Impeachment of Andrew Johnson

The impeachment of President Andrew Johnson was a bitter political spectacle that played out in the summer of 1868. Tensions between Congressional leaders and the man finishing out Abraham Lincoln's second term had always been strained and had finally reached a breaking point.

The sharp political conflict in Washington was on one level a clash between strong characters, including President Johnson, Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton, and the leader of the Radical Republicans in Congress, Thaddeus Stevens.

A hero of the Civil War, and the man expected to be the next president, Ulysses S. Grant, also played a critical role in the drama.

The case for Johnson's impeachment hinged on his alleged violations of a new and controversial federal law designed to prevent presidents from removing cabinet officers without the approval of the Senate. But the real issue, known to anyone reading the nation's newspapers, was the conflict between Johnson and the Congress on Reconstruction policy.

Johnson, a southerner and Democrat, had been added as Lincoln's running mate when the election of 1864 was very much in doubt. And when Johnson became president upon Lincoln's assassination he created great controversy by advocating a lenient policy to the states which had rebelled against the Union.

After constant clashes with the Congress, Johnson was nearly removed from office at the impeachment trial in the summer of 1868.

He prevailed by a single vote and remained in office, though his presidency was essentially ruined at that point. And he did not run to win his own term in office in the election in the fall of 1868.