PRESIDENT ANDREW JOHNSON FACES ARTICLES OF IMPEACHMENT
Washington, D.C. (JFK+50) 149 years ago today, February 24, 1868, the United States House of Representatives voted in favor of eleven articles of impeachment* against President Andrew Johnson of Tennessee.
Representative John Covode** of Pennsylvania presented the resolution for impeachment which passed, strictly along party lines, by a vote of 126 to 47.
According to Time-Life, however, the resolution called for appointment of a committee to 'report articles of impeachment,' which..."ignored the constitutional impeachment procedure..." that requires a preliminary investigation to be followed by, "the drawing up of formal charges (if warranted)."
Nine of the eleven charges related to the President's violation of the Tenure of Office Act by the removal of Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton who, like many Republican members of Congress, opposed Andrew Johnson's reconstruction policies which they considered to be too lenient.
Andrew Johnson, the first President of the United States to be impeached, had first suspended the War Secretary in August 1867 at a time when the Congress was recessed. General Ulysses S. Grant was the temporary replacement.
The Senate restored Stanton after the Christmas break but the President then removed Stanton "outright," replacing him with General Lorenzo Thomas.
The Senate impeachment trial, held from March 13 to March 26, 1868, ended with Johnson's acquittal. He completed his term which began on the death of President Abraham Lincoln.
*Impeachment is the process by which an official is accused of unlawful activity, the outcome of which may include the removal of that official from office.
Article II, Section 4 of the U.S. Constitution states "The President, Vice-President & all civil officers of the United States shall be removed from office on impeachment for, and conviction of, treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors."
**John Covode (1808-1871) was born in West Fairfield, PA. He was the first president of Westmoreland Coal Company and served in the US Congress from 1855 to 1863 and 1867 to 1869. He strongly supported the Freedman's Bureau, the Civil Rights Act of 1866 and Congressional Reconstruction.
"The Nation Reunited: War's Aftermath," The Civil War Series, Time-Life Books, Alexandria, Virginia, 1987.
Honorable John Covode