The Impeachment of Andrew Johnson
ĽOvert Obstruction of Congress

back to the Andrew Johnson Home Page


 
The Stanton Imbroglio
Harper's Weekly, August 24, 1867, page 542

go to the previous article in this section
go to the next article in this section


HarpWeek Commentary: This illustrated satire from Harper’s Weekly’s "Correspondent on the Wing" gives an inside look at President Johnson and his Cabinet as they consider a replacement for Secretary of War Edwin Stanton.

From our "Correspondent on-the-wing."
Washington, D.C.

Dear Weekly, - At the Cabinet meeting yesterday the President sent for me and told me that he wished a correct report of the proceedings taken down for publication, as the New York papers, as a rule, get their information about the Cabinet meetings from the different freedmen employed to wait about the White House, consequently they were highly colored and unreliable. Not feeling at liberty to decline an invitation so graciously given, and besides, being anxious to get you reliable news from the seat of war in the War Office, I took up my position at the meeting, note-book in hand,


At the Head of the Table,

with the President on the right and the amiable Secretary of the Navy on the left. In this position we supported the President through the whole trial. Mr. Stanton was not present.

The President rose and said: "A few days ago I wrote to the Secretary of War that I wished to secure harmony in our meetings, and as we were always disposed to vote ‘Yea’ when he voted ‘Nay,’ and ‘Nay’ when he voted ‘Yea,’ that I thought he had better not have his feelings hurt by being obliged to sit here and see us all going contrary to his wishes. I sent words to this effect in a communication to him by the hands of Colonel Moore, my private secretary, but I have had no answer."

Mr. Seward here spoke up and said that perhaps he doesn’t want any more communications from the President. [Great laughter by all but Mr. Welles.]

The President then added that he had since learned that Mr. Stanton was not at work, but was losing a great deal of time running to see Mr. Greeley and others with a view to ascertain what he should do, while at the same time his pay was going on. He would now move that the Cabinet "dock him" for his lost time, as the best way of bringing him to a sense of duty.

Mr. Welles here interrupted, and wanted to know if docking the Secretary of War was the same as docking any other man-of-war?

The President at this question could hardly restrain himself within the proper bounds of dignity for laughter. He halloed over to Mr. Seward, asking him what he thought of that, and leaning toward me he said, in a low tone, that that was the smartest thing he ever hear Mr.? what’s his name? the Secretary of the Navy say. The only one who did not understand what was going on was Mr. Welles, who was unconscious of the joke, and after the confusion had subsided a little began to explain by saying that if the Secretary of War was to be docked he would have to be sent to Portsmouth, New Hampshire, as all of the other docks were occupied by larger craft. This, as you may conceive, made the thing no better, and the hilarity at the expense of the Secretary of the Navy and Purveyor of the White House became general. Poor Mr. Welles’s face got very red, and under his white top-knot looked very much like a well-filled decanter of brandy with a full stopper. I had to explain to the Secretary myself the meaning of the term "docking," as applied to employed men, before he could be toned down to his natural color. He said he had never heard of such a thing in Connecticut, and, besides, his mind had been for so long a time running on ships he had quite got into their ways. The President here gave me a nudge, but I felt that I had better make no demonstration, considering the gray hairs of the venerable Secretary’s beard. Mr. Seward, I notice, was also in a smiling humor.

The President again rose and said: "What shall we do with Mr. Stanton? I have asked him to


Resign his Port-folio,

but as yet I have not seen it." I here interrupted the President myself, and asked him if it contained any sketches in water-colors, for if it did I should like to see it myself when Mr. Stanton gave it up. The President said he knew the Secretary possessed several colorea views, and had no doubt that I would find some in his port-folio. As he said this he gave both Mr. Welles and myself punches in the ribs, and in glasses. I saw the joke immediately. Mr. Welles didn’t see the joke, but took the punches in great good-humor.

The President then continued: "The Secretary of War has views incompatible with the Constitution. In my Message, when I argued for the discharge of ‘Knuckle Ben’ and ‘Coppy,’ so called, now confined in the Old Capitol Prison for bounty-jumping, murder, and counterfeiting, I then argued that the Government in pardoning ‘Coppy’ and his pals should pay all of their debts contracted previous to their incarceration, since they were prevented from paying them on account of their imprisonment. To this Mr. Stanton voted Nay! as you gentlemen all very well know. I, in the Message, also argued, as did the Attorney-General, that their past debts ought not only to be assumed by the Government, but they should have been paid all that they might have made if they had been properly employed during the time of their imprisonment. To this proposition the Secretary of War voted Nay! I also said further, that these men contracted these debts previous to their difficulties with the police, consequently when no such thing as an arrest was in prospect, and as such, are debts which I think the Government in discharging them is bound to pay. To this position of mine and the Attorney-General’s Mr. Stanton voted Nay. These debts were shown to have been contracted by these parties in the laudable desire to improve their personal appearance and to develop their resources, and were in nowise created with a view to cheating their creditors. To this position, also, the Secretary of War voted Nay. Gentlemen of the Cabinet, I really believe that the Secretary of War voted Nay to these several positions of the Government because he saw that if he allowed the payment of these men’s debts, or the assumption of them by the Government in the discharge of themselves and their pals from jail, he must, in like logic, allow the assuming of the debts of the bankrupt Confederate States so called, on our admitting them to any rights as part or parcel of the United States (strong symptoms of applause from Mr. Seward). To be sure, if we assume the debts of these fellows it may in a measure impair the credit of the nation by adding to a debt which Mr. M’Culloch tells me is already inconveniently large; but by not doing it, it would appear to be a violation of faith to the holders of these old accounts who are mostly hotel-keepers and other loyal citizens of our country."

