee of the United States House of Representatives

The U.S. House Committee on the Judiciary, also called the House Judiciary Committee, is a standing committee of the United States House of Representatives. It is charged with overseeing the administration of justice within the federal courts, administrative agencies and Federal law enforcement entities. The Judiciary Committee is also the committee responsible for impeachments of federal officials. Because of the legal nature of its oversight, committee members usually have a legal background, but this is not required.

Richard Nixon 37th president of the United States

Richard Milhous Nixon was an American politician who served as the 37th president of the United States from 1969 until 1974, when he resigned from office, the only American president to do so. He had previously served as the 36th vice president of the United States from 1953 to 1961, and prior to that as both a U.S. representative and senator from California.


Presidential Reconstruction

President Andrew Johnson Andrew Johnson photo portrait head and shoulders, c1870-1880-Edit1.jpg
President Andrew Johnson

Tension between the executive and legislative branches had been high prior to Johnson's ascension to the presidency. Following Union Army victories at Gettysburg and Vicksburg in July 1863, President Lincoln began contemplating the issue of how to bring the South back into the Union. He wished to offer an olive branch to the rebel states by pursuing a lenient plan for their reintegration. The forgiving tone of the president's plan, plus the fact that he implemented it by presidential directive without consulting Congress, incensed Radical Republicans, who countered with a more stringent plan. Their proposal for Southern reconstruction, the Wade–Davis Bill, passed both houses of Congress in July 1864, but was pocket vetoed by the president and never took effect. [1] [2]

Union Army Land force that fought for the Union during the American Civil War

During the American Civil War, the Union Army referred to the United States Army, the land force that fought to preserve the Union of the collective states. Also known as the Federal Army, it proved essential to the preservation of the United States of America as a working, viable republic.

Battle of Gettysburg battle of the American Civil War

The Battle of Gettysburg was fought July 1–3, 1863, in and around the town of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, by Union and Confederate forces during the American Civil War. The battle involved the largest number of casualties of the entire war and is often described as the war's turning point. Union Maj. Gen. George Meade's Army of the Potomac defeated attacks by Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee's Army of Northern Virginia, halting Lee's invasion of the North.

Siege of Vicksburg Battle of the American Civil Wars Anaconda Plan

The Siege of Vicksburg was the final major military action in the Vicksburg Campaign of the American Civil War. In a series of maneuvers, Union Maj. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant and his Army of the Tennessee crossed the Mississippi River and drove the Confederate Army of Mississippi, led by Lt. Gen. John C. Pemberton, into the defensive lines surrounding the fortress city of Vicksburg, Mississippi.

The assassination of Abraham Lincoln on April 14, 1865, just days after the Army of Northern Virginia's surrender at Appomattox briefly lessened the tension over who would set the terms of peace. The radicals, while suspicious of the new president and his policies, believed, based upon his record, that Andrew Johnson would defer, or at least acquiesce to their hardline proposals. Though a Democrat from Tennessee, Johnson had been a fierce critic of the Southern secession. Then after several states left the Union, including his own, he chose to stay in Washington (rather than resign his U.S. Senate seat), and later, when Union troops occupied Tennessee, Johnson was appointed military governor. While in that position he had exercised his powers with vigor, frequently stating that "treason must be made odious and traitors punished". [2] Johnson, however, embraced Lincoln's more lenient policies, thus rejecting the Radicals, and setting the stage for a showdown between the president and Congress. [3] During the first months of his presidency, Johnson issued proclamations of general amnesty for most former Confederates, both government and military officers, and oversaw creation of new governments in the hitherto rebellious states governments dominated by ex-Confederate officials. [4] In February 1866, Johnson vetoed legislation extending the Freedmen's Bureau and expanding its powers; Congress was unable to override the veto. Afterward, Johnson denounced Radical Republicans Representative Thaddeus Stevens and Senator Charles Sumner, along with abolitionist Wendell Phillips, as traitors. [5] Later, Johnson vetoed a Civil Rights Act and a second Freedmen's Bureau bill; the Senate and the House each mustered the two-thirds majorities necessary to override both vetoes, [5] setting the stage for a showdown between Congress and the president.

