The Impeachment of Andrew Johnson
ĽOvert Obstruction of Congress

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Editorial
Harper's Weekly, September 28, 1867, page 610

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THE PRESIDENT’S INTENTIONS
The conduct of the President justifies the alarm which we have expressed. He means mischief, and he will be restrained only by his fears. A man in his position, who simultaneously defies his opponents and surrounds himself with those who are known to be his devoted adherents, is a man who intends to resist. His word, even if he gave it, could not be trusted. The law does not restrain him, for he denies the authority which makes it. The real situation at present is that the President asserts his will against the will of the people in Congress, and will probably try forcible conclusions with them.

The steps are easily seen. Congress passes a reconstruction law. It is full of holes, and the Attorney-General drives a six-columned opinion through it. Congress reassembles, and, although it has had the fullest experience of the treachery of the President and of its own inaccuracy, mends its law and then ties up its own hands for four months, as if there could be no defect in its supplementary law and the President were now to be the most long-suffering of saints. The moment Congress is gone and safely out of the way for the third of a year, the President and his accomplices discover the weakness of the law. This once plainly seen, the President acts. The Secretary of War is suspended. The Department General dearest to the people is removed and sent to fight the Indians. A proclamation, enjoining obedience to the civil authority, follow, and then comes the amnesty. The civil authority proclamation was incomplete without the amnesty. The amnesty is pointless without a farther measure.

This measure, of course, is the reopening of the registry for all the amnestied class. The amnestied persons indeed can be registered only in direct contravention of the act of Congress. But what is easier than for a Commander to look at the amnesty, and at the proclamation, and to say that he can exclude from the registry those who are eligible? The President will have done nothing about it. The Commander will simply have exercised the discretion which General Grant advised General Sheridan to use. The State Convention will be held, the constitution framed, and Congress will decline to receive it. The President will insist, and upon the persistence of Congress will in turn decline to recognize that body.

Or, again, suppose the President directs the reopening of the registries, and the admission of those whom his amnesty restores. That would be a violation of the law of Congress. The President would be at once impeached and removed. But he knows that as well as any one, and, if he issued an order to reopen the lists, the conclusion would be inevitable either that he did not mean to permit Congress to meet at the Capitol to impeach him, or that he meant to resist the process. If he means nothing at all, why does he invite impeachment? If he invites impeachment, is it merely that he may be removed from office?

In what precise way actual violence might arise it is, however, idle to wonder. The point is to see that violence is, under the circumstances, highly probable, and that the country should be prepared for it. The time finds the President desperate and surrounded with evil counselors. The elections are interpreted in favor of his hostility to Congress. The Democrats carry California; the Republican vote is reduced in Maine; a Republican delegate to Congress is defeated in Montana. "It is approval of your policy," shouts the chorus to the President. And if equal suffrage should be defeated in Ohio; if the Copperhead candidate should be elected in Pennsylvania; if New York should falter at the polls, and even in Massachusetts the issue of prohibition should confuse our ranks—the same chorus would shout to the President that the people had repented, and that any extreme action upon his part would be supported by them.

Meanwhile we have no more doubt that the loyal people of the United States intend to secure the results of the war than we have that they fought it unconditionally to the end. The President will no more balk them than Beauregard’s shot at Sumter balked them, or the Democratic shout for surrender at Chicago discouraged them. Let us only fully understand the situation. Let us see that the President deliberately defies Congress, and assumes to make his arbitrary will, which he calls the Constitution, the government of the country, and he will learn, as he did a year ago, what the people really think and feel. It is useless, therefore, to suppose that he "would hardly dare" to go so far. He will dare any thing if his courage is sustained, and that is sustained by Democratic successes. The Democratic Party despises him, but it gladly uses him. Its revenge upon him for his vehement Unionism during the war is to try to make him the instrument to restore the spirit of the rebellion to power. The way to peace is now what it has been since the open rebellion of the slave power against the Government, and that is the total defeat of the party which cherishes the traditions of that power. And if peace has been for two years delayed it is only because the treachery of the Executive has constantly stimulated the hopes of that party. Had the President been faithful to the principle which elected him that principle would have reorganized the Union. He may still further delay, but he can not defeat, its final triumph.

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Thanks to the District Commanders
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Southern Reconstruction
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The Main Question
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Suspension during Impeachment
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"Disregarding" The Law
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Impeachment
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General Grant’s Testimony
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The President’s Message
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General Grant’s Letter
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Secretary Stanton’s Restoration
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Reconstruction Measures
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Romeo (Seward) to Mercutio (Johnson) (cartoon)
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