The Impeachment of Andrew Johnson
»First Vetoes

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Harper's Weekly,
March 3, 1866, page 130

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The Veto Message
The Senate did wisely in adjourning after the Veto Message was read. Legislation under such excitement is not likely to be dignified or sagacious. That the Message was a sore disappointment to the truest friends of the President can not be denied. Their regret may be measured by the rejoicing of those who would fain use him for their own purposes. Whether those friends are to be found among those who most earnestly advocated his election, or those who most strenuously opposed it, whether those who were in bloody rebellion at the South, and those who heartily supported them at the North are really the wisest advisers upon the great problem of reorganization, are questions which time will adequately answer.

Of the President’s sincerity there is no doubt. That he honestly wishes, as he says, to secure to the Freedmen the full enjoyment of their liberty we fully believe. But he seems to us not entirely master of his own positions. Thus he acknowledges the usefulness of the Freedmen’s Bureau as established by the act of last March. But he regards it as a war measure, and war having ceased, he is of opinion that the matter should be left to the States. Yet, if war has ceased, why does he support General Terry’s military order reversing the action of the Virginia Legislature? So the President says that in his judgment the late rebel States "have been fully restored, and are to be deemed to be entitled to enjoy their constitutional rights as members of the Union." Yet if this be so, why in his late proclamation restoring the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus did he except the late rebel States? The Constitution defines the conditions under which the right of suspending the privilege may be exercised. It is only when in case of rebellion or invasion the public safety may require it. Yet he expressly exhorts us in the Message not to suppose that the United States are in a condition of civil war.

The Freedmen’s Bureau is exceptional, but it is so only because the condition of the country is exceptional. All the President’s acts in initiating the reorganization of the late rebel States were exceptional. But the question of the hour is very simple in itself, however difficult it may be to answer. How can the United States most surely and judiciously and temperately secure the fruit of the victory they have won? Having given liberty to millions of slaves, how can the authority that conferred it maintain its perpetuity? To suppose that a coerced adoption of the Emancipation Amendment, without any specific method of enforcing it, will produce this result is as idle as to imagine that a declaratory resolution would effect it. The Constitution itself contains a guarantee of free speech for every citizen, but it did not secure it in half the country. Why should we expect of an amendment a virtue which does no inhere in the original instrument? The President says that a system for the support of indigent persons was never contemplated by the authors of the Constitution. Certainly not, and this bill is no more such a system than an appropriation for military hospitals would be. It is a simple necessity of the situation. Shall these homeless, landless, forlorn persons be left to the mercies of those who despise and hate them, or shall the United States say, "We cut the bonds that bound you to the ground, and we will protect you while you are struggling to get upon your feet?"

If the President believes that the word of the nation sacredly pledged to the freedmen will be kept by the black codes of South Carolina and Mississippi, his faith would remove mountains. And if he proposes to abandon the freedmen to civil authorities created exclusively by those who think that the colored race should be eternally enslaved, who deny the constitutionality of emancipation, and who have now a peculiarly envenomed hostility to the whole class, we can only pray God that the result may be what we have no doubt he honestly wishes it to be. We believe that he is faithful to what he conceives to be the best interest of the whole country. And while upon this question we wholly differ from him, we differ with no aspersion or suspicion.

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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