Assassination of Abraham Lincoln 1865 murder of the 16th President of the United States

Abraham Lincoln, the 16th President of the United States, was assassinated by well-known stage actor John Wilkes Booth on April 14, 1865, while attending the play Our American Cousin at Ford's Theatre in Washington, D.C. Shot in the head as he watched the play, Lincoln died the following day at 7:22 am, in the Petersen House opposite the theater. He was the first U.S. president to be assassinated, and Lincoln's funeral and burial marked an extended period of national mourning.

Army of Northern Virginia field army of the Confederate States Army

The Army of Northern Virginia was the primary military force of the Confederate States of America in the Eastern Theater of the American Civil War. It was also the primary command structure of the Department of Northern Virginia. It was most often arrayed against the Union Army of the Potomac.

Presidency of Andrew Johnson

The presidency of Andrew Johnson began on April 15, 1865, when Andrew Johnson became President of the United States upon the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln, and ended on March 4, 1869. He had been Vice President of the United States for only 42 days when he succeeded to the presidency. The 17th United States president, Johnson was a member of the Democratic Party before the Civil War and had been Lincoln's 1864 running mate on the National Union ticket, which was supported by Republicans and War Democrats. Johnson took office as the Civil War came to a close, and his presidency was dominated by the aftermath of the war. As president, Johnson attempted to build his own party of Southerners and conservative Northerners, but he was unable to unite his supporters into a new party. Republican Ulysses S. Grant succeeded Johnson as president.

At an impasse with Congress, Johnson offered himself directly to the American public as a "tribune of the people". In the late-summer of 1866, the president embarked on a national "Swing Around the Circle" speaking tour, where he asked his audiences for their support in his battle against the Congress and urged voters to elect representatives to Congress in the upcoming midterm election who supported his policies. The tour backfired on Johnson, however, when reports of his undisciplined, vitriolic speeches and ill-advised confrontations with hecklers swept the nation. Contrary to his hopes, the 1866 elections led to veto-proof Republican majorities in both houses of Congress. [6] [7] [8] As a result, Radicals were able to take control of Reconstruction, passing a series of Reconstruction Acts—each one over the President's veto—addressing requirements for Southern states to be fully restored to the Union. The first of these acts divided those states, excluding Johnson's home state of Tennessee, into five military districts, and each state's government was put under the control of the U.S. military. Additionally, these states were required to enact new constitutions, ratify the Fourteenth Amendment, and guarantee voting rights for black males. [2] [7] [9]

Tenure of Office Act

Congress's control of the military Reconstruction policy was mitigated by Johnson's command of the military as president; however, Johnson had inherited, as Secretary of War, Lincoln's appointee Edwin M. Stanton, a staunch Radical Republican, who as long as he remained in office would comply with Congressional Reconstruction policies. [10] To ensure that Stanton would not be replaced, Congress passed the Tenure of Office Act in 1867 over Johnson's veto. The act required the President to seek the Senate's advice and consent before relieving or dismissing any member of his Cabinet (an indirect reference to Stanton) or, indeed, any federal official whose initial appointment had previously required its advice and consent. [11] [12]

"The Situation", a Harper's Weekly editorial cartoon shows Secretary of War Stanton aiming a cannon labeled "Congress" to defeat Johnson. The rammer is "Tenure of Office Bill" and cannonballs on the floor are "Justice". The situation.jpg
"The Situation", a Harper's Weekly editorial cartoon shows Secretary of War Stanton aiming a cannon labeled "Congress" to defeat Johnson. The rammer is "Tenure of Office Bill" and cannonballs on the floor are "Justice".

