The Impeachment of Andrew Johnson
»Military Reconstruction

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Harper's Weekly, April 13, 1867, page 226

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Congress has adjourned until July, and unless a quorum is then present it will not again assemble until December. This short opening session has been marked by one important measure and one significant event: the Supplementary Reconstruction bill, and the virtual abandonment of the impeachment project.

The Supplementary bill was well digested, and it was passed into a law over the veto with dignity and unanimity. The President evidently means to give it a fair trial. He said to a Virginia delegation which came to ask if there were no hope of evading its operation, that while he had, as they knew, heartily opposed the bill it was now the law of the land which he must execute, and that the best thing they could do for themselves and for him was to go home and organize under it. Perhaps the President understood the situation. If he had virtually endeavored to defeat the intention of the bill by perplexing its honest operation, Congress would undoubtedly have proceeded, in Mr. Banks’s imposing language, "to take into consideration the situation of the country;" in other words, it would have acted immediately upon the question of impeachment, and in a manner not agreeable to the President. But by his prompt and satisfactory action, appointing the very commanders who would probably have been selected by Congress, he showed a sagacity which nobody had a right to expect.

It was this action which, we think, disposed for the present of the impeachment? a subject which has been utterly mismanaged from the beginning. If a caucus of the House were necessary to consider the question as the House thought, every member should have been put upon his honor not to move the matter in the House until it was ready to be carried steadily to a successful result. Hopes and wishes and surmises and suspicions are not evidence. The subject should have been thoroughly sifted, and no charges made in the House of which the House was not sure that it had the proof. When they were made they should have been immediately referred. The Committee should have promptly reported. The impeachment should have been unanimously carried, and the trial have begun without delay.

Now as a matter of fact there seems to have been no evidence whatever beyond the general conduct of the President, which was fully known to the country, and upon which it has not demanded his impeachment. Technical arguments have been made, and the President has been denounced for his familiar offenses, but the orators have not been able to disturb the sensible conviction of the country that, under circumstances, and without denying the fact of usurpation of powers, it was not expedient to impeach the President. It was felt that there was a better remedy for the difficulty, and it has been found. The President has been made practically powerless for mischief even if he designed it, and the country has been spared the angry conclusion of the debate, which must inevitably have arisen upon the point of suspension of powers during the trial. Congress has done wisely in obeying the inspiration of public feeling upon this subject, and in abstaining from a perilous work of supererogation. It would have been still wiser if it had refrained from officially beginning a movement of this kind which it was not perfectly sure of carrying through.

Senator Sumner is of opinion that a quorum will be present in July, and that he can then press his new bill establishing universal suffrage. But we doubt if the fact will justify his opinion unless some extraordinary event should happen in the mean while. The country needs rest. Every interest demands it. The chances of danger have passed; and we may now safely watch and wait the process of reconstruction.

Articles Related to Military Reconstruction:
News Items
January 19, 1867, page 35

January 26, 1867, page 50

Congress and Impeachment
February 16, 1867, page 98

The Probability of Impeachment
February 23, 1867, page 114

The Louisiana Bill
March 2, 1867, page 130

March 9, 1867, page 146

The Thirty-Ninth Congress
March 9, 1867, page 146

The Veto of the Reconstruction Bill

March 16, 1867, page 162

The Fortieth Congress

March 30, 1867, page 195

The Fortieth Congress

April 6, 1867, page 211

Sprats and Vetoes

April 6, 1867, page 210

Adjournment of Congress

April 13, 1867, page 226

Prometheus Bound

March 2, 1867, page 137

The Result

March 30, 1867, page 194

The Southern Commanders

April 6, 1867, page 218

The Debate upon Impeachment

March 23, 1867, page 178

We Accept the Situation (cartoon)

April 13, 1867, page 240

The Big Thing (cartoon)

April 20, 1867, page 256

The End of Impeachment
June 22, 1867, page 386


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