Andrew Johnson: A Study in Courage

By Lloyd Paul Stryker | Go to book overview

XLVII
1867 FINDS THE PLOT MATURING

THE Senators and Representatives returned to the capital after their New Year holiday, determined that they would make 1867 memorable. The leading actors in the conspiracy had been well drilled for their parts. The bills intended to consummate the plot had all been introduced; it remained only to lash their program through. Louder and louder they were shouting for impeachment! They hoped the threat alone would frighten Johnson from his course.

As a kind of overture to this symphony of malice, Charles Sumner's District of Columbia negro franchise bill was the firsr to engage the attention of the President. It entitled the negroes to vote and deprived all those who had "voluntarily given aid and comfort to the rebels in the late rebellion" of this privilege.1 The bill reached Johnson a few days before the turn of the year, and on January 4th he had his veto message ready, and read it to his Cabinet. All were in agreement with his views, until it came to Stanton! This member now produced a written statement, carefully prepared, declaring that he could perceive no constitutional objections to Sumner's bill, and expressing the hope that "the President would give it his approval."2Grant was present by invitation. He expressed his disapproval of what Sumner wanted; he thought it "very contemptible business for members of Congress whose states excluded the negroes to give them suffrage in this district."3

On January 7th the veto message reached the Senate.4 It was as calm as though the relations between him and the Congress were those of perfect amity. The citizens of the District of Columbia at that time possessed the right to vote,5--and they had

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