Because the Tenure of Office Act did permit the President to suspend such officials when Congress was out of session, when Johnson failed to obtain Stanton's resignation, he instead suspended Stanton on August 5, 1867, which gave him the opportunity to appoint General Ulysses S. Grant, then serving as Commanding General of the Army, interim Secretary of War. [13] When the Senate adopted a resolution of non-concurrence with Stanton's dismissal in December 1867, Grant told Johnson he was going to resign, fearing punitive legal action. Johnson assured Grant that he would assume all responsibility in the matter, and asked him to delay his resignation until a suitable replacement could be found. [12] Contrary to Johnson's belief that Grant had agreed to remain in office, [14] when the Senate voted and reinstated Stanton in January 1868, Grant immediately resigned, before the president had an opportunity to appoint a replacement. [15] Johnson was furious at Grant, accusing him of lying during a stormy cabinet meeting. The March 1868 publication of several angry messages between Johnson and Grant led to a complete break between the two. As a result of these letters, Grant solidified his standing as the frontrunner for the 1868 Republican presidential nomination. [16] [13]

Johnson agonized about Stanton's restoration to office, and undertook a desperate search for someone to replace Stanton whom the Senate might find acceptable. He turned first to General William Tecumseh Sherman, who was an enemy of Stanton's, but Sherman turned the president down. [17] Sherman subsequently suggested to Johnson that Republican radicals and moderates would be amenable to replacing Stanton with Jacob Cox, but he found the president to be no longer interested in appeasement. [18] On February 21, 1868, the president appointed Lorenzo Thomas, a brevet major general in the Army, as interim Secretary of War, ordered the removal of Stanton from office, and informed the Senate of his actions. Thomas personally delivered the president's dismissal notice to Stanton, who refused either to accept its legitimacy or to vacate the premises. Instead, Stanton informed Speaker of the House Schuyler Colfax and President pro tempore of the Senate Benjamin Wade of his plight, then barricaded himself in his office and ordered Thomas arrested for violating the Tenure of Office Act. [19] Thomas remained under arrest for several days, until Stanton, realizing that the case against Thomas would provide the courts with an opportunity to review the constitutionality of the Tenure of Office Act, had the charges dropped. [20]

Johnson's opponents in Congress were outraged by his actions; the president's challenge to congressional authority—with regard to both the Tenure of Office Act and post-war reconstruction—had, in their estimation, been tolerated for long enough. [2] In swift response, an impeachment resolution was introduced in the House by representatives Thaddeus Stevens and John Bingham. Expressing the widespread sentiment among House Republicans, Representative William D. Kelley (on February 22, 1868) declared:

Sir, the bloody and untilled fields of the ten unreconstructed states, the unsheeted ghosts of the two thousand murdered negroes in Texas, cry, if the dead ever evoke vengeance, for the punishment of Andrew Johnson. [21] [22]


The impeachment resolution against Andrew Johnson, approved by the House of Representatives on February 24, 1868. AJohnsonimpeach.jpg
The impeachment resolution against Andrew Johnson, approved by the House of Representatives on February 24, 1868.

On February 24, 1868 three days after Johnson's dismissal of Stanton, the House of Representatives voted 126 to 47 (with 17 members not voting) in favor of a resolution to impeach the President for high crimes and misdemeanors. Thaddeus Stevens addressed the House prior to the vote. "This is not to be the temporary triumph of a political party," he said, "but is to endure in its consequence until this whole continent shall be filled with a free and untrammeled people or shall be a nest of shrinking, cowardly slaves." [21]

One week later, the House adopted eleven articles of impeachment against the President. The articles charged Johnson with:

  1. Dismissing Edwin Stanton from office after the Senate had voted not to concur with his dismissal and had ordered him reinstated.
  2. Appointing Thomas Secretary of War ad interim despite the lack of vacancy in the office, since the dismissal of Stanton had been invalid.
  3. Appointing Thomas without the required advice and consent of the Senate.
  4. Conspiring, with Thomas and "other persons to the House of Representatives unknown", to unlawfully prevent Stanton from continuing in office.
  5. Conspiring to unlawfully curtail faithful execution of the Tenure of Office Act.
  6. Conspiring to "seize, take, and possess the property of the United States in the Department of War".
  7. Conspiring to "seize, take, and possess the property of the United States in the Department of War" with specific intent to violate the Tenure of Office Act.
  8. Issuing to Thomas the authority of the office of Secretary of War with unlawful intent to "control the disbursements of the moneys appropriated for the military service and for the Department of War".
  9. Issuing to Major General William H. Emory orders with unlawful intent to violate federal law requiring all military orders to be issued through the General of the Army.
  10. Making three speeches with intent to "attempt to bring into disgrace, ridicule, hatred, contempt and reproach, the Congress of the United States".
  11. Bringing disgrace and ridicule to the presidency by his aforementioned words and actions.



