Andrew Johnson: A Study in Courage

By Lloyd Paul Stryker | Go to book overview

XLV
ASHLEY BEGINS WORK ON IMPEACHMENT

IMPEACHMENT! The air resounded with the cry! The Presidential obstacle! Judas! Treason! The follower of Jefferson Davis! The friend of Rebels! The country must be purged! Impeach him now! Impeach him!! The newspapers were filled with the suggestion. The name of Warren Hastings was becoming known to every school child.1 What mattered it that there was no evidence? What mattered it that there was no treason, bribery or other high crime or misdemeanor? What mattered it that no President had ever been impeached? What mattered anything if Andrew Johnson could be driven out of public life, if he could be disgraced and ruined and Lincoln's libeler lifted to his place!

The Radicals were studying the Constitution. These questions were asked and answered: What is an impeachment? It is a charge or accusation. For what offenses may the charge be made? "Treason, bribery or other high crimes or misdemeanors."2 Who has the power to make the charge,--that is, to impeach? "The House of Representatives . . . shall have the sole power of impeachment,"--that is, to make the charge. What court tries it? "The Senate shall have the sole power to try all impeachments." Who presides at the trial? "When the President is tried, the Chief Justice shall preside."3 What is the purpose of the trial? To determine the guilt or innocence of the accused. When must the accused be acquitted? When less than two-thirds of the members of the Senate present do not vote guilty. When must there be a conviction? "No person shall be convicted without the concurrence of two-thirds of the members present."4 What is the nature of a judgment of conviction? "Judgment in cases of impeachment shall not extend further than to removal

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