May 26th 1868: President Johnson acquitted

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Senate trial of Johnson – Theodore Davis

 

On this day in 1868 President Andrew Johnson’s impeachment trial ended, finding him not guilty by one vote. Johnson became President in 1865 after the assassination of Abraham Lincoln, and was thus in power during the crucial stage of Reconstruction after the Civil War. However, Johnson did little to support the newly emancipated slaves, and opposed measures like the Fourteenth Amendment which granted them citizenship. A Tennesseean, chosen as Lincoln’s running-mate to give the impression of national unity, Johnson was more sympathetic to the former Confederate states than a Northern counterpart may have been.

 

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Andrew Johnson (1808-1875)

 

The unpopular President was impeached in February by the House of Representatives, with the main charge being that he violated the Tenure of Office Act by attempting to remove Edwin Stanton as Secretary of War. Johnson was then put on trial in the Senate, with Chief Justice Salmon Chase presiding. He was tried by two articles of impeachment, and both fell short – by just one vote – of the required two thirds majority needed to find him guilty and remove him from office. Whilst Congress gave specific reasons for the impeachment, many still consider the affair a mostly political retaliation by Radical Republicans against the President’s Reconstruction policies. Johnson and Bill Clinton in 1998 remain the only two Presidents to have been impeached.

 

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The affair became a national scandal – tickets were sold for the trial

July 31st 1875: Andrew Johnson dies

July 31st 1875: Andrew Johnson dies

On this day in 1875 the 17th President of the United States, Andrew Johnson, died from a stroke in Tennessee. Vice-President Johnson became President on April 15th 1865 upon the death of Abraham Lincoln. Thus Johnson had to lead the country into the post-Civil War Reconstruction era. He often feuded with Republicans, who considered his policies too lenient to the South. Johnson is mostly remembered as the first President to be impeached; he was acquitted by a single vote in the Senate. He left office in 1869, and has typically placed very low on historical rankings. He returned to the Senate in March 1875, and is the only President to have done so. Upon his death, he was buried with a copy of the Constitution with his body wrapped in an American flag.