WHEN Andrew Johnson thus boldly "named the traitors," he created a great sensation. Even the moderate Nation believed that "anyone whose moral sense was not offended by it the minute his eye lighted on it" was quite past redemption. But although shocked at "such a disregard for decency," and keenly conscious of the President's "terrible mistake," Godkin counselled patience: "Andrew Johnson has in times past been tried and not found wanting in patriotism, in devotion to the Union, in faithfulness to his obligations."1
But the Radicals were delighted at their new opportunity. The Independent expressed its horror at the spectacle. In Congress and the Departments, word was passed that Andy had been intoxicated when he made the Washington's Birthday speech. "Last Thursday," one of the clerks of the House of Representatives wrote to a friend: "Andy made one of the most disgraceful speeches at the White House ever made in this country. He has been drunk for a week, and was when he vetoed the Freedmen's Bureau bill last Tuesday."2 With such canards as evidence, historians generally fix February 22, 1866, as beginning of Johnson's downfall.
This is not altogether correct. There were many--and loyal Unionists at that--who applauded Johnson's boldness and indorsed every word he had said. Conservatives generally were greatly delighted, and the President received many letters comparing him to Old Hickory.3 Thurlow Weed thanked the President "with my whole grateful heart for that glorious speech of yesterday." Seward's preceptor felt that it "vindicates and saves our government and our Union. The people will rally to the support of the administration. Faction is rebuked and traitors will seek hiding places."4
The common council of Utica resolved that Johnson deserved the gratitude of the American people. Veto and speech had thrilled and electrified the country, wrote the editor of the Louisville Courier; "your appeal to the people will not be in vain." Johnson's speech struck a responsive chord in Tennessee, A. O. P. Nicholson writing that it was "fully equal to any of your best popular addresses."5 The Maryland legis