Page images

solicitude to all. Every device known to political ingenuity was used to secure that one vote, and on the 14th day of May, 1868, the following telegram was received:

LEAVENWORTH, Kansas, May 14, 1868. To Senators Pomeroy and Ross, Washington, D. C.:

Kansas has heard the evidence and demands the conviction of the President.

(Signed) D. R. ANTHONY, and 1,000 others of our truest and best men. To which Senator Ross sent back the following by wire:

To D. R. Anthony and others:

I do not recognize your right to demand that I shall vote either for or against conviction. I have taken an oath to do impartial justice according to the Constitution and the laws, and trust that I shall have the courage and the honesty to vote according to the dictates of my judgment and for the highest good of the country.

(Signed) E. G. Ross. Two-thirds of the Senate were necessary to convict. Fiftyfour members were present. According to these private memoranda, the vote would stand eighteen for acquittal, thirty-five for conviction-one short of two-thirds. What would the one vote be and how could it be had? The prosecution, after the sending of the above quoted telegram, had exhausted every effort to obtain it. The handful of Democrats in the Senate had been leading a forlorn hope, only eight against forty-six. But among the Republicans there were eleven Senators, four of whom were known as conservative, and seven whose party fealty had never until that hour been questioned. It remained to be seen how the honest manhood of these men should be tested and come forth, bright above reproach, but preserved only at the sacrifice of all their political future.

Describing the vote of these honest Republicans, Senator Ross says of Senator Fessenden:

“Though a political opponent of the President, the logical conclusions he had reached far outweighed all considerations personal to himself, and the martyrdom he had provoked and knew he must suffer had no weight in the scale against what he deemed his duty to the cause of justice and the welfare of his country. His was the first vote against conviction."

Then followed the name of Senator Fowler, whose courage and keen sense of public propriety and personal honor were proof against all assaults, and he voted, "Not guilty.”

Then in the order of the vote came Senator Grimes. “As he rose to his feet, supported by friends on either side, the scene became at once pathetic and heroic. In his then physical condition, and in view of the personal and public enmities which the vote he was about to give would inevitably engender, it was apparent that he was about to perform the last important act of his life. But though physically enfeebled by the fatal illness that was upon him, there was no sign of hesitancy or weakness. His vote was, 'Not guilty.'

Senator Henderson, of Missouri, was opposed to conviction, yet that fact had not saved him from the unsparing anathemas of his political constituents. He voted, “Not guilty."

“Then the call went on down the alphabet, with unvarying responses of 'Guilty,' till the name of the uncounted Senator was reached. On the call of that name, the great audience became again hushed into absolute silence. Every fan was folded, not a foot moved, not the rustle of a garment, not a whisper was heard.”

"They who have been out alone on the great plains of the West will recall the absolute profound silence which prevails there on a bright, still day, when there seems to be a lull even in the forces of nature, and the absence of sound seems intensely cppressive. That was the silence that pervaded the Senate chamber as the Senator rose to his feet at the call of the Chief Justice: 'How say you, Senator Ross? Is the respondent, Andrew Johnson, guilty or not guilty under this article ? At this point the intensity with which the gaze of the audience was centred on the figure then on the floor was beyond description or comparison. Hope and fear seemed blended in every face, instantaneously alternating, some with revengeful hate predominating as in the mind's eye they saw the dreams of success, of place and triumph dashed to earth; others lighted with hope that the President would be relieved of the charge against him, and all things remain as they were.”

“Conscious that I was at that moment the focus of all eyes, and conscious also of the far-reaching effect, especially upon inyself, of the vote I was about to give, it is something more than a simile to say that I almost literally looked down into my open grave. Friends, position, fortune-yea, everything that makes life desirable to an ambitious man—were about to be swept away by the breath of my mouth, perhaps forever.”

The answer was carried waveringly over the air and failed to reach the limits of the audience. A repetition was demanded by distant Senators. Then came from him, in a voice that could not be misunderstood, clear and ringing, “Not guilty.”

