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by Congress from full statehood for half a year; and her final admission, on July 15, 1870, marked definitely the end of the reconstruction process. The registration of voters in the ten States had shown that in Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi, and South Carolina, the colored voters were in a majority; in Georgia, the two races were about equal; and in Virginia, North Carolina, Arkansas and Texas, one-third or more were colored. The preponderance of voting power had been given to a people just out of slavery. The practical working of the plan, and the six further years of Federal supervision over the South, belong to another chapter.
An episode in this story, though an important feature in a general history, must be the impeachment of President Johnson in the spring of 1868. Though the main questions at issue were definitely settled, the bitterness between the President and Congress lasted and increased. At the same time with the final reconstruction measure, there was passed the “Tenure of Office bill,” which took away from the President the power of removing his subordinates which all his predecessors had enjoyed, and required the Senate's concurrence in removals as in appointments. Some exception was made as to Cabinet officers; and the President, exasperated beyond endurance by Stanton, after vainly, though reasonably, asking the Senate to relieve him of his hostile secretary, assumed the right to remove him by his own authority, and appointed Gen. Lorenzo Thomas in his place, February 21, 1868. The House, in which the radical temper had grown stronger than ever, in a blaze of excitement voted the President's impeachment. He was tried before the Senate, the House prosecutors being led by Stevens, Boutwell, and Benjamin F. Butler, whose vindictive and unscrupulous personality had come to the front. The President was defended by a group of the foremost
lawyers in the country, including Benjamin R. Curtis, Jeremiah S. Black, and William M. Evarts.
The only weighty article in the charge was that concerning Stanton's removal, and upon this a legal defense was made which now seems conclusive. But it has been justly said that the President was on trial nominally for one class of offenses, but practically for another-namely, his persistent opposition to the policy of Congress. Party loyalty was invoked for his condemnation; the general temper of the North was hot against him; wrath and tribulation were predicted for any Republican senator who should vote for his acquittal. In face of the storm, there were a few who quietly let it be known or surmised that they should vote in their capacity as judges sworn to follow the law and the facts, whatever the political consequences.
The decisive hour came, May 16, and the result no one could predict; the Democratic senators and the four administration Republicans all would sustain the President; seven additional votes would prevent the decisive two-thirds condemnation. Man after man, Fessenden, Fowler, Grimes, Henderson, Ross, Van Winkle, and Trumbull-Republicans all-voted “Not guilty "; and, by nineteen to thirty-five, President Johnson escaped deposition—to get rid of Stanton finally, and finish his term; to return to the Senate from Tennessee; to take his place in history as an honest and patriotic man, beyond his proper sphere, whose limitations worked a part in the partial failure of reconstruction. The country escaped a dangerous dislocation of the relation of Congress and the executive, and the triumph of an exaggerated radicalism. The seven independent Senators sacrificed their future careers, and deserve the perpetual gratitude of their country.
And now it remained for the nation, through a Presidential election, to pass upon the completed work. In the
Democratic convention at New York, in July, 1868, the reactionary and the progressive elements strove. A new Democracy was growing, intent on administrative reform and moderate Constitutionalism; Samuel J. Tilden of New York and his allies were among the leaders; their candidate was Chief Justice Chase. Only the incongruity with his judicial position marred the fitness of Chase's candidacy. Lincoln, though he had his own troubles in dealing with him, said, “Of all the great men I have known, Chase is equal to about one and a half of the best of them." He had proved eminent on the bench as in the Cabinet, and under his lead the Supreme Court gave a series of conservative decisions on reconstruction questions which were a most valuable contribution to the national stability and security-a vital, though not to the popular eye a conspicuous service in the reconstruction period. Against him,
, the candidacy of George H. Pendleton of Ohio represented the element historically unfriendly to the war for the Union, and intensely opposed to the reconstruction measures. He had the support of the Southern delegates, present in full force, and lending to the cheering the dominant note of the well-known “rebel yell.” The reactionists got their own way with the resolutions, which declared the reconstruction acts to be "unconstitutional, revolutionary, and void.” On the new question which was looming up, of shirking the national debt by payment in promises, the platform leaned strongly toward repudiation. Pendleton's supporters, seeing their candidate could not win, and determined that the other Ohio man, Chase, should not win, thwarted their New York opponents by a clever trick, and successfully rushed through the convention the nomination of its presiding officer, Horatio Seymour of New York, against his protest and to the discomfiture of his associates. An able, accomplished man, but reckoned half-hearted in the
war, and not rising to statesmanlike proportions, he could not outweigh the mischievous platform and the Vice-Presidental candidate, the hot-headed Gen. Francis P. Blair of Missouri, who had just proposed measures nothing short of revolutionary to override Congress. Against this combination the Republicans advanced securely to victory. Meeting in Chicago in May, they showed a temper more moderate than that of Congress; they of course condemned the President, but they refused to censure the seven independent senators; and upon Carl Schurz's motion passed a resolution welcoming back all former enemies now become loyal, and favoring the early and rapid removal of disabilities. As to the Presidential nomination, there
no division,-it was given unhesitatingly, unanimously, heartily, to General Grant. His steadfastness and success in war had been matched by his magnanimity in victory and his prudence in the troubled times that followed. Of manly simplicity and solid worth, sagacious and successful wherever he had been tried, he seemed at once an embodiment of past victory and an assurance of future safety. Of the thirty-four States that voted, all but eight were for Grant and Colfax. Seymour had New York, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, Kentucky, Oregon, Georgia, and Louisiana. The popular vote was 3,012,000 for Grant and Colfax to 2,703,000 for Seymour and Blair.
The Republican convention had shirked the question of negro suffrage at the North by referring it to the individual States. Its refusal in many of the Northern States was felt as a discredit after it had been enforced throughout the South. The Republicans in Congress took courage from the election. The Fifteenth Amendment, forbidding the States to deny the right to vote on account of race, color or previous condition of servitude," was brought forward
in Congress in December, and passed February 28, 1869. It was ratified in rapid succession by thirty States out of thirty-seven,—Tennessee not acting, and negative votes being given by California, Delaware, Kentucky, Maryland, New Jersey, and Oregon,—and proclaimed as adopted, March 30, 1870.
With Grant's election, and the last touches of reconstruction sure to follow close, the North, as it were, drew a deep breath of relief. It felt that the fundamental issues were settled. The war had preserved the Union and destroyed slavery. The consummation had been fitly rounded out by the changes in the Constitution. The Southern States were restored to their places Vast tides of material advance were setting in. New questions were rising, new ideas were fermenting. Good-bye to the past,—so felt the North,--to its injustice and its strife. As the nation's chieftain had said, in accepting the call to the nation's Presidency, “Let us have peace.”