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multitude—a single individual standing alone on the rock of the Constitution defending the helpless and oppressed communities of the South which he viewed as "States," against the combined attacks of millions of fanatics led by madmen as conspirators to destroy the last vestige of civilization in their “conquered territories."
TIE TRIAL AND ITS INCIDENTS.
The Senate having refused to consent to the suspension of Secretary Stanton, General Grant quickly abandoned the War Office, and instead of resigning it into the hands of the President, from whom he had accepted it, left it to be picked up by Stanton, who promptly resumed it and proceeded to fortify himself.
On the 21st of February, 1868, Johnson addressed an order to Stanton, dismissing him from the War Office, and appointed General Lorenzo Thomas Secretary ad interim. Stanton refused to surrender, and caused the arrest of General Thomas under the Tenure-of-Office Act. This was exactly what the
President desired, and Stanton had fallen into the trap-a decision of the whole controversy by the courts. But the astuteness of Stanton's counsel, assured that impeachment would follow, prevented this by the withdrawal of the complaint and the release of General Thomas. The President's removal of Stanton enraged Congress to that degree that it was short work to pass the resolution of impeachment in the House of Representatives by a vote of 126 to 47—a strict party vote.
The managers on the part of the House to conduct the prosecution were promptly chosen-Messrs. Bingham, Boutwell, Wilson, Butler, Williams, Logan and Stevens. Of all this illustrious septemvirate, only one remains to grieve over their lost cause.
The articles of impeachment, dated March 2, 1868, stripped of all unnecessary verbiage, and reduced by analysis to their
last absurdity, seem lamentably weak and inconsequential. They are:
"1. That he violated the Tenure-of-Office Act in issuing an order deposing Stanton from the office of Secretary of War and appointing Thomas Secretary ad interim.”
“2. That he violated the Anti-Conspiracy Act of July 31, 1861, in conspiring with Thomas to expel Stanton by force from the War Office, and to seize upon the property and papers of the United States in the War Office, and to unlawfully disburse the money appropriated for the military service and the Department of War."
“3. That he violated the act of March 2, 1867, which, among other things, directed that the military orders of the President and Secretary of War should be issued through the General of the Army, by attempting to induce General Emory, the commander of the troops around Washington, to disregard the law and take his orders immediately from the President."
"And 4th. That he committed high misdemeanors in his speeches denouncing the Thirty-ninth Congress and declaring it to be a Congress of only a part of the States.”
The President entered his appearance by his counsel-Henry Stanbery, Benjamin R. Curtis, Jeremiah S. Black, William M. Evarts and Thomas A. R. Nelson. Their motion, made March 13th, asked for forty days to prepare the President's
This was denied, and it was ordered that the answer be filed on the 23d of March, which was accordingly done. Between those dates it appears that Judge Black retired from the President's case, for no assignable reason, and not until the close of the case was it discovered that the reason was far more creditable to the President than to the counsel who for sook him at this critical moment. Hon. William E. Groesbeck took his place.
The answer, filed on the 23d, is a fine presentation of the case, and though highly argumentative, makes emphatic denial of any and every violation of the Constitution and the laws. It sets up every proper defense to the charge of violating the
Tenure-of-Office Act, and asserts the President's innocence in every view of it, no matter whether the case of Stanton fell within or without the act.
In answer to the charge that he had abused and vilified Congress in his public speeches, and had asserted that they were "a Congress of only a part of the States," the explanation is clearly worse than the offense, and this part of the answer was calculated to incense the Senate to the verge of madness. It came near defeating the case, but it is the most admirable part of the defense. It admitted the allegation that the Congress was only of part of the States, but insisted that he had said this repeatedly in his several messages, and he again, as he had always done, "protested against the unauthorized exclusion therefrom of the eleven States of the South.” And in forcible style, the answer declares not only his constitutional right as President of the United States to communicate his views and opinions in regard to the legislation of Congress, as he had frequently done, but he refused to waive or disparage his right to the exercise of that freedom of speech which belonged to him as a citizen of the United States.
