A Celebration of Women Writers

"Part VII, Chapter 92." by Henrietta Elizabeth Marshall (1876-)
From: This country of ours; the story of the United States by Henrietta Elizabeth Marshall (1876-) New York, George H. Doran company, 1917.

Editor: Mary Mark Ockerbloom


CHAPTER 92
JOHNSON–HOW THE PRESIDENT WAS IMPEACHED

THE Vice-President, Andrew Johnson, now became President. Like Lincoln, he came of very poor people. He taught himself how to read, but could not write until after his marriage, when his wife taught him. In many ways he thought as Lincoln did, but he had none of Lincoln's wonderful tact in dealing with men, he could not win men's love as Lincoln had done.

 

"I tell you," said a Confederate soldier, speaking of Lincoln, "he had the most magnificient face and eyes that I have ever gazed into. If he had walked up and down the Confederate line of battle there would have been no battle. I was his, body and soul, from the time I felt the pressure of his fingers."

 

The Southerners would have found a friend in Lincoln, but now that friend was lost to them. Had he lived much of the bitterness of the time after the war would never have been.

Lincoln a friend to the South

President Johnson had a very hard task before him. He had "to bind up the nation's wounds" and re-unite the North and South. But he had neither the tact nor the strength needed for this great task. At first it was thought he would be too hard on the South. Then it was thought he would be too lenient, and soon he was at loggerheads with Congress.

 

For the South, this time was a time of bitterness. The Confederate States were divided into five districts, each district being ruled over by an officer with an army of soldiers under him. From the men who had led the rebellion, all power of voting was taken away, while at the same time it was given to the negroes.

Negro suffrage

The negroes were very ignorant. They had no knowledge of how to use their votes. So a swarm of greedy adventurers from the North swooped down upon the South, cajoled the negroes into voting for them, and soon had the government of these states under their control.

 

These men were called Carpet-baggers. For it was said they packed all their belongings into a carpet bag. They had no possessions, no interests in the South. They came not to help the South, but to make money out of it, and under their rule, the condition of the Southern States became truly pitiful.

The Carpet-baggers

But at length this wretched time passed. The troops were withdrawn, the carpet-baggers followed, and the government once more came into the hands of better men.

 

Meanwhile bitterness had increased between the President and Congress. And now Congress brought a bill to lessen the President's power. This was called the Tenure of Office Bill. By it, the President was forbidden to dismiss any holder of a civil office without the consent of the Senate. The command of the army was also taken from him, and he was only allowed to give orders to the soldiers through the commander-in-chief.

Tenure of Office Bill, 1867

The President of course vetoed this bill. But Congress passed it in spite of his veto. This can be done if two-thirds of the Members of the House and the Senate vote for a bill. So the Tenure of Office Bill became law.

 

Now the President has grown to dislike Edwin Stanton, the Secretary of War. He disliked him so heartily indeed that he would no longer speak to him, and so he determined in spite of the Tenure of Office Bill to get rid of a man he looked upon as an enemy.

Edwin M. Stanton, 1815-69;

So Stanton was dismissed. But Stanton refused to go. And when his successor, General Thomas, appointed by the President, walked into the War office, he found Stanton still in possession, with his friends round him.

is dismissed 21st Feb., 1868;

"I claim the office of Secretary of War, and demand it by order of the President," said Thomas.

 

"I deny your authority, and order you back to your own office," said Stanton.

 

"I will stand here," said Thomas. "I want no unpleasantness in the presence of these gentlemen."

 

"You can stand there if you please, but you can not act as Secretary of War. I am Secretary of War, and I order you out of this office, and to your own," cried Stanton.

refuses to go

"I will not obey you, but will stand here and remain here," insisted Thomas.

 

In spite of his insistence, however, he was at last got rid of.

 

But it was impossible that things should go on in this fashion. The Senate was angry because its authority had been set at nought, but it could do little but express its wrath. Then the House took the matter in hand. And for the first and only time in the history of the United States the President was impeached before the Senate, "for high crimes and misdemeanors in office."

The President impeached;

But Andrew Johnson did not care. The House sat in judgement on him, but he never appeared before it. He knew the impeachment was only make believe on the part of his enemies to try and get rid of him. So he chose lawyers to defend him, but never appeared in court himself.

 

For ten days the trial lasted. The excitement throughout the country was intense, and on the last day when the verdict was given the court was packed from floor to ceiling, and great crowds, unable to get inside, waited without.

 

In tense silence each Senator rose and gave his verdict "guilty" or "not guilty". And when the votes were counted it was found that the President was declared not guilty. There were forty-eight Senators, and to convict the President it was necessary that two-thirds should declare him guilty. Thirty-five said guilty, and nineteen not guilty. Thus he was saved by just one vote.

he is acquitted 16th May, 1868

Stanton then quietly gave up the post to which he had clung so persistently. Another man took his place, and the President remained henceforth undisturbed until the end of his term.

 

During Johnson's Presidency another state was admitted to the Union. This was Nebraska. It was formed out of part of the Louisiana Purchase, the name being an Indian one meaning "shallow water." It had been formed into a territory at the time of the famous Kansas-Nebraska Bill, and now in March, 1867, it was admitted to the Union as the 37th State.

Nebraska admitted to the Union, 1867

This year too, the territory of Alaska was added to the United States. Alaska belonged to Russia by right of Vitus Bering's discovery. It was from this Vitus Bering that the Bering Strait and Bering Sea take their names. The Russians did very little with Alaska, and after a hundred years or more they decided that they did not want it, for it was separated from the rest of the Empire by a stormy sea, and in time of war would be difficult to protect. So they offered to sell it to the United States. But nothing came of it then, and for some years the matter dropped, for the war came and blotted out all thoughts of Alaska.

Alaska;

But now peace had come, and the subject was taken up again, and at length the matter was settled. Russia received seven million two hundred thousand dollars, and Alaska became a territory of the United States.

is bought by the United States, 1867

A party of American soldiers was landed at the town of Sitka. They marched to the governor's house, and there were drawn up beside the Russian troops. Then the Russian Commander ordered the Russian flag to be hauled down, and made a short speech. Thereupon the soldiers of both countries fired a salute. The American flag was run up, and the ceremony was at an end.

 

Thus another huge territory was added to the United States. But at first many people were displeased at the purchase. It was a useless and barren country, they thought, where the winters were so long and cold that it was quite unfit for a dwelling place for white men. But soon it was found that the whale and seal fisheries were very valuable, and later gold was discovered. It has also been found to be rich in other minerals, especially coal, and in timber, and altogether has proven a useful addition to the country.

 

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Editor: Mary Mark Ockerbloom

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Editor: Mary Mark Ockerbloom