Johnson's Impeachment

Andrew Johnson was Abraham Lincoln’s Vice President at the time of the president’s shooting and thus took office to succeed the departed commander in chief in April of 1865. Johnson, a Democrat, had been chosen by Lincoln to show solidarity within the Union and steadfast unity in the preservation of politics in the United States. However, stark and contrasting differences obviously existed between Lincoln and Johnson. As the Radical wing of the Republican Party began to push for more powerful pieces of Reconstruction legislation that would radicalize and upend Southern society - economically, socially and politically - Johnson bucked these efforts and refused to cooperate despite hopes that he might embrace stronger Reconstruction measures that Lincoln had shied away from. He opposed the 14th Amendment, and blocked other measures extending civil rights and economic opportunities to recently emancipated freedmen. His seeming openness and embracing forgiveness towards former Confederate generals further complicated his relationship with Congress and the Radicals in particular and culminated with his firing of a Radical Republican serving as Secretary of War. This firing came after the Congress had passed the Tenure of Office Act which barred the president from firing any cabinet member without the consent of the Senate. Johnson had vetoed the legislation but his veto was overridden by the determined Congress. Thus, when Johnson fired the official anyway and appointed Ulysses S. Grant to replace him, Congress was outraged and had had enough of Johnson’s tomfoolery. Three days later, they would impeach him. While the House overwhelming approved the indictment of Johnson for his “high crimes and misdemeanors” by a vote of 126-47, the Constitution requires the trial be moved to the Senate while being administered by the Chief Justice of the United States. After several days of trial under the administration of Salmon P. Chase, the Senate took their vote. Mandated by the Constitution, a ⅔ vote is required to convict the president and remove him from office; this would translate to 36 votes. The Senate vote was 35-19. Johnson was not convicted, but he would only remain in office for his one term. Radicals’ efforts to pass substantial and reforming legislation would fall short of their goal and momentum for Reconstruction would slow down as years began to accumulate after the Civil War.