150 Years Ago: Johnson’s Impeachment Was the Biggest Show in Washington

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The Fight Over Andrew Johnson’s Impeachment Was a Fight for the Future of the United States

by Annette Gordon-Reed Smithsonian.com

It promised to be a spectacle in a period that had seen its share of them. Three years after the end of a bloody civil war that had sundered the Union, and nearly three years after the assassination of Abraham Lincoln, the government of the United States had triggered the most serious process in the constitutional mechanism: the power of impeachment.

On February 24, 1868, the House of Representatives voted along party lines, 126 to 47, to impeach President Andrew Johnson for having committed “high crimes and misdemeanors.” Days later, a House committee drew up nine articles of impeachment against the 17th president. They would later add two more. The vast majority of the articles were related to the main charge against Johnson: that he had violated the Tenure of Office Act, which prohibited the president from removing, without Senate approval, any official who had been appointed to office “with the advice and consent of the Senate.”

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