The Managers filed their replication on the next day, and, notwithstanding the motion of the President's counsel for thirty days to prepare their defense, the Senate denied the motion and ruled them into trial on the 30th of March.
An important preliminary question arose while the Senate was being organized as a court to try the impeachment. When the name of Senator Wade was reached on the call of the Senate to take the oath, it was objected by Senator Hendricks that Mr. Wade should not be allowed to sit on the trial, for the reason that he would thus be made a judge in his own case, the succession to the Presidency being in him, and his single rote, if cast for himself, might make him President of the United States. It was ably debated, but the motion was withdrawn by Senator Hendricks and no vote was taken thereon, and notwithstanding the evident impropriety, Senator Wade insisted on being sworn to try a case the result of which would be to place him in the President's seat. The thickness of his skin was only equalled by the obliquity of his conscience, neither of which could be penetrated by the ringing rebuke of Senator Bayard, who concluded his argument against him thus :
"He must, of course, decide that question for himself in the first instance; but for my own part, I can only say that if I stood in the same position the wealth of worlds could not tempt me for an instant to think of sitting as a judge in a case where my interest were so directly personally involved.”
With the court thus organized for conviction, the result did not appear in doubt, and the opening speech for the Managers was made by Benjamin F. Butler with an easy confidence. It has been aptly characterized by a Northern critic as “a fierce, not to say brutal, attack of Mr. Butler on the President;" to which we may add that it was in keeping with the personal peculiarities which had gained for him kinship with the beasts that perish.
It is difficult to imagine that doughty warrior as ever having experienced the feeling of modest diffidence, but he confesses to nothing short of stage-fright as he opened the case. In that gossip's manual called "Butler's Book,” he says:
“When I entered the Senate chamber from the Vice-President's room, the scene was almost appalling to one who had to address such an audience. The floor of the Senate chamber was filled, because the House attended in Committee of the Whole; the galleries were also crowded with those interested in the case, and the ladies' gallery shone resplendently with bright, beautiful women in the most gorgeous apparel."
And he adds:
“I came as near running away then as I ever did on any occasion of my life.”
(He forgot for the moment his experiences at Drewry's Bluff, Deep Bottom and City Point.)
He soon recovered his composure, and then he says he handed to one of his colleagues a written paper, asking him to offer it in evidence, but observing that he was trembling violently, he came to his relief, and adds: “I determined to try this case as I would a horse case, and I knew I could do that.” “And thus,” says General Butler, “I became the leading figure of the impeachment, for better or for worse.'
Then followed the testimony of more than forty witnesses, with vast volumes of documentary evidence, making up a record, with the argument of counsel, in size and extent equivalent to five full volumes of Virginia Reports. The trial consumed eighty-two days, and the statement of Mr. Blaine, first above quoted, "that it may be recalled with pride by every American citizen," is best answered by that statesman's own comment. "No impartial reader," he says, “can examine the record of the pleadings and argument of the managers who appeared on behalf of the House without feeling that the President was impeached for one series of misdemeanors and tried for another series."
After the testimony was all in, and the argument of counsel on either side had fairly commenced, it was soon perceived that the managers were forced to rely for conviction on the single charge that the President had violated the Tenure-of-Office Act, passed March 2, 1867, the first section whereof reads as follows:
“Be it enacted, &c., 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
hereafter be appointed to any such office and shall become duly qualified to act therein, is and shall be entitled to hold such office until a successor shall have been in like manner appointed and duly qualified, except as herein otherwise provided. "Provided, that the Secretaries of State, of the Treasury,
, of War, of the Navy and of the Interior, the Postmaster-General and the Attorney-General shall hold their offices respectively for and during the term of the President by whom they may have been appointed, and for one month thereafter, subject to removal by and with the consent of the Senate.”
The charge was that the President had violated this act by the removal of the Secretary of War on the 21st of February,