Andrew Johnson: A Study in Courage

By Lloyd Paul Stryker | Go to book overview

LIII
THE PRESIDENT SUSPENDS STANTON

STRONGLY as Johnson disapproved of the Reconstruction Acts, he nevertheless made it plain that he would see them executed so long as they were laws,1 never doubting that the Supreme Court would strike these measures down. Until that time should come, he recognized his duty, however distasteful or distressing, as the Chief Executive, to "take care that the laws,"--even these laws-- were "faithfully executed."2

Immediately upon the passage of the acts, as we have seen, the generals for the command of the military districts had been assigned.3 Over the fifth,--Louisiana and Texas--Sheridan had been placed with his headquarters at New Orleans.4 He had been a dashing cavalry commander. He had the qualities that served him well on horseback,--youth, daring, self-assurance and impetuosity. Fine traits for the soldier, but as a civil administrator he was something more than lacking in tact, discretion or restraint. Moreover, like so many of his contemporaries, he harbored Presidential aspirations;5 the malady of Chief Justice Chase was apparently infectious. New Orleans, with its riot of the year before, would have been a difficult post for the most discreet commander. With Sheridan, trouble began almost at once,--it was the kind of trouble that endeared him to the Radicals.

He had been in office but eight clays when his axe began to fall. Summarily he removed Judge Abell of the Criminal Court of New Orleans, as well as Herron, the Attorney-General of Louisiana, and Monroe, the Mayor of the capital. Having thus disposed of these lesser officers he now directed his attention to James Welles, the Governor of the State. The Legislature of Louisiana had appropriated $4,000,000 for repairing the levees. Between the lawmakers and the Governor an argument had

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