The Impeachment of Andrew Johnson
»First Vetoes

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Harper's Weekly,
January 27, 1866, page 50

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A Long Step Forward
The order of General Grant, defining the military authority of the United States in the late rebellious States, should reassure our friends who fear that the Government is too ready to imperil the public peace by delivering the whole authority of those States unconditionally into the hands of a class which can not be expected to use it in good faith.

The General’s reply to the request of Governor Parsons, of Alabama, that the national forces should be withdrawn and the local militia armed, is also significant and sensible. It is as follows:

"For the present, and until there is full security for equitably maintaining the right and safety of all classes of citizens in the States lately in rebellion, I would not recommend the withdrawal of the United States troops from them. The number of interior garrisons might be reduced, but a movable force sufficient to insure tranquility should be retained. While such a force is retained in the South, I doubt the propriety of putting arms in the hands of the militia."

The bill of Senator Trumbull’s continuing the Freedmen’s Bureau and extending its operations to every part of the country in which freedmen are to be found in large numbers, is the complement of these military orders. It will undoubtedly be approved by the President and become a law.  This is another of the plain signs that neither the President nor Congress wish to make haste unwisely, and should certainly tend to temper the acrimony of debate upon the general subject.

Senator Trumbull’s bill recognizes two vital and fundamental truths of the situation. First, that the National Government means to protect and secure the personal liberty which it has conferred; and second, that it is essential the freedmen should become landholders. Without that provision every other device will be futile.

At this moment, it should be remembered, the freedmen, excepting those settled upon the sea islands by General Sherman, and whose freehold Mr. Trumbull’s bill confirms, are without land and without the means of buying it. They are helpless in the midst of a population which is generally hostile to them, and they have no chance of livelihood except from the landowners who may choose to employ them. Any landholder may say to them: "You are free to go. I do not wish to employ you. Get off my land." That all will not and do not say this, is true. But vast numbers do. And the laborer has no remedy. He must "move on," and beg, steal, or starve. The tragedy of his situation can hardly be exaggerated; and although the feeling against him may mellow with the lapse of time, and although the necessities of the case will gradually persuade the landholders not to quarrel with their bread and butter, yet meanwhile, under these winter skies, and among those wintry hearts, the suffering of the freedmen is terrible and incalculable, and the duty of the country is plain and imperative.

The freedmen are placed by General Grant’s timely order under the protection of the military power. But that power can not feed them, nor house them, nor enable them to work and be paid for working. Mr. Trumbull’s bill authorizes the President to reserve for them 3,000,000 acres of good, unoccupied land in Florida, Arkansas, and Mississippi. Each laborer or family is to have forty acres at a rent agreed upon by the Commissioner and the freedmen. Afterward the tenants may buy the land at a price to be named by the Commissioner and approved by the President. Meanwhile the pauper freedmen are to be provided with such lands as the United States may buy in any district, and necessary schools and asylums are to be built upon them; while as the paupers become productive laborers the land may be sold to them under fair conditions.

The necessity of immediate and decisive action upon the subject is urgent. Give the freedmen land from which they can not be expelled; protect their rights against all aggressors by the national power; and Time, the great mediator and educator, will gradually show the present class landholders in the late rebel States that their interest is one with that of their late slaves, now become citizens; while the occupancy of land, the laws of labor, and the education for which the freedmen are so anxious and so ripe will develop the self-respecting and independent manhood which will fit them for the political power which can not long be withheld.

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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