Andrew Johnson: A Study in Courage

By Lloyd Paul Stryker | Go to book overview

LXVI
THE SUPREME COURT'S OPPORTUNITY

ON March 9th the Supreme Court took the McCardle case under advisement.1 Something must be done to forestall the decision! Once more the Radicals were equal to the task! Three days later they rushed through an amendment to a pending measure,2 whereby they sought to strip the Supreme Court of jurisdiction in the case.3 On the very day of its introduction it passed both Houses!4 The New York Herald satirically observed: "The country is in the hands of Congress. That Congress is the Radical majority, and that Radical majority is old Thad Stevens. Government by the people has its glories."5 In his unfailing diary Gideon Welles put down: "It is evident that the Radicals in Congress are in a conspiracy to overthrow not only the President but the government. The impeachment is but a single act in the drama. . . . By trick, imposition and breach of courtesy, an act was slipped through both Houses . . . which is designed to prevent a decision in the McCardle case. Should the court in that case, as it is supposed they will, pronounce the Reconstruction laws unconstitutional, the military governments will fall and the whole Radical policy will rumble with it. Only one course can prolong the miserable contrivance, and that is a President like Wade, who will maintain the military governments regardless of courts, or law or right. Hence I have very little expectation that the President will escape conviction. His deposition is a party necessity, and the Senators have not individually the strength, ability nor honesty to resist the Radical caucus decisions which Stevens, Ben Butler and other chief conspirators sent out."6

But the Radical press was jubilant. "The passage of that little bill which put a knife to the throat of the McCardle case was a splendid performance," gloated the Independent.7 While the

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