Andrew Johnson: A Study in Courage

By Lloyd Paul Stryker | Go to book overview
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LXIII
JOHNSON IS IMPEACHED

IN the general conflagration of February 22nd the House of Representatives was blazing with a white flame. At 12 o'clock a nervous throng was crowding every corner of the galleries, while from without the populace clamored for admission. The lobbies were a seething mass; even the aisles and area opposite the clerk's desk were filled. Near Speaker Colfax a seat had been provided for Ben Wade. There he sat awaiting what he and his coconspirators believed would lead him to the Presidency of the United States. The very air was vibrant with wild rumor. Men were on the march from Maryland to protect the President, it was whispered.1 The excited throngs became so out of hand that finally the Speaker called the Capital police to bring the galleries to order.2 There had not been there such a feverish hour since that March day seven years before, when Senator Andrew Johnson of Tennessee roared his denunciation of secession, and Abraham Lincoln sat in his hotel preparing, none too hopefully, to take his oath of office. But that was all forgotten now.

Impatiently for more than two hours the House gave its indifferent attention to the dispatch of routine business, while behind closed doors Stevens' Reconstruction Committee was preparing its report. Finally at twenty minutes after two, the Committee, with Thaddeus Stevens at its head, made its way into the expectant chamber.3 Could there be any doubt what the report would be? Was not Andrew Johnson guilty of blood-curdling crime? Had he not sought to rid himself of a disloyal member of his Cabinet? Could such criminality go uncondemned by these highminded patriots? Men who, as Welles declared, were ready to impeach the President "had he been accused of stepping on a dog's tail."4 The report, of course, recommended an impeachment.5 Stevens

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Andrew Johnson: A Study in Courage
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