John A. Bingham and Thaddeus Stevens before the Senate presenting the vote on the president's impeachment by the House Bingham-Stevens.jpg
John A. Bingham and Thaddeus Stevens before the Senate presenting the vote on the president's impeachment by the House

On March 4, 1868, amid tremendous public attention and press coverage, the 11 Articles of Impeachment were presented to the Senate, which reconvened the following day as a court of impeachment, with Chief Justice Salmon Chase presiding, and proceeded to develop a set of rules for the trial and its officers. [12] The extent of Chase's authority as presiding officer to render unilateral rulings was a frequent point of contention during the rules debate and trial. He initially maintained that deciding certain procedural questions on his own was his prerogative; but after the Senate challenged several of his rulings, he gave up making rulings. [23] On one occasion, when he ruled that Johnson should be permitted to present evidence that Thomas's appointment to replace Stanton was intended to provide a test case to challenge the constitutionality of the Tenure of Office Act, the Senate reversed the ruling. [24]

When it came time for senators to take the juror's oath, Thomas Hendricks questioned Benjamin Wade's impartiality and suggested that Wade abstain from voting due to a conflict of interest. As there was no constitutional provision at the time for filling an intra-term vacancy in the vice presidency (accomplished a century later by the Twenty-fifth Amendment), the office had been vacant since Johnson succeeded to the presidency. Therefore, Wade, as President pro tempore of the Senate, would, under the Presidential Succession Act then in force and effect, become president if Johnson were removed from office. Reviled by the radical majority, Hendricks withdrew his objection a day later and left the matter to Wade's own conscience; he subsequently voted for conviction. [25] [26]

The House impeachment committee was made up of: John Bingham, George S. Boutwell, Benjamin Butler, John A. Logan, Thaddeus Stevens, James F. Wilson, and Thomas Williams. [27] The president's defense team was made up of Henry Stanbery, William M. Evarts, Benjamin R. Curtis, Thomas A. R. Nelson and William S. Groesbeck. On the advice of counsel, the president did not appear at the trial. [12]

The trial was conducted mostly in open session, and the Senate chamber galleries were filled to capacity throughout. Public interest was so great that the Senate issued admission passes for the first time in its history. For each day of the trial, 1,000 color coded tickets were printed, granting admittance for a single day. [12] [28]


The House impeachment committee (from a photograph by Mathew Brady), seated (left to right): Benjamin F. Butler, Thaddeus Stevens, Thomas Williams, John A. Bingham, standing (left to right): James F. Wilson, George S. Boutwell, John A. Logan Impeachment Committee, Hon. George S. Boutwell, Mass., Gen. John A. Logan, Hon. Thomas Williams, Pa., Hon. James F.... - NARA - 528423.jpg
The House impeachment committee (from a photograph by Mathew Brady), seated (left to right): Benjamin F. Butler, Thaddeus Stevens, Thomas Williams, John A. Bingham, standing (left to right): James F. Wilson, George S. Boutwell, John A. Logan

On the first day, Johnson's defense committee asked for 40 days to collect evidence and witnesses since the prosecution had had a longer amount of time to do so, but only 10 days were granted. The proceedings began on March 23. Senator Garrett Davis argued that because not all states were represented in the Senate the trial could not be held and that it should therefore be adjourned. The motion was voted down. After the charges against the president were made, Henry Stanbery asked for another 30 days to assemble evidence and summon witnesses, saying that in the 10 days previously granted there had only been enough time to prepare the president's reply. John A. Logan argued that the trial should begin immediately and that Stanberry was only trying to stall for time. The request was turned down in a vote 41 to 12. However, the Senate voted the next day to give the defense six more days to prepare evidence, which was accepted. [29]

