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Who was the first President Impeached?

 Who was the first President Impeached?

Andrew Johnson the was the first American president to be impeached.

We recently experienced only the third

impeachment in the entire country's

history so it seems like an opportune

time to go back and take a look at the

first time this has happened.

Andrew Johnson the 17th President of the

United States was formally impeached by

the House of Representatives On February

24th 1868 and faced trial over the next

three months the entire event was the

greatest political spectacle of the

early Reconstruction era as the country

struggled to recover from its brutal

civil war and overcome the bitter

divisions that precipitated it the

concept of impeachment in the United

States finds its origin in the British

legal process whereby all public

officials including ministers of the

crown were held accountable for

misconduct the monarch however could not

be impeached since the US didn't exactly

begin its existence by quietly

disagreeing with King George the third

it shouldn't be a surprise to you that

the American impeachment process is a

bit more inclusive there are a lot of

other videos on YouTube that will

explain this process in more detail but

for our purposes today you just have to

know that in order for a president to be

impeached and removed from office

they must formally be accused by a

simple majority in the House of

Representatives then all the way on the

other side of the Capitol building

convicted by a two-thirds majority in

the Senate when the house begins the

formal process it votes on articles

which are specific allegations of

impeachable conduct

so what constitutes an impeachable act

well that's not super clear the phrase

high crimes and misdemeanors is so

uselessly vague that it usually just

means whatever Congress thinks is bad

enough in President Johnson's case his

particular high crime / misdemeanor was

the culmination of years of animosity

with the very party that had put him in

office without a 20-minute digression

into nineteenth-century party politics

here's the short version the Democratic

and Republican parties as they existed.

In the 1860s bore almost no resemblance

to the ones that are active today and if

you're about to jump to a conclusion

based on your modern-day preferences

it's probably wrong the longer version

which will still be way oversimplified.