Mr. Randall said the argument was exhausted, and he moved that the Secretary of War be requested to send in his port-folio as soon as the President could select another gentleman for the office; and he would take this opportunity to remind the President that the Great West had other men besides Mr. Stanton.

I whispered to the President that he might look on me as coming from the West. I had lately been to Pittsburgh to sketch the iron-founders’ strike, and to Columbus to see Mr. Wade about what he did say and does think about agrarianism.

The President said he had in his trunk several letters from gentlemen in all parts of the country, South as well as West, recommending men for the succession, and accompanied in many instances by photographs of


Gentlemen willing to take
Mr. Stanton’s Place.

He would in no case be troubled in getting a successor. If the Cabinet were willing he would move that the Secretary of War be invited to send in his port-folio just as it is.

Mr. Seward suggested that he tie up with red tape before he send it in. Here the President gave me another punch under the ribs, also another under the table, and told me Seward was a first-rate fellow in a meeting of this kind.

A long silence now pervaded the scene as the members took the subject into consideration before voting. We had what is called in White House language


a protracted meeting,

although quite a different thing, so far as mine went, to what I was taught a "protracted meeting" was when a boy, as we used to have them every winter at the old meeting-house.

I did not feel like sleep, so I took the opportunity to make a sketch of the Cabinet as they were debating a vote on the importance of the Secretary of War sending his port-folio to the President, as it is evident that the Secretary appreciates it, and the President on his part wants to look into it. I would rather look in Mr. Nast’s port-folio any time, and I told the President so. He answered by saying there was no accounting for tastes, which I considered rather impudent to me, not to mention Nast.

Before I left Washington I called on Mr. Stanton, and he told me he was on the horns of a dilemma; but he did not tell me how he was going to get off. The President, I think, has of late been devoting himself persistently to other horns than those of

Your own C.O.W.


 

Articles Related to Overt Obstruction of Congress:
Congress
February 2, 1867, page 67
February 16, 1867, page 99
March 16, 1867, page 163


How Long?
June 29, 1867, page 402


Reconstruction and Obstruction
July 6, 1867, page 418


The Summer Session
July 6, 1867, page 418


The Fortieth Congress
July 17, 1867, page 467


Thanks to the District Commanders
July 27, 1867, page 467


Impeachment Postponed
July 27, 1867, page 467


A Desperate Man
August 13, 1867, page 546


The Secretary of War
August 24, 1867, page 530


Samson Agonistes at Washington (cartoon)
August 24, 1867, page 544


The Stanton Imbroglio (illustrated satire)
August 24, 1867, page 542


Secretary Grant
August 31, 1867, page 546


Southern Reconstruction
August 31, 1867, page 547


The Political Situation
September 7, 1867, page 562


General Thomas
September 7, 1867, page 563


Southern Reconstruction
September 7, 1867, page 563


The General and the President
September 14, 1867, page 578


General Sickles Also
September 14, 1867, page 579


Southern Reconstruction
September 21, 1867, page 595


The President’s Intentions
September 28, 1867, page 610


Impeachment
October 5, 1867, page 626


The Main Question
October 5, 1867, pages 626-627


Suspension during Impeachment
October 19, 1867, page 658


"Disregarding" The Law
November 2, 1867, page 691


Impeachment
December 14, 1867, page 786


General Grant’s Testimony
December 14, 1867, page 786


The President’s Message
December 14, 1867, page 787


General Grant’s Letter
January 1, 1868, page 2


Secretary Stanton’s Restoration
January 25, 1868, page 51


Reconstruction Measures
January 25, 1868, page 51


The President, Mr. Stanton and General Grant
February 1, 1868, page 66


Romeo (Seward) to Mercutio (Johnson) (cartoon)
February 1, 1868, page 76


The War Office
February 1, 1868, page 77


Secretary’s Room in the War Department (illus)
February 1, 1868, page 77


The New Reconstruction Bill
February 8, 1868, page 83

 

Website design © 1998-2005 HarpWeek, LLC
All Content © 1998-2005 HarpWeek, LLC
Please submit questions to webmaster@harpweek.com