In 1867, Congress passed the Tenure of Office Act to protect Stanton as Secretary of War and maintain Radical Republicans' power over Reconstruction. It required the President to have express concurrence of the Senate to relieve any member of his Cabinet.
Johnson, holding that the Tenure of Office Act was unconstitutional, suspended Stanton anyway. On February 24th, 1868, the House of Representatives adopted eleven articles of impeachment against the president.
After a month-long trial, Johnson was acquitted by one vote. Subsequent hearings found evidence suggesting that some acquittal votes were acquired through bribery.
The Tenure of Office Act was repealed by Congress in 1887, and was further deemed invalid in the Supreme Court case of Myers v. United States in 1926.
Edwin McMasters Stanton (December 19, 1814 – December 24, 1869) was an American lawyer and politician who served as Secretary of War under the Lincoln Administration during the American Civil War from 1862 to 1865.
A formal process in which an official is accused of unlawful activity, the outcome of which, depending on the country, may include the removal of that official from office as well as criminal or civil punishment.
The impeachment of Andrew Johnson was one of the most dramatic events that occurred during the Reconstruction era in the United States, and was the first impeachment in history of a sitting United States president. Johnson was impeached because of his efforts to undermine Congressional policy; the impeachment was the culmination of a lengthy political battle between the moderate Johnson and the "Radical Republicans" who dominated Congress and sought control of Reconstruction policies. Johnson was acquitted by one vote.
Johnson was impeached in the U.S. House of Representatives on February 24, 1868. The House's primary charge against Johnson was his violation of the Tenure of Office Act, which Congress had passed in the previous year. Specifically, he had removed from office Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton (who the Tenure of Office Act was largely designed to protect), and replaced him with Ulysses S. Grant.
The impeachment and subsequent trial of Johnson is historically recognized as an act of political expedience, rather than necessity, based on Johnson's defiance of an unconstitutional piece of legislation and with little regard for the will of the public (which, despite the general unpopularity of Johnson, opposed the impeachment). Not until the impeachment of Bill Clinton 131 years later was another United States president impeached.
Tensions between the executive and legislative branches intensified shortly after Johnson's ascension to the White House. Prior to his election, Johnson had been a fierce and unrelenting critic of the southern secession that had sparked the Civil War. Radical Republicans were convinced that as President, Johnson would enact their hard line Reconstruction policies, specifically protection for newly freed slaves and punishments for former slave owners, as well as for government and military officials.
When Johnson began his first term as president, however, he unexpectedly proclaimed general amnesty for most former confederates, and vetoed legislation that extended civil rights and financial support for former slaves. Congress was able to override only a few of his vetoes, setting the stage for a historic confrontation between Congress and the President. After gaining majority in Congress during the midterm elections, the Radicals managed not only to pass civil rights legislation, but also to wrestle control of Reconstruction away from the president.
Tenure of Office Act
In 1867, Congress passed the Tenure of Office Act in an effort to protect Edwin M. Stanton, a Radical Republican whose policies greatly differed from Johnson's, from being replaced as Secretary of War. Johnson, who believed that the Tenure of Office Act was unconstitutional, ignored the act and suspended Stanton anyway, replacing him with General Ulysses Grant on August 5, 1867.
In January 1868, the Senate acted to reinstate Stanton, a movement Johnson ignored until Grant (who did not enjoy politics and resented Johnson's exploitation of Grant's celebrity) sent the president his resignation. Johnson offered the post to Lorenzo Thomas, and on February 21 ordered the removal of Stanton from office. Stanton refused to acknowledge the order and barricaded himself in his office. Three days later, the House of Representatives voted 126 to 47 to impeach the President of high crimes and misdemeanors.
Trial and Acquital
A trial began in the Senate in March . While the prosecution spoke out against Johnson's violations of the Tenure of Office Act, the defense argued that Stanton's position was not actually protected by the Act, since Stanton was a leftover appointment from the 1860 cabinet. Both sides argued the legitimacy of the Act ..In the end, 35 Senators voted "guilty" and 19 "non-guilty"; because the Constitution requires a two-thirds majority for conviction in impeachment trials, Johnson was thus acquitted by one vote.
Seven Republican senators were concerned that the proceedings had been manipulated to convey a one-sided presentation of the evidence. Subsequent hearings and later inquiries found increasing evidence that some acquittal votes were acquired by promises of patronage jobs and cash cards.
In 1887, the Tenure of Office Act was repealed by Congress, and subsequent rulings by the United States Supreme Court seemed to support Johnson's position that he was entitled to fire Stanton without Congressional approval. In 1926, the Supreme Court's ruling on a similar piece of later legislation in the case Myers v. United States affirmed "that the Tenure of Office Act of 1867...was invalid".
Although the conflict with Congress continued, the impeachment process convinced President Johnson to limit his obstruction of the reconstruction plans of the Radical Republicans. When the President was slow to officially report ratifications of the Fourteenth Amendment by the new Southern legislatures, Congress passed a bill, again over his veto, requiring him to do so within ten days of receipt. He still delayed as much as he could, but was required, in July 1868, to report the ratifications making the amendment part of the Constitution