Andrew Johnson: A Study in Courage

By Lloyd Paul Stryker | Go to book overview

LXXVIII
THE HIGH COURT DELIBERATES

THE following Monday was devoted to deliberation and debate among the Senators. Many spoke, but what they said was not reported. The session lasted until nearly midnight.1 From the written opinions, however, which thirty of the Senators later filed, the nature of the debate may be reconstructed.

"This is one of the last great battles with slavery," Sumner wrote in his opinion. "Driven from these legislative chambers, driven from the field of war, this monstrous power has found a refuge in the Executive Mansion where, in utter disregard of the Constitution and laws, it seeks to exercise its ancient and far reaching sway. . . . Andrew Johnson is the impersonation of the tyrannical slave power. In him it lives again. He is the lineal successor of John C. Calhoun and Jefferson Davis; and he gathers about him the same supporters. Original partisans of slavery North and South; habitual compromisers of great principles; maligners of the Declaration of Independence; politicians without heart; lawyers for whom a technicality is everything, and a promiscuous company who at every stage of the battle have set their faces against equal rights; these are his allies. It is the old troop of slavery, with a few recruits, ready as of old for violence --cunning in device, and heartless in quibble. With the President at their head, they are now entrenched in the Executive Mansion. Not to dislodge them is to leave the country a prey to one of the most hateful tyrannies of history. Especially is it to surrender the Unionists of the rebel states to violence and bloodshed. Not a month, not a week, not a day should be lost. The safety of the Republic demands action at once. The lives of innocent men must be rescued from sacrifice."2

Nearly sixty years have yellowed the printed page on which

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