The Impeachment of Andrew Johnson
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Harper's Weekly, April 18, 1868, page 242

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The case of the Managers of the House against the President, as we have elsewhere stated, has been conducted with great skill. The chain of evidence is continuous; nor has it been broken, or in any degree weakened, by the onsets in cross-examination of the President’s counsel. Those gentlemen, or most of them, are very eminent lawyers. The ability of Mr. Stanbery has been manifested to the country while he was Attorney-General. Judge Curtis is acknowledged to be one of the most accomplished jurists in the United States. Mr. Evarts is also a very distinguished lawyer—a man of remarkably clear, alert, and incisive mind. The other gentlemen of the President’s counsel, Mr. Nelson and Mr. Groesbeck, have taken no part in the trial during the presentation of the case by the Managers.

There can be little question that upon all points susceptible of proof by evidence the Managers have justified their articles; and it was illustrative of the peculiar tact of General Butler that he reserved to the last one of his strongest points, and somewhat surprised and annoyed his antagonists when he produced it. This was the testimony of Mr. Creecy, Appointment-Clerk of the Treasury Department, and the autograph letter of the President to Secretary M’Culloch last August, notifying him that he had suspended Mr. Stanton in pursuance of the Tenure-of-Office Act, thereby shaming his own assertion that he had acted "Under the Constitution," and without recognizing the law in question. Indeed, General Butler has unquestionably had the best of the week’s work. Only one serious effort of his has been baffled by the President’s counsel; and Mr. Evarts’s occasional caustic manner has not in the least disturbed the vast imperturbability of the practical advocate.

The case for the Managers, notwithstanding the array of articles, was really very simple. The most of it is of course already familiar, for all the transactions have been public. That there is a Tenure-of-Office law prescribing the conditions under which certain officers, including the Secretary of War, are to be removed, is not denied. That Mr. Stanton was peremptorily removed by the President during the session of the Senate is in evidence. That General Thomas, having been previously reinstated by the President as Adjutant-General, was appointed by him Secretary of War ad interim is proved. That General Thomas signed himself as such, and attempted to exercise the duties of the office; that he declared his intention to obtain possession by force if resisted, and that he stated his failure to do so was in consequence of the legal action of Mr. Stanton, is also proved. It is established further that the President officially acknowledged the validity of the law by confessedly acting under its authority, while he declared that he did not recognize it as binding; that in September, after the suspension of Mr. Stanton last summer, the President called General Emory to the command of the Department of the District, and upon his arrival to assume command had a detailed conversation in regard to the available military force there; that upon the day of the attempted removal of Mr. Stanton the President sent for General Emory and asked him again about the troops and what changes had been made; that when the General proceeded to explain the movements of regiments the President said he referred to other changes made within a day or two, to which the General replied that he knew of none, and that as all orders must by law pass through the hands of General Grant, if any new ones had been issued, he should of course be aware of them; that the President seemed surprised, and when the General showed him the order directing all orders for the army to pass through General Grant, the President said it was in derogation of his constitutional rights as Commander-in-Chief, to which General Emory replied that the officers of the army were of opinion that it was their duty to obey the order, which was in obedience to the law of Congress. It is further proved that the expressions ascribed to the President in the speeches during his Western trip were actually used by him.

The attempt of the Managers to show, in further proof of conspiracy, by the testimony of Mr. Chandler, that Mr. Edmund Cooper, late Private Secretary of the President, was made by him Assistant Secretary of the Treasury in order that the money of the Government might be obtained by the President for his purposes, was overruled by the Senate; the ground of its action being understood to be that the evidence would open too wide and irrelevant a range of inquiry. This was the only apparently important point not made by the Managers, and this was not essential. They closed the case promptly at the end of the first week, and the Senate then adjourned until the following Thursday to give the President’s counsel an opportunity to prepare themselves fully, with the understanding that they will not call a great many witnesses.

The case is thus brought to the exact point which we have before indicated as the one upon which the force of the President’s counsel was most likely to be concentrated. Conceding the facts claimed and substantially proved, that the law was regularly enacted, and that it forbade the removal during the session of the Senate of certain officers appointed by the President without the approval of the Senate; conceding that Mr. Stanton was Secretary of War, and was removed by the President without the consent of the Senate—then the question arises, was Mr. Stanton appointed Secretary of War by President Johnson? If he were, the law has been violated. If he were not, the law does not touch the case. The position taken by the Managers is revealed by a little remark of Mr. Wilson when he offered the first evidence for the prosecution. After putting in the commission of Mr. Stanton, signed by President Lincoln, Mr. Wilson said that it was the only commission the Managers proposed to prove, and that commission, in the judgment of the Managers, made Mr. Stanton Secretary of War. The battle will be joined just at this point. We will not anticipate the arguments, but the rule of common sense is plainly with the Managers. If a man holds an appointed office and the appointing power is changed, but the new power directs him to remain, it seems to be tolerably clear that he is reappointed. This is a subject, however, upon which there may be the utmost refinement of legal subtlety, of which we shall doubtless have a notable exhibition.

Should the appointment of Mr. Stanton as Secretary be maintained by the Managers, and he be judged to stand within the operation of the law, it is possible that the President’s counsel may try to show that there was no improper intention in its violation by the President. We doubt if the utmost skill can do this, for it is impossible to destroy the evidence that he had already recognized its validity. And even could it be done—even were it conceded that he had always refused to acknowledge the constitutionality of the law, yet the violation by the Executive of a law regularly enacted and not declared invalid by any court, is the substitution of the President’s will for the law of the land, and the intention must be inferred from the fact. The President is not charged with what is generally called a crime, but with a high misdemeanor in the discharge of political functions. Should he be removed, he will not subsequently be pursued with a criminal prosecution, as the Constitution authorizes when a crime otherwise punishable has been committed. Indeed the case is very simple, and addresses itself to the common-sense of the whole country. Mr. Seward had already asked the people of the United States whether they would have Mr. Johnson for king; and we presume that the Senate will answer in their name—"Decidedly not."

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