Andrew Johnson: A Study in Courage

By Lloyd Paul Stryker | Go to book overview

LI
CLOSING HOURS OF THE 39TH CONGRESS

STANTON'S amendment to the Army Appropriation Bill had passed both Houses by the 20th of February.1 This, as will be recalled, was the measure which in the early days of the preceding December he had secretly requested Boutwell to push through.2 On March 2nd, the day on which he forwarded his veto of the Reconstruction Bill, Johnson sent the House a message on the Stanton-Boutwell measure. But this time it was not a veto. The bill provided that the headquarters of the general of the army should be at Washington, that all orders of the President or Secretary of War should be issued through the general of the army, and that all the militia in the ten Southern states should be "forthwith disbanded."3

A veto would not only have been useless, it might have been worse than that. With subtle strategy this measure had been tied into the Appropriation Bill as a rider; had Johnson vetoed it, and had it thereafter failed of passage, the army would have been without support, and the time might yet come when Johnson would require the army! And so he signed the bill, but pointed out how it deprived him of his "constitutional function as Commander-in-Chief of the army," and ten states of their "constitutional right to protect themselves in any emergency by means of their own militia."4 Without the hurdle of a veto, the bill became a law.

Amid all this farrago of lawless laws, there flourished the effort to unearth or to invent some evidence on which to dispossess the tenant of the White House. Ashley paid constant court to Conover in jail; Conover,--the convicted suborner of perjury. Just give him time and he would produce letters from Johnson to Jefferson Davis, establishing the former's connection

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