The Impeachment of Andrew Johnson

With the assassination of Lincoln, the presidency fell upon an old-fashioned southerner named Andrew Johnson. Although an honest and honorable man, Andrew Johnson was one of the most unfortunate Presidents. Over time there has been a controversial debate as to whether Johnson deserved to be impeached, or if it was an unconstitutional attempt by Congress to infringe upon the presidents authority. The impeachment of Andrew Johnson was politically motivated.

The spirit of the Jacksonian democracy inspired Andrew Johnson. From this influence he helped found the Democratic Party in his region and became elected to the town council in 1829. After serving in his town council for two years he was elected mayor in 1831. Johnson was a strict constructionist and an advocate of states\' rights who distrusted the power of government at all levels. Following his term as Mayor Johnson won elections to the Tennessee State legislature in 1835, 1839, and 1841. After serving these terms he was elected to Congress in 1843. As a member of the US House, Johnson opposed government involvement in the nations economy through tariffs and internal improvements. In 1852 Johnson lost his seat in the US House because of gerrymandering by the Whig- dominated state legislature. (Jackson) Following his loss he came back in 1853 to win a narrow victory for governor and served two terms. In 1857, Johnson was then elected to represent Tennessee in the US Senate. While serving in the Senate Johnson became an
advocate of the Homestead Bill, which was opposed by most Southern Democrats and their slave owning, plantation constituents. (Kennedy) This issue strained the already tense relations between Johnson and the wealthy planters in western Tennessee. Eventually the party split into regional factions. Johnson made the decision to back the Southern Democratic nominee, John Breckinridge. By this time the rupture between Johnson and most Southern Democrats was too deep to heal. The break became final when Johnson allied himself with pro-union Whigs to fight the Secessionist Democrats in his state for several months. When the Civil War began, Johnson was the only Senator from a Confederate state that did not leave Congress to return to the South. During the war, Johnson made the decision to join the Republicans in the National Union Party.

In 1864, Johnson\'s big break came. Lincoln selected him as vice presidential running mate on the National running mate. When it came time for Johnson to deliver his inaugural address he delivered it while inebriated, lending credence to the rumors that he was an alcoholic. (Kennedy) Even with these rumors floating around it didn\'t stop the victory of Lincoln and Johnson in the 1864 election.

Within six weeks of taking office as Vice President, Johnson succeeded to the Presidency after Lincoln\'s assassination. Johnson wasn\'t prepared for this position and faced many difficult decisions.

Johnson\'s first difficult situation was developing a policy for the postwar
reconstruction of the union. Johnson\'s Reconstruction Plan allowed the former
confederate states to return quickly to the Union. This plan would have left the
civil rights of former slaves completely under the auspices of former-slave
owners (Kennedy).

Johnson believed secession was illegal. He felt that the Southern states were still in the union and only had to set up loyal governments to resume legitimate relations with the United States. (Trefousse) Congress didn\'t share the same views as the president though, they felt that the freedmen should be protected and the power of the Republican Party should be sustained in the South. Since the President could not guarantee black civil and political rights it caused opponents to pass the fourteenth Amendment in hope of securing them. His continued intransigence led to the framing of the Reconstruction Acts, remanding the Southern states to military rule until they enfranchised the blacks and ratified the amendment. (Trefousse) Radical Republicans in Congress wrestled control of Reconstruction from the President and began passing their own program over Johnson\'s vetoes. The result was the passage of the Tenure of Office Act. This act prevented the President form dismissing officials appointed by him and with the advice and consent of the Senate without the body\'s approval. In addition to this act there was the Army Appropriations Act that stipulated that the President must transmit his orders