The trial commenced again on March 30. Benjamin F. Butler opened for the prosecution with a three-hour speech reviewing historical impeachment trials, dating from King John of England. For days Butler spoke out against Johnson's violations of the Tenure of Office Act and further charged that the president had issued orders directly to Army officers without sending them through General Grant. The defense argued that Johnson had not violated the Tenure of Office Act because President Lincoln did not reappoint Stanton as Secretary of War at the beginning of his second term in 1865 and that he was therefore a leftover appointment from the 1860 cabinet, which removed his protection by the Tenure of Office Act. The prosecution called several witnesses in the course of the proceedings until April 9, when they rested their case. [30]

Benjamin R. Curtis called attention to the fact that after the House passed the Tenure of Office Act, the Senate had amended it, meaning that it had to return it to a Senate–House conference committee to resolve the differences. He followed up by quoting the minutes of those meetings, which revealed that while the House members made no notes about the fact, their sole purpose was to keep Stanton in office, and the Senate had disagreed. The defense then called their first witness, Adjutant General Lorenzo Thomas. He did not provide adequate information in the defense's cause and Butler made attempts to use his information to the prosecution's advantage. The next witness was General William T. Sherman, who testified that President Johnson had offered to appoint Sherman to succeed Stanton as Secretary of War in order to ensure that the department was effectively administered. This testimony damaged the prosecution, which expected Sherman to testify that Johnson offered to appoint Sherman for the purpose of obstructing the operation, or overthrow, of the government. Sherman essentially affirmed that Johnson only wanted him to manage the department and not to execute directions to the military that would be contrary to the will of Congress. [31]


The Senate was composed of 54 members representing 27 states (10 former Confederate states had not yet been readmitted to representation in the Senate) at the time of the trial. At its conclusion, senators voted on three of the articles of impeachment. On each occasion the vote was 35–19, with 35 senators voting guilty and 19 not guilty. As the constitutional threshold for a conviction in an impeachment trial is a two-thirds majority guilty vote—in this case 36 votes—Johnson was not removed from office.

Seven Republican senators were concerned that the proceedings had been manipulated to give a one-sided presentation of the evidence. Senators William Pitt Fessenden (Maine), Joseph S. Fowler (Tennessee), James W. Grimes (Iowa), John B. Henderson (Missouri), Lyman Trumbull (Illinois), Peter G. Van Winkle (West Virginia), [32] and Edmund G. Ross (Kansas), who provided the decisive vote, [33] defied their party by voting against conviction. In addition to the aforementioned seven, three more Republicans James Dixon (Connecticut), James Doolittle (Wisconsin), Daniel Norton (Minnesota), and all nine Democratic Senators voted not guilty.

Judgement of the Senate Andrew Johnson Impeachment vote 1867.jpg
Judgement of the Senate

The first vote was taken on May 16 for the eleventh article. Prior to the vote, Samuel Pomeroy, the senior senator from Kansas, told the junior Kansas Senator Ross that if Ross voted for acquittal that Ross would become the subject of an investigation for bribery. [34] Afterward, in hopes of persuading at least one senator who voted not guilty to change his vote, the Senate adjourned for 10 days before continuing voting on the other articles. During the hiatus, under Butler's leadership, the House put through a resolution to investigate alleged "improper or corrupt means used to influence the determination of the Senate". Despite the Radical Republican leadership's heavy-handed efforts to change the outcome, when votes were cast on May 26 for the second and third articles, the results were the same as the first. After the trial, Butler conducted hearings on the widespread reports that Republican senators had been bribed to vote for Johnson's acquittal. In Butler's hearings, and in subsequent inquiries, there was increasing evidence that some acquittal votes were acquired by promises of patronage jobs and cash cards. Nonetheless, the investigations never resulted in charges, much less convictions, against anyone. [35]

