President Johnson’s Impeachment

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President Johnson’s Impeachment
President Johnson fought against many of Congress’ reform efforts during Radical Reconstruction. For instance, he chose people friendly to ex-Confederates as military commanders in the South. The conflict between Johnson and Congress soon brought a showdown.

In 1867, Congress passed the Tenure of Office Act, which prohibited the president from firing government officials without the Senate’s approval. In February 1868, Johnson fired his secretary of war, Edwin Stanton, over disagreements about Reconstruction. Three days later, the House of Representatives voted to impeach the president. This means that the House formally accused him of improper conduct while in office. By removing Johnson from office, they hoped to strengthen Congress’ role in Reconstruction

The case moved to the Senate for a trial. After several weeks of testimony, the senators prepared to vote. George Julian, a 20-year congressman from Indiana, recalled the tension in the air. “Such stillness prevailed that the breathing in the galleries could be heard at the announcement of each Senator’s voice.”

In the end President Johnson was acquitted by a single vote. But much work remained to be done in rebuilding the South.

Andrew Johnson’s impeachment was the first and only impeachment of a president until 1998, when Congress impeached President Bill Clinton on charges that he had committed perjury in his testimony before a grand jury and obstructed justice in an investigation. As with Johnson in 1868, the Senate failed to convict Clinton in 1999.

  1. Why did Congress dislike Johnson?

  2. Why was President Johnson impeached?

  3. What was it like in the gallery of the Senate during the impeachment trials?

  4. Who else was later impeached during his presidency?

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