The Impeachment of Andrew Johnson
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Harper's Weekly, June 6, 1868, page 354

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Whoever has read the opinions of Senators Fessenden, Grimes, and Trumbull, however he may regret the conclusions to which they come, will not deny the ability, dignity, and candor with which their views are stated. They all knew the storm of obloquy that was sure to follow their action, but they leave no doubt that, however they may differ with many of their party friends upon the particular point involved in the Impeachment, they are still in hearty sympathy with the great purposes of the party.

Senator Grimes said:

"Mr. Johnson’s character as statesman, his relations to political parties, his conduct as a citizen, his efforts at reconstruction, the exercise of his pardoning power, the character of his appointments, and the influences under which they were made, are not before us on any charges, and are not impugned by any testimony. Nor can I suffer my judgment of the law governing this case to be influenced by political considerations. I can not agree to destroy the harmonious working of the Constitution for the sake of getting rid of an unacceptable President. Whatever may be my opinion of the incumbent, I can not consent to trifle with the high office he holds. I can do nothing which, by implication, may be construed into an approval of impeachment as a part of future political machinery. However widely, therefore, I may and do differ with the President respecting his political views and measure, and however deeply I have regretted, and do regret the differences between himself and the Congress of the United States, I am not able to record my vote that he is guilty of high crimes and misdemeanors by reason of those differences. I am acting in a judicial capacity, under conditions whose binding obligation can hardly be exceeded, and I must act according to the best of my ability and judgment, and as they require. If, according to their dictates, the President is guilty, I must say so; if, according to their dictates, the President is not guilty, I must say so."

Senator Fessenden said:

"The people have not heard the evidence as we have heard it. The responsibility is not upon them, but upon us. They have not taken an oath to do impartial justice according to the Constitution and the laws. I have taken that oath; I can not render judgment upon their conviction, nor can they transfer to themselves my punishment if I violate my oath. I should consider myself undeserving of the confidence that the just and intelligent people imposed upon me in this great responsibility, and unworthy a place among honorable men, if, for any fear of public reprobation, and for the sake of securing popular favor, I should disregard the conviction of my judgment and my conscience. The consequences which may follow, either from conviction or acquittal, are not for me, with my convictions, to consider. The future is in the hands of Him who made and governs the universe, and the fear that He will not govern it wisely and well would not excuse me for a violation of His law."

Senator Trumbull said:

"In coming to the conclusion that the President is not guilty of any of the high crimes and misdemeanors with which he stands charged, I have endeavored to be governed by the case made without reference to other acts of his not contained in the record, and without giving the least heed to the clamor of intemperate zealots who demand the conviction of Andrew Johnson as a test of party faith, or seek to identify with and make responsible for his acts those who from convictions of duty feel compelled on the case made to vote for his acquittal. His speeches and the general course of his administration have been as distasteful to me as to any one, and I should consider it the great calamity of the age if the disloyal element, so often encouraged by his measures, should gain political ascendancy. If the question was, is Andrew Johnson a fit person for President? I should answer no; but it is not a party question, nor upon Andrew Johnson’s deeds and acts, except so far as they are made to appear in the record, that I am to decide…In view of the consequences likely to flow from this day’s proceedings, should they result in convictions on what my judgment tells me are insufficient charges and proofs, I tremble for the future of my country. I cannot be an instrument to produce such a result; and at the hazard of the ties even of friendship and affection, till calmer times shall do justice to my motives, no alternative is left me but the inflexible discharge of duty."

Any party would be infinitely poorer which should lose the sympathy and support of such men; and a party which should formally exclude them would justly forfeit the sympathy of the most intelligent and honest citizens.

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