The Impeachment of Andrew Johnson
»Early Presidency

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Harper's Weekly,
December 9, 1865, page 771

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The President's Fidelity
Those of the friends of the President who have feared that he would imperil the advantages won by the war by a fatal leniency, or still worse, by joining a party which has been utterly repudiated by the people of the country, have allowed their fears to obscure their perceptions. Whatever the President has said has been full of a determination that the rights of freedom which the war has conferred upon a certain class of the Southern population, and the class which is most friendly to the Government, shall be maintained. He expresses himself in his own way, but he never varies the strain.

Thus, to the Governors and Legislatures and Committees of the unorganized States he has constantly said: "Certain things are essential. The emancipation amendment and equality before the law are among them. Farther I say nothing. My action will depend upon events." To Mr. Stearns he said that, as a citizen of Tennessee, he should be in favor of negro suffrage there under certain conditions. But he said nothing better than what General Fiske reported in his speech in Brooklyn. The General went to the White House to offer his resignation. The President said to him:

"People say sometimes I was born South, and I will not treat the negro as a freeman; but I mean and desire to carry out the views of the great and good Abraham Lincoln, and to see that these people have a guarantee of their freedom. I may not believe with you in their ultimate attainments, but I mean they shall have a fair chance. (Cheers) I wish the people of the North knew what I had to stand between. Daily I receive telegrams and letters from all parts of the South of dreadful import. If they could but see the difficulties of my position they would pity me and give me their prayers." This he said with tears in his eyes; and I asked him if the Freedmen’s Bureau was to be discontinued – my resignation being already in his hands – and he said to me, "Go back; go to your work, and see justice done to both white and black. The Freedmen’s Bureau will only cease to exist when the Southern States are resolved to deal honestly and justly by these freedmen." (Applause) And I came away from his presence with more of faith and hope in Andrew Johnson than I have ever had.

It is apparently forgotten that during the war Andrew Johnson was at the front. He saw with his own eyes the terrible details of the struggle. He measured the spirit of rebellion. He knew the conduct of rebels, and he knew also that of the slaves. He proved the quality of their fidelity as every other Union soldier proved it. It was Andrew Johnson who walked before the seats of Mason, Slidell, and the other conspirators in the Senate, and shook his finger in their faces, denouncing men who should do what they intended to do as traitors whom, had he the power, he would hang. It was Andrew Johnson who told the colored men of Tennessee that he would be their Moses.

Such a man is not easily seduced. The blandishments of his enemies are not likely to dazzle a man who has looked behind the servile manner and the smiling mask. No man knows better than he that the party which sought to use him, and monopolize the reputation of regard for him and support of his policy, in order to carry an election, and which disastrously failed, is a party which never relents or forgives. It would no more adopt him as a candidate than it did Tyler or Fillmore. The future of Andrew Johnson is linked with that vast body of loyal men who were the war party while the war lasted, and who intend, now that it is over, to plant peace upon justice, and cement the Union by liberty.

Articles related to Johnson's Early Presidency:
President Johnson’s Amnesty Proclamation
June 10, 1865, page 355

Pardon-Seekers at the White House
October 14, 1865, page 641

General Logan upon Reorganization
September 20, 1865, page 611

The President’s Experiment
September 30, 1865, page 610

Moses and John Tyler
October 7, 1865, page 627

The President’s Fidelity
December 9, 1865, page 771

The President’s "Friends"
November 4, 1865, page 691

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