The Impeachment of Andrew Johnson
»First Vetoes

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January - July 1866

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by John Adler, Publisher

The struggle between the President and Congress over the substance and control of Reconstruction policy was exemplified by Johnson’s veto of the Freedmen’s Bureau Bill in February.

This tension was heightened by the President’s pointed speech on Washington’s Birthday in which he denounced two leading Radicals, Senator Charles Sumner and Representative Thaddeus Stevens. Both men became early and persistent advocates of Johnson’s impeachment.

The situation grew worse when Johnson vetoed the Civil Rights Bill in April. Both the Freedmen’s Bureau Bill and the Civil Rights Bill were passed over Johnson’s veto.

In May and June 1866, the Reconstruction Committee submitted its report to Congress. Johnson opposed the proposed measures, and Harper’s Weekly discussed the Executive-Congressional split, as well as its own view of the Congressional plan.

Three members of President Johnson’s Cabinet - Attorney General James Speed, Interior Secretary James Harlan and Postmaster General William Dennison - resigned in July because they disagreed with Johnson’s policies. Four members of Johnson’s original cabinet (appointed by President Lincoln) remained by August 1866. Three of them supported Johnson’s policies - Secretary of State William H. Seward, Secretary of the Navy Gideon Welles and Secretary of the Treasury Hugh McCulloch - and one key member, Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton, opposed them. Stanton’s opposition played a key role in Johnson’s impeachment.

Articles Relating to Johnson's First Vetoes:
A Long Step Forward
January 27, 1866, page 50

February 10, 1866, page 83

Education of the Freedmen
February 10, 1866, page 83

The Veto Message
March 3, 1866, page 130

The Freedmen’s Bureau
March 10, 1866, page 146

The President’s Speech
March 10, 1866, page 147

The Political Situation
April 14, 1866, page 226

The Civil Rights Bill
April 14, 1866, page 226

The Civil Rights Bill
April 21, 1866, page 243

The Congressional Plan of Reorganization
May 12, 1866, page 290

The Trial of the Government
May 26, 1866, page 322

Making Treason Odious
June 2, 1866, page 338

The Final Report of the Reconstruction Committee
June 23, 1866, page 387

The Report of the Congressional Committee
June 23, 1866, page 386

The Case Stated
August 4, 1866, page 482


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