The Impeachment of Andrew Johnson
»Initial Impeachment Discussions

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Harper's Weekly,
October 27, 1866, page 674

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The President has for some months declared plainly that, in his judgment, Congress is not a constitutional body; and the air has been full of rumors and surmises as to his probable action upon the meeting of Congress. Indeed, the late story in the Philadelphia Ledger, although immediately confessed to be false, was not so improbable but that the public mind was at once directed more earnestly to the actual situation. Nor ought that attention to be relaxed. This not a time in which any good is to be gained by refusing to consider every possibility.

The case will bear to be constantly stated. The President differs with Congress as to the conditions of restoration which ought to be imposed upon the late rebel States. He speaks of their "exclusion," and of their "right" to be represented, and of the "usurpation" of Congress in requiring conditions, but it is nevertheless true that he himself united in such exclusion; that he denied their "right" to representation by exhorting them to form governments which should be satisfactory to Congress; and that he imposed certain terms satisfactory to himself. The theory now adopted by him is utterly subversive of the Government and of a harmonious Union, for it allows any State to make war upon the Union, and at any moment, by laying down its arms, to resume all its relations within it without any guarantee whatever of future security.

That such is not the theory of the people who have maintained the Government during the war is made perfectly clear by the autumn elections, and nothing is plainer than that they will not submit to its practical enforcement. If the President should undertake to withstand their resolution, he could succeed only by totally overpowering them, and surrendering the Government to its most envenomed enemies and the Union to the care of those who hate it. His success would, of course, be the present end of the American Union, and the discomfiture of the principle of popular government. But as his chief reliance in the struggle would be upon the late rebels, it would be for him and his friends to remember that his opponents would be the mass of the lately victorious people of the loyal States together with all the Union men of the South of every color.

Every patriotic and thoughtful man is naturally unwilling to believe that so grievous a contest is possible; but with a man like the President everything is possible. No fear of being an alarmist should prevent every man from looking steadfastly at the facts, or from considering the drift of the situation. The President has not ceased to vituperate Congress as an illegal body. The difference between them has been presented to the people, and they have declared every where for Congress. That is not a result which is likely to pacify such a man as the President. He knows that he is openly threatened with impeachment. Mr. Boutwell, at a meeting in Faneuil Hall in Boston, announced that he should move in Congress an inquiry looking to impeachment. Mr. Loring, in supporting the nomination of General Butler, says that he is pledged to the same course. Is it probable that the President will meet Congress and send in his Message as if nothing had happened? If he be persuaded that he is likely to be impeached, is it not possible that he might endeavor to gain the advantage in advance over the impeaching body?

These are questions that can not fail to suggest themselves to every man.

But we hope sincerely that the President may not only hear but fully understand the result of the elections. He has constantly asserted his faith in the people, and certainly he has now heard from the people. But as the spiritual medium always insists when the experiment fails that the conditions are not favorable, so the President may contend that "the people" means the whole voting population of the country at the South as well as at the North. If, however, he plants himself upon that ground, he should remember that even then the majority of an entire Congress must be held to indicate the popular will, and that that has decided against him.

Since it has so decided, the President may now wisely and properly say and do what he did when the Civil Rights Bill was passed over his veto. He may declare that he differs, but at the same time he may submit to the superior will. It is well for us all to anticipate that action upon his part, without losing sight of the possibilities of which we have spoken. That is the plain way of peace, and his own satisfaction in walking in it would be beyond his most ambitious dreams. Should he acquiesce in the popular decision, public opinion would forbid Mr. Boutwell and General Butler from fulfilling their pledge.

Articles Related to the Initial Impeachment Discussions:
The President Judged by Himself

August 25, 1866, page 530

Reconstruction and How it Works (cartoon)
September 1, 1866, pages 552-553

Which Is The More Illegal (cartoon)
September 8, 1866, page 569

The New Orleans Report
October 20, 1866, page 658

The New Orleans Massacre
IMarch 30, 1867, page 202

Text from Illustration of Andy’s Trip

October 27, 1866, pages 680-681

The Great Campaign of ’66
September 29, 1866, page 610

What Next?
October 27, 1866, page 674

King Andy (cartoon)
November 3, 1866 page 696

Shall the President be Impeached?
November 3, 1866, page 690

The Popular Will
November 24, 1866, page 738

Andy Makes a Call on Uncle Sam, Who Rises to the Occasion (cartoon)
December 1, 1866, page 768

Impeachment and General Butler
December 15, 1866, page 786

December 22, 1866, page 803

What Next?
December 29, 1866, page 818


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