IMPEACHMENT OF THE PRESIDENT
The three departments of government are supposed to be equal, but they are far otherwise. Thus during times of war the President as Commander-in-Chief of the army is supreme. In April 1861 President Lincoln seized the reins of government and saved the Union. Though it was the duty of Congress to declare war, he usurped this power, calling for seventy-five thousand troops to wage four years of warfare. Again, in times of peace the courts are supreme; in 1857 the Supreme Court overrode all precedent, declaring legislation relating to slavery in the territories illegal, and setting itself up as supreme. And yet after all is said the legislative department is the final arbiter. It controls the purse, has the power to impeach presidents and judges and to deprive courts of jurisdiction. Except when war is actually raging and an army is in the field, the popular assembly, standing closest to the people, is the ultimate source of power.
Possessing this great power, Congress was bent on using it. Nothing should stand in "its way of reconstructing the South with a negro on top and a white man on the bottom."1 If necessary the courts and the President should be reduced to ciphers, and the checks and balances of the Constitution destroyed. In 1866 when the Supreme Court decided the Milligan, Cummings and Garland cases, holding that military tribunals were illegal and could not function in times of peace, and that no ex post facto or similar laws could be passed, because the Constitution forbade, Radicals were beside themselves. The calm judicial statement of Justice David Davis that military tribunals had had their day seemed to the mind of Sumner, "an alliance offensive and defensive between the Supreme Court and the President." Wendell Phillips was for abolishing____________________