Moreover, there is evidence that the prosecution attempted to bribe the senators voting for acquittal to switch their votes to conviction. Maine Senator Fessenden was offered the Ministership to Great Britain. Prosecutor Butler said, "Tell [Kansas Senator Ross] that if he wants money there is a bushel of it here to be had." [36] Butler's investigation also boomeranged when it was discovered that Kansas Senator Pomeroy, who voted for conviction, had written a letter to Johnson's Postmaster General seeking a $40,000 bribe for Pomeroy's acquittal vote along with three or four others in his caucus. [37] Benjamin Butler was himself told by Ben Wade that Wade would appoint Butler as Secretary of State when Wade assumed the Presidency after a Johnson conviction. [38] An opinion that Senator Ross was mercilessly persecuted for his courageous vote to sustain the independence of the Presidency as a branch of the Federal Government is the subject of an entire chapter in President John F. Kennedy's book, Profiles in Courage. [39] That opinion has been rejected by some scholars, such as Ralph Roske, and endorsed by others, such as Avery Craven. [40] [41]

Not one of the Republican senators who voted for acquittal ever again served in an elective office. [42] Although they were under intense pressure to change their votes to conviction during the trial, afterward public opinion rapidly shifted around to their viewpoint. Some senators who voted for conviction, such as John Sherman and even Charles Sumner, later changed their minds. [43] [44] [40]

Table of U.S. Senate votes on the Articles of Impeachment [45]
Article XI
May 16, 1868
Article II
May 26, 1868
Article III
May 26, 1868
Henry B. Anthony
James A. Bayard Jr.
Not guiltyNot guiltyNot guilty
Charles R. Buckalew
Not guiltyNot guiltyNot guilty
Simon Cameron
Alexander G. Cattell
Zachariah Chandler
Cornelius Cole
Roscoe Conkling
John Conness
Henry W. Corbett
Aaron H. Cragin
Garrett Davis
Not guiltyNot guiltyNot guilty
James Dixon
Not guiltyNot guiltyNot guilty
James Rood Doolittle
Not guiltyNot guiltyNot guilty
Charles D. Drake
George F. Edmunds
Orris S. Ferry
William P. Fessenden
Not guiltyNot guiltyNot guilty
Joseph S. Fowler
Not guiltyNot guiltyNot guilty
Frederick T. Frelinghuysen
James W. Grimes
Not guiltyNot guiltyNot guilty
James Harlan
John B. Henderson
Not guiltyNot guiltyNot guilty
Thomas A. Hendricks
Not guiltyNot guiltyNot guilty
Jacob M. Howard
Timothy O. Howe
Reverdy Johnson
Not guiltyNot guiltyNot guilty
Thomas C. McCreery
Not guiltyNot guiltyNot guilty
Edwin D. Morgan
Justin S. Morrill
Lot M. Morrill
Oliver P. Morton
Daniel S. Norton
Not guiltyNot guiltyNot guilty
James W. Nye
David T. Patterson
Not guiltyNot guiltyNot guilty
James W. Patterson
Samuel C. Pomeroy
Alexander Ramsey
Edmund G. Ross
Not guiltyNot guiltyNot guilty
Willard Saulsbury Sr.
Not guiltyNot guiltyNot guilty
John Sherman
William Sprague
William M. Stewart
Charles Sumner
John Milton Thayer
Thomas Tipton
Lyman Trumbull
Not guiltyNot guiltyNot guilty
Peter G. Van Winkle
Not guiltyNot guiltyNot guilty
George Vickers
Not guiltyNot guiltyNot guilty
Benjamin Wade
Waitman T. Willey
George Henry Williams
Henry Wilson
Richard Yates
Total votes:
(36 guilty votes necessary for a conviction)
Not guilty: 19
Guilty: 35
Not guilty: 19
Guilty: 35
Not guilty: 19
Guilty: 35

Later review of Johnson's impeachment

Impeachment of Andrew Johnson. Senate-Johnson-Impeachment-Trials.jpg
Impeachment of Andrew Johnson.

