The Impeachment of Andrew Johnson
»First Vetoes

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Harper's Weekly,
March 10, 1866, page 146

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The Freedmen's Bureau
In our remarks last week upon the Veto Message we assumed from the President’s remarks that he proposed to leave the freedmen to the care of the States in which they live. We did so because he spoke of some of those States as in his opinion entitled to resume their normal relations with the Union, and consequently to the right of caring for all their people. He spoke of the present Freedmen’s Bureau as still existing; but as that is to expire a year after the end of the war, and as he told us war was now ended, it was fair to assume that the present arrangement would end by the first of May. Moreover, he did not say that he approved such a Bureau, and by insisting that the freedmen were not so forlorn as has been represented, and might emigrate if they were dissatisfied or appeal to the courts, he very plainly intimated, as we inferred, that their rights were not to be defended by the United States. We therefore said nothing of his objections to the particular bill presented to him, but simply expressed our profound sorrow that, in his judgment, the emancipated slaves ought to be abandoned homeless, houseless, landless, and at an inconceivable disadvantage to those who are peculiarly hostile to them.

Kicking Freedmen's Bureau

April 5, 1866 – by Thomas Nast

HarpWeek Commentary: On April 14, 1866, Thomas Nast drew a cartoon of "The Grand Masquerade Ball" featuring large sketches of many of the celebrities of the day. Andrew Johnson is pictured kicking out the Freedmen’s Bureau with his veto, with scattered black people coming out of it.

That our view was not singular was proved by the universal excitement that followed the Message. The party of hostility to human rights, the "Democracy," whose sole article of faith is contempt of negroes, fired their loudest guns at the pleasing prospect that the loyal people of South Carolina who had fought for the Union were now to be turned over to the revengeful hands of those who had fought against it. The extreme opponents of this party, true friends of the people and of equal rights also generally hung their heads in speechless sorrow and amazement. But the Evening Post, which is edited by men as faithful to justice and equal rights as man can be; Henry Ward Beecher, whose tongue flames and sparkles against the enemies of man; and many a private citizen not less constant in the good faith, openly asserted that they did not understand the President to be opposed to any bill, but only to the present one, and for reasons which were in some points very weighty. But such was the doubt of the President’s position arising from the want of precision of statement, and from the mixed discussions of his Message, that it was immediately announced that the Secretary of State would come to New York and speak upon the subject. Under such circumstances a speech could only be an explanation, and we waited patiently the Secretary’s coming.

Mr. Seward’s reception was deserved. It was a tumult of enthusiasm. Every man in the audience remembered his services and his sufferings, and forgot every thing else. The important part of his speech was this plain declaration:

"Both the President and Congress agree that during the brief transition which the country is making from civil war to internal peace the freedmen and refugees ought not to be abandoned by the nation to persecution or suffering. It was for this transition period that the Bureau of Freedmen was created by Congress, and was kept and is still kept in effective operation. Both the President and Congress, on the other hand, agree that when that transition period shall have been fully passed, and the harmonious relations between the States and the Union fully restored, that bureau would be not only unnecessary, but unconstitutional, demoralizing, and dangerous, and therefore that it should cease to exist."

He added that the President thought the transition period was nearly passed, and that the original provision is sufficient for the end desired. That provision is for a year after the end of the war; but the war does not end, he said, until a proclamation is issued by the Government; and if, as the year closes, it is found necessary to continue the provision, it is for Congress to continue it. Mr. Seward confirmed our view that in the President’s judgment the war of the rebellion is "not yet fully closed."

General Howard was equally uncertain of the President’s meaning, and asked an explanation. The General subsequently issued a letter to the agents of the present bureau informing them that the President regards the law as continuing "at least a year from this time;" and Senator Wilson, who has wisely maintained pleasant relations with the President, has introduce a bill extending the operations of the present bill for two years.

We are sincerely glad that this is the truth. The national disgrace of an abandonment of the freedmen in their present condition to those who lately held them as slaves would be overwhelming. They are our wards, and we have no moral right to relinquish their hands until we leave them as fully secure in every civil right as every other citizen. Upon this point there is no difference of opinion among Union men. It is the "Democracy" only which would abandon them. The President, in his conversation with Governor Cox, of Ohio, speaks of his resolution to see justice done with a distinctness which we should have been glad to find in his Message. The case in unprecedented, and we must treat it accordingly.

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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