The Impeachment of Andrew Johnson
»First Vetoes

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Harper's Weekly,
June 23, 1866, page 386

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The Report of the Congressional Committee
The Report of the Congressional Committee upon Reconstruction is so able and conclusive that we wish it might be universally read. It is the Constitution and common sense applied to the situation; and after the passionate and pettifogging spirit in which Reconstruction, the most important of all our present questions, has been so often discussed its tone is manly and dignified. There is nothing exactly new in the arguments of the Committee, but the Report is an unanswerable statement of the conclusions to which the common sense of the loyal part of the country had arrived, and upon which, as we believe, it now reposes.

Those conclusions are in brief that the rebellious States were left, at the close of the war, without other valid government than the military authority of the United States, directed by the President as Commander-in-chief; that the civil government of those States could become valid only upon recognition by Congress, and that the resumption by those States of their relations in the Union can occur only upon such conditions as Congress may prescribe. The folly of the assumption of Alexander H. Stephens and the late allies of the rebellion, that the moment a rebel State was forced by arms to surrender it regained untouched and without condition every right and privilege it had enjoyed as a part of the Union is conclusively exposed by the Committee. "To admit such a principle for one moment would be to declare that treason is always master and loyalty a blunder. Such a principle is void by its very nature and essence, because inconsistent with the theory of government and fatal to its very existence.

To know the condition of the late rebel States it was necessary either to take the opinion of the President solely, or to sift the evidence upon which that opinion was founded and enlarge the range of testimony. This latter course was adopted, and the impression left upon the Committee is again that of the great mass of Union men in the country. The condition of the States in question is precisely what was to be expected. It is a feeling of intense regret that the struggle could not be prolonged, and of bitter hostility toward the Government. But while this is natural to any party defeated in so fierce a contest, the Committee find that it is peculiarly strong in the States in question. "The conciliatory measures of the Government do not seem to have been met even half-way. The bitterness and defiance exhibited toward the United States under such circumstances is without a parallel in the history of the world." It is remarkable that Mr. Seward in his Auburn speech states that situation exactly the other way. "The work of reconciliation," he says, "has outrun expectation. Indeed, it has never had a parallel in human affairs." We presume that the private conviction of most of us, based upon all the various public and private evidence of the year, will confirm the Committee’s judgment rather than Mr. Seward’s.

After the most careful consideration upon ample evidence the Committee believe that adequate security should be required for future peace and safety, and they suggest, as the result of mutual concession, the amendment determining civil rights, equalizing representation, disqualifying certain persons for office under certain conditions, and disowning the rebel debt. This amendment has been already adopted by the Senate in a moderate and generous form, and will undoubtedly be approved by the House. As there is nothing in it which is not strictly in consonance with the views which the President has often expressed, we hope that for the sake of harmony he will not oppose it. If, however, a bill should be offered for his signature, postponing the admission of any late rebel State to Congress until the amendment had become a part of the Constitution and had been ratified by the State, he would undoubtedly veto it. It seems to us, for many good reasons, advisable that each suspended State should be restored upon its individual acceptance of the condition, and we hope that such may be the final judgment of Congress.

Thus this most important Committee concludes its labors, and concludes them worthily. It has been fiercely derided and insulted by the most malignant enemies of the Union and Government at the North and South; and even the President’s impatience has betrayed him into vituperation of it. But we challenge any caviler to produce from history an instance of a settlement by a victorious government so honorable, so reasonable, so free from vengeance, so tenacious of the spirit of a truly free government. There is no lately rebellious citizen of the United States who "acquiesces" honestly in the situation who can declare it ungenerous or unjust, while every faithful citizen will heartily commend it as the true popular platform. The substance of the Report is sure to be filtered through editorials and speeches, so that it will become familiar to the country. But Union clubs and committees could do no better service to the good cause than to multiply legible copies of it.

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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