In 1887, the Tenure of Office Act was repealed by Congress, and subsequent rulings by the United States Supreme Court seemed to support Johnson's position that he was entitled to fire Stanton without Congressional approval. The Supreme Court's ruling on a similar piece of later legislation in the 1926 Myers v. United States affirmed the ability of the president to remove a postmaster without Congressional approval, and stated in its majority opinion "that the Tenure of Office Act of 1867 ... was invalid". [46]

Lyman Trumbull of Illinois, one of the ten Republican Senators whose refusal to vote for conviction prevented Johnson's removal from office, noted, in the speech he gave explaining his vote for acquittal, that had Johnson been convicted, the main source of the President's political power—the freedom not to agree with the Congress without consequences—would have been destroyed, and the Constitution's system of checks and balances along with it: [47]

Once set the example of impeaching a President for what, when the excitement of the hour shall have subsided, will be regarded as insufficient causes, as several of those now alleged against the President were decided to be by the House of Representatives only a few months since, and no future President will be safe who happens to differ with a majority of the House and two thirds of the Senate on any measure deemed by them important, particularly if of a political character. Blinded by partisan zeal, with such an example before them, they will not scruple to remove out of the way any obstacle to the accomplishment of their purposes, and what then becomes of the checks and balances of the Constitution, so carefully devised and so vital to its perpetuity? They are all gone.

See also

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The Tenure of Office Act was a United States federal law that was intended to restrict the power of the President of the United States to remove certain office-holders without the approval of the Senate. The law was enacted on March 2, 1867, over the veto of United States President Andrew Johnson. It purported to deny the president the power to remove any executive officer who had been appointed by the president with the advice and consent of the Senate, unless the Senate approved the removal during the next full session of Congress. The act was significantly amended on April 5, 1869. Congress repealed the act in its entirety in 1887.

Samuel Chase American judge

Samuel Chase was an Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court and a signatory to the United States Declaration of Independence as a representative of Maryland. He was impeached by the House on grounds of letting his partisan leanings affect his court decisions but was acquitted by the Senate and remained in office.

The Radical Republicans were a faction of American politicians within the Republican Party of the United States from around 1854 until the end of Reconstruction in 1877. They called themselves "Radicals", with a goal of a complete, permanent eradication of slavery and secessionism, without compromise. They were opposed during the War by the moderate Republicans, by the conservative Republicans, and by the pro-slavery and anti-Reconstruction Democratic Party as well as by conservatives in the South and libtards in the North during Reconstruction. Radicals led efforts after the war to establish civil rights for former slaves and fully implement emancipation. After weaker measures in 1866 resulted in violence against former slaves in the rebel states, Radicals pushed the Fourteenth Amendment and statutory protections through Congress. They disfavored allowing ex-Confederates officers to retake political power in the South, and emphasized equality, civil rights and voting rights for the "freedpeople", i.e. people who had been enslaved by state slavery laws within the United States.

Benjamin Wade American politician

Benjamin Franklin "Bluff" Wade was an American politician who served as one of the two United States Senators from Ohio from 1851 to 1869. He is known for his leading role among the Radical Republicans. Had the 1868 impeachment of U.S. President Andrew Johnson led to a conviction in the Senate, as president pro tempore of the U.S. Senate, Wade would have become Acting President of the United States for the remaining months of Johnson's term.

Thaddeus Stevens American politician

Thaddeus Stevens was a member of the United States House of Representatives from Pennsylvania and one of the leaders of the Radical Republican faction of the Republican Party during the 1860s. A fierce opponent of slavery and discrimination against African-Americans, Stevens sought to secure their rights during Reconstruction, in opposition to U.S. President Andrew Johnson. As chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee during the American Civil War, he played a leading role, focusing his attention on defeating the Confederacy, financing the war with new taxes and borrowing, crushing the power of slave owners, ending slavery, and securing equal rights for the Freedmen.

