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their protestations of a desire to lay aside all differences and once more become loyal citizens, there were many who could not agree to Mr. Boutwell's definition of high crimes and misdemeanors; and these moderate Republicans, aided by the Democrats, defeated the resolution by a vote of one hundred and eight to fifty-seven." The attempt to impeach without definite legal charges had failed.
But the President soon gave the House the very opportunity it desired. While the direct attack upon the President was being carried on by means of the effort to impeach him, an indirect attack was made by the legislative limitation of his powers. One of the cries of alarmists had been that there was danger that the President might in some way take advantage of his constitutional position as commander-inchief of the army and navy, so as to injure the government and advance his own interests. Some went even farther and declared that he designed with the aid of the army to overthrow the government, and place the United States in the power of the rebels. Such charges, viewed from the standpoint of history, seem too absurd for consideration, but during the reconstruction period the feverish condition of the country made possible the acceptance of almost any startling rumor.
6. But even those who did not apprehend that Johnson would use the army for any improper purpose, were willing to limit his power and prestige by depriving him of his military authority; and this was accordingly done by a section introduced into the army appropriation bill. This section required all orders to the army to be made through the General of the Army, thus practically making his approval of them necessary. It also prevented the President or the Secretary of War from removing, suspending or relieving from command the General of the Army, and even forbade ? McPherson. 264,
? Ibid., 178.
his being assigned for duty away from headquarters, except at his own request. This had the effect of taking away from the President all his constitutional powers as commander-inchief. As the section was put as a rider on an appropriation bill and a veto must cover the whole bill, Johnson contented himself with a simple protest and returned the act with his signature.'
7. The attack upon the civil powers of the President was made through the Tenure-of-Office Act.? As the violation of this act was the ground of the most serious charge in the impeachment trial, a somewhat detailed study of its provisions, and of the views expressed by the President in his veto of it, is advisable. The bill provided that “every person holding any civil office to which he has been appointed by and with the advice and consent of the Senate," and every person so appointed in the future, should be entitled to hold such office until a successor should have been appointed in like manner, that is to say, with the advice and consent of the Senate. The only liberty of action allowed the President was during the recess of the Senate, when he was permitted to suspend an officer until the next meeting of the Senate, and appoint a pro tempore official. Within twenty days after the meeting of the Senate, however, he was required to give his reasons for the suspension. If the Senate approved of the removal, a permanent appointment was to be made; if they refused to concur, the suspended officer was immediately to resume his duties. Any violation of this act by the President was made an impeachable offense, by the declaration that “every removal, appointment, or employment made, had, or exercised, contrary to the provisions of this act
are hereby declared to be high misdemeanors."
1 McPherson, 178.
? Vetoed March 2, 1867, and repassed by both houses on the same day. For copy of the act, see McPherson, 176 ff.
The other provisions were of minor importance, and do not require notice here.
The veto message of the President was a calm, dignified and judicial discussion of the constitutionality of the bill, and was in every way a creditable document, sustaining fully the high character of his previous vetoes. He called attention to the fact that the whole question of the authority of the President in cases of removal from office had been discussed thoroughly in Congress as early as 1789, and decided in favor of the President. He quoted Madison's argument to prove that all executive power, except what is specifically excepted, is vested in the President, and that as no exception was made as to the power of removal, it must be vested in him. He also cited many possible cases, in which it would be absolutely necessary for the President to possess the power of removal. A decision of the Supreme Court was referred to, in which it was observed that both the legislative and the executive department had assumed in practice that the power of removal was vested in the President alone. When, for instance, the Departments of State, War and the Treasury were created in 1789, provision was made for a subordinate who should take charge of the office “when the head of the Department should be removed by the President of the United States." Story, Kent and Webster were all quoted as affirming the same legislative construction of the Constitution. The great practical value of the power during the Civil War was noticed, and its present and future necessity strongly urged; and the message closed with an earnest appeal to Congress not to violate the original spirit of the Constitution.
8. The passage of the bill over the veto placed Johnson
His argument here, however, is weak, as the power of suspension would easily have covered all such cases.
* Ex parte Hennen, January, 1839, 13 Peters, 139.
in a situation in which a collision was almost sure to come. As the chief executive of the country he was charged with the duty of carrying out the provisions of the reconstruction acts, notwithstanding his strong personal repugnance to them. Under the advice of Attorney-General Stanbery he had construed the acts literally, and he had thus frustrated in part the object of the legislation. But the cooperation of the army was necessary, and unfortunately for President Johnson, the Secretary of War, Mr. Stanton, strongly opposed his views, and conducted himself as far as possible in accordance with the wishes of the congressional majority. The continued friction between the President and the Secretary of War seemed to President Johnson to necessitate Stanton's retirement, but repeated hints to that effect were not recognized by the latter. Finally, on August 5, 1867, the President informed him that “public considerations of a high character constrained" him to say that his resignation would be accepted. The Secretary's prompt reply was that “public considerations of a high character” constrained him not to resign until the next session of Congress. A week later, August 12, the President formally suspended him and appointed General Grant Secretary ad interim." Stanton then submitted “under protest to superior force.”
When Congress met in December the President reported his suspension of Stanton, and after long discussion the Senate, on January 13, 1868, refused to concur.? When informed of this action of the Senate, General Grant immediately turned over the Secretary's office to Stanton, thus definitely committing himself to the congressional interpretation of the law. Grant's action was a sore disappointment to the President. Johnson had refused to accept the Tenureof-Office Act as constitutional, and had purposed to make this a test case. In the correspondence which passed be1 McPherson, 261.
? Ibid., 262.
tween him and General Grant after the latter's acquiescence in the action of the Senate, Johnson claimed that it was understood that Grant was either to refuse to give up the office to Stanton, or, if he should be unwilling to take so prominent a part in the contest, to resign and permit the office to be filled with some one whose views agreed with the President's, so that Stanton, if he sought to regain the office, might be compelled to resort to the courts. In this way the constitutionality of the act could be tested. Johnson's statements as to the understanding with Grant were substantially endorsed by the Cabinet, on the strength of a conversation between Johnson and Grant at a cabinet meeting. Grant, however, firmly denied that there was any such agreement or understanding.'
A few days after Stanton had resumed his duties as Secretary of War, the President sought to put in operation a plan for rendering his possession of the office ineffective. On January 19, he ordered General Grant, in charge of the army, to disregard all of Stanton's orders unless he knew directly from the President that they were the latter's orders. The order was repeated in writing at Grant's request on January 29. On the following day, Grant refused to carry it out, declaring that an order from Secretary Stanton would be considered satisfactory evidence that it was authorized by the Executive. This correspondence between Johnson and Grant was subsequently called for by Congress, and an attempt was made to frame articles of impeachment on the ground that the President was instructing Grant to disobey the orders of his superior. Careful examination of the legal bearings of the question convinced a majority of the Reconstruction Committee that nothing would be gained by inserting charges
* The text of the correspondence between Grant and Johnson may be found in McPherson, History of the Reconstruction, p. 282 ff. ? McPherson, p. 283.
3 Ibid., p. 284.