Impeachment, Congress’s remedy to oust a sitting president, has only been initiated three times in American History: 1868, 1974 and 1998.

None of those men, however, Andrew Johnson, Richard Nixon or Bill Clinton, were actually removed from office under the impeachment provisions in the U.S Constitution. One, Nixon, resigned from office ahead of an almost certain conviction.

Note: each of these former leaders of the United States faced a congress controlled by the political party of the opposition.

This article is the first of three that will give capsule stories about each of those impeachment attempts mentioned above. It is the initial effort to provide an historical background as dissatisfaction with the Donald Trump administration deepens and calls for the president’s removal increases.  So, in that light, let’s take a look at America’s first impeachment attempt.

When the South seceded from the Union in 1861, Andrew Johnson, a Democratic Senator from Tennessee, refused to follow the secessionist movement and into civil war. And for his loyalty, President Lincoln, a Republican, appointed him as military governor of Tennessee in 1862. In 1864, Lincoln ran for a second term as president with Johnson as his running mate, mostly to show the South good faith.

By the time Lincoln and Johnson took office in March of 1865, the American Civil War was drawing to a rapid close. But when Lincoln was assassinated in April, Johnson found himself installed as the new president.

Pugnacious and always believing he was right, Johnson was also much more sympathetic to the defeated South than were the northern Republicans who were in control of Congress. Much to their consternation, Johnson’s softer policies on reconstructing the shattered South allowed the old slave-holding class to keep their authority and condemned former slaves in the region to yet another form of violent servitude.

Those policies ignited a long-term firestorm of protest and opposition from congressional Republicans and those who served on the president’s cabinet, men originally appointed by Lincoln.

Secretary of War, Edwin M. Stanton

And in 1867, fearing the removal of Lincoln’s appointees to the cabinet by Johnson, especially Edwin M. Stanton, Secretary of War, Congress, over the president’s veto, enacted the Tenure of Office Act. This new law prohibited the president from firing any of his cabinet members without the approval of Congress.

Infuriated by this radical move to curtail his authority, Johnson decided to test the new law by twice attempting to fire Secretary Stanton and inserting new people in that office, including Ulysses S. Grant. But Congress would have none of that and in 1868 it initiated impeachment proceedings in the House of Representatives.

The House then drafted and approved 11 Articles of Impeachment by a simple majority vote, most of which had to do with the Tenure of Office Act. In the Senate, however, those 11 articles were culled to 3, those that seemed most likely to meet the high bar of gaining a 2/3 majority approval.

The trial of an impeached president in the Senate was a public sensation since it was the first time such a thing had occurred in the short life of the United States. As provided in the Constitution, the Supreme Court Justice. Salmon P. Chase, presided with events starting on March 4, 1868 and ending on May 26, of that same year.

Drama reigned, witnesses were called, evidence was presented, and passions flared, but in the end, Andrew Johnson won the day. Although a large senate majority voted against the president, that was 1 vote short of the 2/3 majority needed. Each Article of Impeachment was voted down separately by the same margin, 35 to 19. At the time, there were 27 states with 2 senators each for a total of 54.

Even some of Johnson’s foes voted against conviction in brave philosophical disagreement with their fellows. In what would today be labeled a statement of bi-partisan support, one of those foes, Senator James Grimes of Iowa, said “I cannot agree to destroy the harmonious working of the Constitution for the sake of getting rid of an Unacceptable President.”

It had taken 3 years for this conflict of wills and constitutional authority to be resolved, and even though he won, Andrew Johnson served out the rest of his term in office a more subdued and cooperative man.

And as for the Tenure of Office Act, it died a slow but complete death, first by partial repeal, then by full repeal and eventually, in 1926, the Supreme Court of the United States declared it unconstitutional. This gradual eventuality exposed the true political nature of the law regardless of any good intentions the congressional lawmakers back in 1867 may have had.

Sources for Further Information

Videos and articles

Andrew Johnson Biography (Biography.com 2:08)

The Impeachment of Andrew Johnson: Conflict Between President and Congress (History 103 10:14)

Articles & Books

A Short History of Impeachment: Johnson, Nixon and Clinton (Infoplease.com)

The Case for Impeachment (HarperCollins Publishers)

Removal of a President Under the Constitution (Indivisible of Central Florida)

The Impeachment of Andrew Johnson [1868] (The U.S. Senate)

 

 

 

 

 

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What the French Election Might Teach Us

French President Emmanuel Macron

Much to the relief of many people and world governments across the globe, centrist Emmanuel Macron soundly defeated the far-right candidate, Marine Le Pen, for the office of French President on May 7, 2017. In doing so, Macron became the youngest leader in the history of the republic at age 39 while also stopping Le Pen’s isolationist agenda in its tracks. For now.

Endorsed by former President Obama, Macron and his 66% win showed that the French people rejected Le Pen’s anti-globalist, anti-Islamic immigration, anti-NATO, anti-EU, France first and pro-Russian outlook. And with President Trump supporting Le Pen, that election in many ways philosophically mirrored the 2016 presidential battle between Trump and Hillary Clinton.

Such a comparison became even more striking when Russian hackers dumped great amounts of anti-Macron information on the Internet the night before the election, harkening back to the Clinton email situation. And as if that weren’t enough, Le Pen showed up in Moscow with Vladimir Putin, also shortly before the election.

For Europe, the Macron victory ensures the stability there economically, militarily and politically. With France set to continue as a strong and committed partner in the European Union and NATO, the region remains a bulwark against an expansionist and politically aggressive Russia.

Marine Le Pen

And, of course, all of that bodes well for the United States in its own defense through NATO as well as being assured the EU, its largest trading partner, is not going to be fractured even more by a French exit. But it is in the political realm that the Le Pen defeat might be most instructive for those in the U.S. who are still in shock over the election of the Le Pen type candidate, Donald Trump, and the ever-increasing chaos surrounding his presidency.

 

Lessons to Be Learned

  1. The French election shows how a strong, isolationist, populist candidate can be halted. It is even possible that in seeing the results of the U.S. election and how that has played out since, the French people didn’t want the same for their country. This could be good news for the opposition to Trump & Company as they plan for the 2018 and 2020 elections.
  2. The Macron win is a reversal of a world trend towards the installment and solidification of far-right governments which could shift voting patterns away from such candidates in the U.S. for future elections.
  3. The Le Pen defeat could help build less willingness in other countries, like the U.S., from discriminatory Muslim travel and immigration policies.
  4. The Le Pen defeat will keep France in the Paris Accords, thus maintaining stability in the world’s plan, signed by 195 countries including the U.S., to counteract climate change.
  5. Macron’s victory even in the face of heavy Russian meddling is an indicator that perhaps once people truly understand what is going on, they will not let such interference negatively influence how they vote whether it be in France, the United States or elsewhere. It is also a sharp rebuke to Russia that just might be replicated in other countries facing similar intrusions.

Sources for further information

Videos + articles

Emmanuel Macron wins presidency as France rejects far-right (CNN 1:40)

Emmanuel Macron defeats Le Pen to become French president (BBC News.com 2:00)

Five reasons the French election is a big deal (USA Today.com 1:26)

Why Macron’s French election win matters to the U.S. (CBS News.com)

Articles

Emanuel Macron Biography (Biography.com)

Marine Le Pen Biography (Britannica.com)

What the French elections mean for Americans (CNN.com)

 

 

 

 

 

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