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The Impeachment and Trial of Andrew Johnson

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Abstract

In the months after ratification of the federal Constitution, the Congress took up the establishment of the new executive departments. The debate concerning one of them, the Department of Foreign Affairs, is of interest because it was an occasion on which James Madison opined on the nature of impeachment under the Constitution and in particular, his views on what was meant by high crimes and misdemeanors.

Keywords

High Crime House Manager Federal Constitution Official Duty Office Holder 
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Notes

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    The ship had been seized by the collector of customs, a Republican, in Portsmouth for nonpayment of duties. The ship’s owner, a prominent Federalist, was granted release of the ship by Judge Pickering without evidencing payment. The customs collector libeled the ship and its cargo and the owner’s suit for their return was heard by Judge Pickering. Turner, “Impeachment of John Pickering,” American Historical Review, vol. 54: 489. The impeachment articles charged that the ship and contents had been returned without proof of payment and that Pickering had refused to hear testimony on behalf of the United States during trial. Following the trial, Pickering had refused to allow the appeal of the U.S. attorney contrary to the Judiciary Act. Lastly, Pickering was charged with intoxication during the trial and with invoking the name of the “Supreme Being” in a “most profane and indecent manner.” All of these actions were “contrary to his trust and duty as a judge in violation of the laws of the United States,” and therefore were high crimes and misdemeanors. Emily Field Van Tassell and Paul Finkelman, eds., Impeachable Offenses: A Documentary History from 1787 to the present, (Washington, DC: Congressional Quarterly, 1999) 93–95.Google Scholar
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    Dewitt, The Impeachment and Trial of Andrew Johnson, 2. Nevertheless, there were profound differences between Lincoln and the Radical Republicans. Foner noted that to Lincoln, Reconstruction was part of his strategy to win the war and to achieve emancipation through establishing state governments that would include Southerners who took a loyalty oath and who pledged to uphold abolition. The Radical Republicans viewed Reconstruction as a broader plan to reform Southern society. Eric Foner, Reconstruction: America’s Unfinished Revolution 1863–1877 (New York: Harper & Row, 1988) 61–62.Google Scholar
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    Whittington, Constitutional Construction, 114. Benedict described Johnson as having been “[i]ntent on wrecking the Republican Reconstruction program irrevocably.” Michael Les Benedict, A Compromise of Principle: Congressional Republicans and Reconstruction 1863–1869 (New York: Norton, 1974) 294.Google Scholar
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    Stewart, Impeached, 50–51; Dewitt, The Impeachment and Trial of Andrew Johnson, 45–48; Stryker, Andrew Johnson, 273; Gene Smith, High Crimes and Misdemeanors: The Impeachment and Trial of Andrew Johnson (New York: Morrow, 1977) 143–144Google Scholar
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    Dewitt, The Impeachment and Trial of Andrew Johnson, 87–97; Stryker, Andrew Johnson, 299–300. According to Trefousse, Johnson’s objection to the Fourteenth Amendment centered on black suffrage and the “enormous power” that would be conferred upon Congress by the due process clause. Trefousse, Impeachment of a President, 36–38. However, as Rehnquist noted, while Johnson had no constitutional authority to block ratification of the Fourteenth Amendment, Johnson nevertheless opposed ratification. Johnson sought the views of his cabinet, and whether due to his ambivalence or duplicity, Stanton indicated that he disapproved of it. Rehnquist, Grand Inquests, 207. Bruce Ackerman suggested that Johnson’s opposition to the Fourteenth Amendment was a decisive cause of Johnson’s impeachment. Bruce Ackerman, We The People: Foundations, vol. 1 (Cambridge, MA: Harvard UP, 1991) 83.Google Scholar
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Copyright information

© H. Lowell Brown 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.FalmouthUSA

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