When all had voted on the 11th Article, the Chief Justice announced the result as follows:

“Upon this article thirty-five Senators vote, 'Guilty,' and nineteen Senators vote, Not guilty. Two-thirds not having pronounced guilty, the President is therefore acquitted upon this article.”

Immediately the Senate adjourned to the 26th of May, and upon that day the vote was taken upon the 2d Article, with the same result, as also upon the 3d Article. Whereupon the President was declared acquitted upon each of those articles.

The managers, in despair, seeing their cause inevitably lost, sat dumb, while Senator Williams moved adjournment sine die, which motion was carried, and the case closed without vote upon the remaining articles.


It is perhaps to be regretted that the termination of this, the first trial of a President of the United States, should be so barren of results in the settlement of any of the grave questions of law which it involved. It can be viewed only as persuasive authority in any future controversy of that particular magnitude. The rulings of the Chief Justice were set aside so frequently, and his opinions so disrespectfully set at naught, that in the last hour, upon a motion to adjourn sine die, in reply to an inquiry from Mr. Conners whether a ruling made by the Senate upon a given point did not stand as such until changed by the Senate, the Chief Justice exclaimed, rather testily: “Undoubtedly, but the Chief Justice cannot undertake to say how soon the Senate may reverse its rulings."

Much time was devoted to the discussion of the questions:

1. In what capacity does the Senate sit on the trial of this impeachment--whether as a court or not?

2. What constitute impeachable offenses and what are high crimes and misdemeanors ?

3. Was the Tenure-of-Office Act constitutional or not?

4. Did the President have the legal right to suspend or remove the Secretary of War and appoint anyone to that office ad interim?

The simple failure to convict President Johnson by the shifting of one vote is too small a margin for reliance upon the case as a settlement of any principle of law.

Before the vote was taken, predictions were freely indulged that the President's acquittal meant ruin, disruption and death to the Republican party. But the funeral seems to have been indefinitely postponed. In like manner the partisans of Congress foresaw in his acquittal the “logical results of the war” (the synonym of spoils and plunder) vanish into thin air. Yet the Reconstruction Acts ran their fearful course to the end, until the carnival of crime and corruption which they encouraged was destroyed by its own excesses or fell under the ban of national opprobrium.

Without holding a brief for Mr. Johnson or agreeing with any of his critics or admirers, it is interesting to find some unbiased witnesses, whose views, however irreconcilable, are here given for those of you who are curious to know more of Mr. Johnson's character.

Professor Burgess sums up thus :

"The truth of the whole matter is that while Mr. Johnson was an unfit person to be President of the United States

which may also be affirmed of some others who have occupied the high place—he was utterly and entirely guiltless of the commission of any crime or misdemeanor. He was low-born and low-bred, violent in temper, obstinate, coarse, vindictive, and lacking in the sense of propriety, but he was not behind any of his accusers in patriotism and loyalty to the country and in his willingness to sacrifice every personal advantage to the maintenance of the Union and the preservation of the government. In fact, most of them were pigmies in these qualities beside him. It is true that he differed with them somewhat in his conception of what measures were for the welfare of the country and what not, but the sequel has shown that he was nearer right than they in this respect.”

Hear also what Mr. Charles K. Tuckerman has recorded of Mr. Johnson:

The President, unsolicited, had appointed Mr. Tuckerman to a foreign mission, and, in order to be certain that no misunderstanding existed, he called to see the President and let him know that he was a Republican of the straightest sect. "But,” said the President, “I do not see why you shouldn't be a very good man, if you are a Republican.”

Upon the suggestion by Mr. Tuckerman that the President should yield to the views of Congress, he says:

“Rising from his chair, the President, in a slow, modulated tone of voice and with impressive earnestness, as if addressing an audience from the rostrum, declared that he stood upon the Constitution; that, throwing aside all sectional prejudices, he had the interest of the whole country at heart, and fearing neither the threats of impeachment nor the mistaken views of popular opinion, he should maintain what he believed to be constitutionally right, without fear or favor."

"I left him," says Mr. Tuckerman, "with the conviction that, however impolitic or misguided might be his course, a more

« PreviousContinue »