PRESIDENT ANDREW JOHNSON'S IMPEACHMENT TRIAL BEGINS
Washington, D.C. (JFK+50) One hundred forty-eight years ago today, March 13, 1868, Andrew Johnson, 17th President of the United States, accused of the violation of the Tenure of Office Act, went on trial in the Senate of the United States. The trial proceedings had begun on March 5th with the organization of committees to represent the prosecution and defense.
Johnson, the first president to be impeached or "charged with high crimes and misdemeanors", was sworn into office on the death of Abraham Lincoln on April 15, 1865.
Since becoming president, Mr. Johnson had been the target of radical Republicans who believed his reconstruction policies, like Lincoln's, were too lenient on the South. By the end of 1865, Radicals were in the majority in Congress and passed the Civil Rights Act granting native born blacks the right to testify in court, to sue, and to buy property.
President Johnson responded by vetoing the act on the grounds of states rights, but Congress overrode the veto by a single vote. The President labeled the Radicals of his own party "factious, domineering and tyrannical."
Chief Justice Salmon P. Chase presided over the trial which required, by the United States Constitution, a two-thirds guilty vote for removal from office. Andrew Johnson's detractors thought Chase believed impeachment to be unwise and felt his rulings on the admissibility of evidence, as well as procedural questions, to be more helpful to the defense.
In the opening session, the President's attorneys requested a 40 day period to prepare a defense. The Chief Justice ruled they would have 10 days to prepare.
The trial would resume on March 23.
"Impeachment Trial of Andrew Johnson," American History from Revolution to Reconstruction and Beyond," www.let.rug.nl/
"Presidential Impeachment Proceedings," www.historyplace.com/
"The Trial of Andrew Johnson, 1868," Eyewitness to History, www.eyewitnesstohistory.com/