Is this at the time of the civil war the

Democratic Party broadly supported

slavery and represented land holding

white planters in the south while the

Republican Party represented the

interests of city-dwelling northerners

who tended to be abolitionists Southern

Democrats who were worried that the

election of Abraham Lincoln would lead

to the eventual abolition of slavery

spirited this secession movement that

began in late 1860

not every southern slaveholding state

left the Union to join the Confederacy

in fact five so-called border states

remained part of the Union and retained

their democratic governments to shore up

electoral support in these states

Lincoln selected Democrat Andrew Johnson

from Tennessee the only senator from a

Confederate state to remain loyal to the

Union as his running mate in 1864 even

though he was elected as vice president

on the Republican ticket the more

radical elements of the Republican Party

were suspicious of him from the very

beginning some of these men had been

fighting slavery for decades and doubted

even Abraham Lincoln's commitment to

protecting the rights of newly freedmen

at the end of the civil war were holding

the Confederate leaders accountable for


When an assassin's bullet elevated the

Tennessee into the presidency they

expected even less even so the Radical

Republicans counted a number of cabinet

secretaries among their political allies

notably Secretary of War Edwin Stanton

he had served Lincoln as the civilian

head of military affairs throughout the

Civil War and supported a much harsher

vision of reconstruction than either

President considering that much of the

South was now divided into military

occupation districts administered by the

War Department Stanton essentially

governed half the country the combative

secretary now perhaps the second most

powerful man in the country was

low-hanging fruit for a new president

trying to consolidate his authority and

protect his fellow southerners from

punitive measures seeing this the

Radical Republicans in Congress executed

a political maneuver that may actually

have been intended to trigger

impeachment proceedings passing the

tenure of office act on March 2nd 1867

it required the president to seek Senate

approval to fire appointed officials and

it passed despite Johnson's veto in a

turn of events that surprised absolutely

nobody Johnson eventually sought to test

the law and wrest control of

reconstruction back from Congress in

August of 1867 without consulting

Congress as the act required he

suspended and replaced Edward Stanton

Brendon wine Apple author of the

impeaches the trial of Andrew Johnson

and the dream of a just nation suggests

that the Defiant president was

self-sabotaging by Nature she writes the

man had a penchant for martyrdom it

allowed him to cling to the belief that

he was cruelly beset deeply

unappreciated wholly persecuted and

denied the respect he rightfully

deserved his temperament allowed no

other choice he thus welcomed a struggle

to the death with the hero himself going

down to defeat in a blaze of

unforgettable glory

it is equally unsurprising that his

enemies immediately reacted to his move

now that Johnson had openly challenged

the tenure of office act the House

reinstated Stanton in January 1868 and

moved forward with impeachment enraged

by the audacity of the house Johnson

fired Stanton once again and replaced

him with Major General Lorenzo Thomas a

longtime foe of Stanton not to be

outdone Stanton had Thomas arrested for

illegally seizing his office on February

24th the House voted 120 for 217 to

impeach Johnson and establish a

committee to draft the articles of

impeachment the 11 Articles mostly

stemmed from the dismissal of Stanton

and the subsequent illegal use of war

department funds and personnel the next

week was spent approving rules of

procedure for the trial which convened

on March 5th with salmon P chase the

chief of Justice of the Supreme Court

presiding the process stretched on for

two months during which the Radical

Republicans work to convince their

colleagues that Andrew Johnson had not

only violated the tenure of office act

but also conspired to keep the planter

aristocracy in power over the new

freedmen of the south.

Johnson's defense team argued that the

law didn't even apply in this case the

US Senate's official history recounts

their argument that since Stanton had

been appointed by Lincoln Johnson was

not obligated to continue his service

even if the senators accepted the Act as

constitutional the defense team insisted

Johnson could not be impeached for a

mistaken interpretation of the law.

Furthermore they claimed that Johnson's

intent was to test the constitutionality

of the act before the Supreme Court

which he had the right to do the

president's defense team was a 19th

century legal dream team featuring

Attorney General Henry Stanbury who had

resigned his position to work on the

case and former Supreme Court justice.

Benjamin Curtis

at the advice of his counsel the

bombastic president did not appear

relying in part on the prestige of his

advocates ironically another asset for

the president was the very man

positioned to replace him since the vice

presidency was still vacant Benjamin

Wade the president pro tempore of the

Senate was next in line of secession one

of the most outspoken radicals he

advocated for such harsh reconstruction

terms that he angered the party's

moderate wing the possibility that Wade

might be president if Johnson was

removed they have been a powerful

incentive for certain Republican

senators to vote for acquittal as we

mentioned earlier impeachment is a

political process not a legal one and

though Johnson may have violated the law

as it was intended removing him was a

difficult proposition

it would have been yet another

destabilizing event for a nation that

had barely managed to cling together

Benjamin Wade would have been the third

president to take office within three

years and the second one for whom nobody

had cast a single ballot Senator James

Grimes a Republican of Iowa perhaps

summed up the opinion of many moderates

when he said I cannot agree to destroy

the harmonious working of the

Constitution for the sake of getting rid

of an unacceptable president on May 16th

1868 after two months of arguments and

weeks of deliberation the Senate voted

35 to 19 to convict Johnson on the first

charge one vote short of the two-thirds

necessary to remove Johnson from office.

On May 26th the Senate voted to impeach

Johnson on articles 2 and 3 but once

again the vote tallies were the same

that same day the trial was officially

adjourned and Johnson remained president

in hindsight it is possible that

removing the president over such a

politically polarized issue would have

set a dangerous precedent in an already

fragile Union it is also difficult to

dispute that Johnson's lenient version

of reconstruction gave rise to new white

dominated southern governments that

enacted Jim Crow laws throughout the

former Confederacy America's first

presidential impeachment is one of many

events in the country's history that

must be examined with nuance to

understand its ramifications today.

Who was the first President Impeached? Reviewed by Author on September 01, 2020 Rating: 5

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