The Impeachment of Andrew Johnson
ĽName: Henry Stanbery

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Henry Stanbery was born in New York City. He graduated from Washington College (Pennsylvania) in 1819, was admitted to the bar in 1824, then established a legal practice in Ohio. He served as Ohio’s attorney general, 1846-1851, and as a delegate to the Ohio constitutional convention in 1850. President Andrew Johnson unsuccessfully nominated him to the Supreme Court, but was able to garner Senate confirmation of Stanbery as Attorney General. Stanbery was a conservative Republican and came to the office with little influence in national political affairs.

The new Attorney General played a key role in Johnson’s Reconstruction and impeachment battles against the Radical Republican Congress. In early 1867, he joined former Attorney General Jeremiah Black in preparing Johnson’ s veto message of the first Military Reconstruction Act, which they deemed to be unconstitutional. In May, Stanbery prepared an opinion on Congressional Reconstruction policies that he presented before President Johnson and the Cabinet. The Attorney General accused military officials of violating the rights of state officials and state governments without proper authority, and upheld the efforts of the President to control the Reconstruction process. The entire cabinet supported Stanbery’s position except for Secretary of War Stanton. The Congress, however, ignored all of the Attorney General’s arguments and passed the Third Military Reconstruction Act in July.

In early 1868, Stanbery advised Johnson not to remove Stanton from office, but the president chose not to listen. When impeachment proceeding began, Stanbery resigned as Attorney General to head Johnson’s team of defense lawyers. His first act was to insist that the president should heed counsel on all points and stop talking to the press. After the Senate acquitted Johnson, the president placed Stanbery’s name before them for reappointment as Attorney General. The Senate rejected the proposal, but quickly approved another member of Johnson’s defense counsel, Republican William Evarts, for the position. Stanbery died in New York City.

Robert C. Kennedy,  HarpWeek

Sources consulted:  Harper’s Encyclopedia of United States History ; Albert Castel, The Presidency of Andrew Johnson.


Henry Stanbery
(20 February 1803 - 26 June 1881)
Source:  Harper's Weekly

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