|Theodore R. Davis' illustration of Andrew Johnson's impeachment trial in the Senate, published in Harper's Weekly.|
Johnson's unbridled anger at Congress will remind you of someone we know: He actively campaigned against Congress, which included a massive speaking tour to "fight traitors in the North." This campaign backfired spectacularly when the election yielded two Republican houses determined to thwart his agenda, and when he tried to get rid of Edwin Stanton, the Secretary of War he inherited from Lincoln and a staunch Unionist. Congress tried to thwart these efforts by passing the Tenure of Office Act, and Johnson, determined to get rid of Stanton, did so nonetheless. Nine of the eleven articles of impeachment revolved around this effort.
Through the prism of 2019, I can't help but read this story as that of a small man with no hope of filling the giant shoes of his predecessor, conciliatory and sympathetic to a grim racist heritage, determined to spite anyone placing limitations on his power to appoint and discard people as he chose. It might cheer you up (or not) to learn that the Senate came one vote short of removing him from office. It might also be useful to keep in mind that the failure to secure the additional vote came from four Republicans voting against their own party out of concerns that the evidence presented against Jackson was one-sided--and a good reminder that, in order to garner legitimacy for the impeachment process, it is important to conduct a thorough and objective investigation that might assuage the concerns that some of today's hesitant Republicans about "witch hunts" and "kangaroo courts." If Democrats want to secure removal in the senate, which for obvious reasons will be an uphill battle, the process has to be fair and also to be perceived as fair.
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