Andrew Johnson: A Study in Courage

By Lloyd Paul Stryker | Go to book overview

LXX
THE SUPREME COURT SURRENDERS

THE Supreme Court had not yet decided the McCardle case! The bill depriving it of jurisdiction would become a law on March 25th unless Johnson vetoed it. If it became a law, the constitutionality of the Reconstruction Acts could not be determined until long after their shameless purposes had been accomplished. Andrew Johnson was on trial. Would he in these circumstances dare to act again? Another veto now would add live fuel to the flames! He was on trial! Could he not now pause in his resistance to the conspirators? How many of our Presidents would thus have reasoned?

But in the midst of his ordeal, assailed by the scoundrel Butler, pilloried by Stevens, defamed by Boutwell, harassed by the most corrupt Congress that ever sat in Washington, slandered by a hostile press, Andrew Johnson did not forget that day at Kirkwood House when he had registered in High Heaven an oath that he would, to the best of his ability, "preserve, protect and defend the Constitution!" The Supreme Court had done nothing; perhaps if Johnson acted now the judges would take courage! And so, encompassed all about by his enemies as he was, he threw his gauntlet in their face! Back to the wall, he was still fighting! He returned their bill to Congress with his veto! What American has shown a finer courage?

On March 25th he sent his message and he minced no words. "The legislation proposed," he said, "establishes a precedent which, if followed, may eventually sweep away every check on arbitrary and unconstitutional legislation. Thus far during the existence of the government the Supreme Court of the United States has been viewed by the people as the true expounder of the Constitution, and in the most violent party conflicts its judg

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