The Impeachment of Andrew Johnson
»Impeachment, Trial, and Acquittal

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Harper's Weekly,
March 21,1868, page 179

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The House of Representatives did not strengthen in public opinion the indictment against the President by adopting the article offered by General Butler, and reciting the indecencies of speech of which the President was guilty during his disgraceful tour to the grave of Douglas. It is unspeakably shameful and humiliating that a President of the United States should be so far lost to all sense of common propriety as to denounce Senators and Representatives by name, to declare that Congress was an unconstitutional body hanging upon the verge of the Government, and to ask whether if he were Judas Iscariot Mr. Sumner were his Christ. These are indecencies so revolting that they seem incredible. They are a disgrace deeper than has ever befallen the Presidential office; and it is common charity to suppose them to have been the result of mingled intoxication and rage. Indeed, could habitual intoxication be proved against the President, it would be ample reason for his impeachment and removal.

But this is not proposed. These remarks are charged as a high misdemeanor, but are they of a kind for which a President should be impeached? We think not. Ribaldry, if the result of ill-temper, is shameful; and if the consequence of habitual drunkenness, as we said, the offender should be removed for the drunkenness. Congress has hitherto acted with great good-sense in the matter. While Mr. Johnson as a stump-orator denounced it as an illegal body, but continued as President to recognize its authority, it merely shared the profound humiliation of all good citizens. But when he proceeded not only to denounce it, but to treat it as an illegal body, by defiantly violating the law, Congress instantly impeached him. It does not strengthen the charge against him of violating the law to urge that he said that Congress had no right to pass laws.

The managers have the right of dropping any article, and we hope that they will see the propriety of dropping one which is not substantial, and which may tend seriously to prolong the trial. If a deliberate, intentional violation of the law is proved, when no public emergency exists and no immediate essential purpose can be pleaded which would not brook delay, it is not necessary to show such violation to be part of a conspiracy to defeat the law. An executive officer who violates his oath to see that the laws are faithfully administered, even if his excuse be plausible, is not an officer who can be wisely trusted with the execution of laws. But if every significant action of a long career reveals bad faith, the important point to prove, in the simplest and speediest manner, is the violation of law. It was the universal expectation and wish that this should be the method with the President, and we trust it will yet be adopted.

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