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Andrew Johnson and the Power of One Vote
Andrew Johnson avoided getting tossed from the presidency by one vote. Dive into our okay explanation of why this ended up being a good idea. Even if the president himself was not.
Andrew Johnson, the 17th president of the United States, escaped impeachment conviction by one vote on May 26, 1868.
Quick background on Andy.
He took over after some bad actor assassinated Lincoln. Having been brought onto the reelection ticket to bring in southern votes, this Tennessean then turned around and tossed wrenches into the Reconstruction plans.
This, in turn, upset many northern politicians who desired to keep as many radical Republicans as possible from Lincoln’s administration. Johnson wanted to fire his entire inherited cabinet, but Congress passed the Tenure of Office Act that prevented the president from doing just that.
It was an odd law, but then again, strange things tend to happen when partisanship wakes up and jumps out of bed.
Congress then filed articles of impeachment in February 1868 after Johnson suspended his Secretary of War, Edwin Stanton, who wouldn't resign. Chief Justice Salmon Chase presided, and I only bring this up because I hate his bank.
There were eleven counts against Johnson. Congress expanded upon in great, vivid detail on his defiance for about 9 of those counts. Johnson was also accused of circumventing the authority of the 39th Congress and leaving dishes in the sink.
Predictively, Johnson's own Democratic party voted against impeachment in the House, while all but two Republicans were like, "It’s On Like DONKEY KONG.”
Thaddeus Stevens, a ferocious opponent of owning black people, led the prosecution from the House. The president had way too many people from Ohio defending him. He had a team of like five people, and three of them were from the Buckeye State. What is up with that.
The trial hinged on whether Johnson could tell Congress to buzz off regarding who directed the military outside of the presidency. Where Johnson prevailed in his defense was basically, "He only wanted someone to manage the office, like an interim director and not be a permanent office holder."
Unlikely Johnson Hero
His crucial witness was yet another Ohioan, William Tecumseh Sherman, who testified that Johnson asked him to be the administrator. At this point, I'm throwing up my hands. Come on, people – THIS IS NOT HOW YOU PLAY DONKEY KONG!
Not that I disagreed with the outcome. Sure, Johnson is a third-tier president according to this fourth-tier historian, but did Sherman really have to be the man to get him off the hook?
The impeachment of Andrew Johnson allowed the president to control who he (he is used intentionally here) could have served in his administration. The Tenure of Office Act was repealed twenty years later because it was purely a political play with the law, which we have obviously haven’t seen since.
Convicting Johnson would have thrown the entire checks and balances into the Potomac River, and thankfully 10 Republicans in the Senate voted against tossing Johnson in right after.
Over the next few decades, the executive branch of government was weakened. It wouldn't get out from the dominant Congressional hold until the beginning of the 20th century.
How much control do you think Congress should have over the president? Do you agree that the president can fire the people Congress approves?