Andrew Johnson: A Study in Courage

By Lloyd Paul Stryker | Go to book overview

XXXII
JOHNSON UNLIMBERS WITH HIS VETOES

How keenly the Radicals were determined to destroy local selfgovernment in the South had been strongly revealed on the 5th of January, when, having brought forth their Freedman's Bureau measure, there was on the same day introduced in Congress a bill "to protect all persons in their civil rights and furnish the means of their vindication."1 It was the first of the "force bills."2 Its progress through the Congress was less rapid than the companion Freedman's Bureau bill; it did not pass the Senate until February 2nd and the House until the 15th of March.3 Having been thwarted in their Freedman's Bureau scheme, the Radicals did not intend that the President should again stay their hand.

The scene in Congress on March 10th possessed the distinction that might have been discovered in a longshoremen's saloon where some great bully bleary-eyed held the floor evoking the ribald guffaws of his submissive listeners. Thaddeus Stevens, in the opinion of the little men who permitted him to rule them, was an incomparable wit. They considered irresistible his mock eulogy of Andrew Johnson. When he had finished, he sent to the clerk's desk an excerpt from the New York World of March 7th, 1865, wherein Johnson was described as "an insolent drunken brute in comparison with whom Caligula's horse was respectable."4

Gideon Welles that night painted this defamer in his true colors. "Thad Stevens," he wrote, "has to-day made a blackguard and disreputable speech in the House. . . . This wretched old man displayed . . . those bad traits of dissimulation, insincerity, falsehood, scandal-loving and defamation that have characterized his long life. The Radical managers and leaders were cognizant of his speech, and had generally encouraged it, but I shall be disappointed if they do not wish the vain old man had been

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