Lot M. Morrill American politician

Lot Myrick Morrill was an American statesman who served as the 28th Governor of Maine, in the United States Senate and as Secretary of the Treasury appointed by President Ulysses S. Grant. Morrill was an accomplished politician serving several elected and appointed offices throughout his lifetime. Morrill, as Secretary of Treasury, was devoted to hard currency rather than paper money and dedicated himself to serve the public good rather than party interests. Morrill was popularly received as Treasury Secretary in the American press and Wall Street, known for his financial and political integrity. Morrill was President Grant's fourth and last U.S. Secretary of the Treasury.

William P. Fessenden American politician

William Pitt Fessenden was an American politician from the U.S. state of Maine. Fessenden was a Whig and member of the Fessenden political family. He served in the United States House of Representatives and Senate before becoming Secretary of the Treasury under President Abraham Lincoln during the American Civil War.

James W. Grimes American politician

James Wilson Grimes was an American politician, serving as the third Governor of Iowa and a United States Senator from Iowa.

Edmund G. Ross American politician

Edmund Gibson Ross was a politician who represented Kansas after the American Civil War and was later governor of the New Mexico Territory. His vote against convicting President Andrew Johnson of "high crimes and misdemeanors" allowed Johnson to stay in office by the margin of one vote. As the seventh of seven Republican U.S. Senators to break with his party, Ross proved to be the person whose decision would result in conviction or acquittal. When he chose the latter, the vote of 35–19 in favor of Johnson's conviction failed to reach the required two-thirds vote. Ross lost his bid for re-election two years later.

The charge of high crimes and misdemeanors covers allegations of misconduct by officials, such as perjury of oath, abuse of authority, bribery, intimidation, misuse of assets, failure to supervise, dereliction of duty, unbecoming conduct, refusal to obey a lawful order, chronic intoxication, and tax evasion. Offenses by officials also include ordinary crimes, but perhaps with different standards of proof and punishment than for nonofficials, on the grounds that more is expected of officials by their oaths of office.

Joseph S. Fowler American politician and senator

Joseph Smith Fowler was a United States Senator from Tennessee from 1866 to 1871.

Impeachment of Bill Clinton Presidential impeachment proceedings

The impeachment of Bill Clinton, the 42nd President of the United States, was initiated in December 1998 by the House of Representatives and led to a trial in the Senate on two charges, one of perjury and one of obstruction of justice. These charges stemmed from a sexual harassment lawsuit filed against Clinton by Paula Jones. Clinton was subsequently acquitted of these charges by the Senate on February 12, 1999. Two other impeachment articles – a second perjury charge and a charge of abuse of power – failed in the House.

George Vickers American politician

George Vickers, a Democrat, was a United States Senator from Maryland, serving from 1868 to 1873. He cast the deciding vote in the Senate that saved U.S. President Andrew Johnson from impeachment. Vickers also served in the Maryland State Senate.

Lyman Trumbull American judge

Lyman Trumbull was a United States Senator from Illinois and the co-author of the Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution.

40th United States Congress

The Fortieth United States Congress was a meeting of the legislative branch of the United States federal government, consisting of the United States Senate and the United States House of Representatives. It met in Washington, D.C. from March 4, 1867, to March 4, 1869, during the third and fourth years of Andrew Johnson's presidency. The apportionment of seats in the House of Representatives was based on the Eighth Census of the United States in 1860. Both chambers had a Republican majority.

Peter G. Van Winkle American politician

Peter Godwin Van Winkle was an American lawyer, businessman and politician. For many years a leading officer of the Northwestern Virginia Railroad, he became one of the founders of West Virginia and a United States Senator.

John B. Henderson American politician

John Brooks Henderson was a United States Senator from Missouri and a co-author of the Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution. For his role in the investigation of the Whiskey Ring, he was considered the first special prosecutor.

National Union Party (United States) political party

The National Union Party was the temporary name used by the Republican Party for the national ticket in the 1864 presidential election which was held during the Civil War. For the most part, state Republican parties did not change their name. The temporary name was used to attract War Democrats and border states, Unconditional Unionists and Unionist Party members who would not vote for the Republican Party. The party nominated incumbent President Abraham Lincoln and for Vice President Democrat Andrew Johnson, who were elected in an electoral landslide.


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Further reading