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On Thursday, March 5th, 1868, the Senate of the United States was organized for the trial of the charges brought against Andrew Johnson, President of the United States, by the House of Representatives--Honorable Salmon P. Chase, Chief Justice of the United States, presiding.
The following gentlemen appeared as managers of the prosecution on the part of the House:
Hon. John A. Bingham, of Ohio; Hon. George S. Boutwell, of Massachusetts; Hon. James F. Wilson, of Iowa; Hon. John A. Logan, of Illinois; Hon. Thomas F. Williams, of Pennsylvania; Hon. Benjamin F. Butler, of Massachusetts; and Hon. Thaddeus Stevens, of Pennsylvania.
The following gentlemen appeared as counsel for the President:
Messrs. Henry Stanbery, of Kentucky; Benjamin R. Curtis, of Massachusetts; Thomas A. R. Nelson, of Tennessee; William M. Evarts, of New York, and William S. Groesbeck, of Ohio.
The following gentlemen comprised the United States Senate, sitting for the trial of the President:
California-Cornelius Cole, (R)-John Conness, (R). Connecticut-James Dixon, (D)-Orris S. Ferry, (R). Delaware-Willard Saulsbury, (D)-James A. Bayard, (D). Illinois-Lyman Trumbull, (R)-Richard Yates, (R). Indiana-Oliver P. Morton, (R)-Thomas A. Hendricks, (D). Iowa-James W. Grimes, (R)-James Harlan, (R). Kansas-Samuel C. Pomeroy, (R)-Edmund G. Ross, (R). Kentucky-Thomas C. McCreary, (D)-Garrett Davis, (D). Massachusetts-Charles Sumner, (R)-Henry Wilson, (R). Maine-William Pitt Fessenden, (R)-Lot M. Morrill, (R). Maryland-Reverdy Johnson, (D)-George Vickers, (D). Michigan-Zachariah Chandler, (R)-Jacob M. Howard, (R). Missouri-John B. Henderson, (R)-Charles D. Drake, (R). Minnesota-Alexander Ramsay, (R)-Daniel S. Norton, (D). New York-Roscoe Conkling, (R)-Edwin D. Morgan, (R). Nevada-James W. Nye, (R)-William M. Stewart, (R). Nebraska-Thomas W. Tipton, (R)-John M. Thayer, (R). New Jersey-Alexander G. Cattell, (R)-F. T. Frelinghuysen, (R). New Hampshire-Alexander H. Craigin, (R)-Jas. W. Patterson, (R). Ohio-John Sherman, (R)-Benjamin F. Wade, (R). Oregon-Henry W. Corbett, (R)-Geo. H. Williams, (R). Pennsylvania-Simon Cameron, (R)-Charles R. Buckalew, (D). Rhode Island-Henry B. Anthony, (R)-William Sprague, (R). Tennessee--David T. Patterson, (D)-Joseph S. Fowler, (R). Vermont-George F. Edmunds, (R)-Justin S. Morrill, (R). West Virginia-W. T. Willey,(R)-Peter (3. Van Winkle, (R). Wisconsin-James R. Doolittle, (D)-Timothy O. Howe, (R). [Forty-two Republicans and twelve Democrats.]
The House bringing the Impeachment was three-fourths Republican--the Senate that tried it was more than threefourths Republican-the managers on the part of the House were all Republicans--the counsel for the President were three Democrats and one Republican--the President on trial was a Democrat--the interrogatories propounded to witnesses were generally received or rejected, according as their probable answers would make for or against the President--the people of the country at large were, as a rule, rigidly divided on party lines relative to the case, Republicans demanding the conviction of the President and Democrats urging his acquittal. The Chief Justice presiding in the trial was the only strictly nonpartisan factor in the case.
The answer of the President to the Articles of Impeachment having been presented on the 23rd of March, 1868--the replication of the House duly made, and all the preliminary steps completed, the proceedings in the actual trial commenced on the 30th day of March, 1868. Gen. Butler, one of the managers on the part of the House, made the opening argument for the prosecution, from which the following extracts are taken:
The first eight articles set out in several distinct forms the acts of the respondent removing Mr. Stanton from office, and appointing Mr. Thomas, ad interim, differing in legal effect in the purposes for which and the intent with which, either or both of the acts were done, and the legal duties and rights infringed, and the acts of Congress violated in so doing.
All the articles allege these acts to be in contravention of his oath of office, and in disregard of the duties thereof.
If they are so, however, the President might have the POWER to do them under the law; still, being so done, they are acts of official misconduct, and as we have seen, impeachable.
The President has the legal power to do many acts which, if done in disregard of his duty, or for improper purposes, then the exercise of that power is an official misdemeanor.
Ex. gr: he has the power of pardon; if exercised in a given case for a corrupt motive, as for the payment of money, or wantonly pardoning all criminals, it would be a misdemeanor. Examples might be multiplied indefinitely.
Article first, stripped of legal verbiage, alleges that, having suspended Mr. Stanton and reported the same to the Senate, which refused to concur in the suspension, and Stanton having rightfully resumed the duties of his office, the respondent, with knowledge of the facts, issued an order which is recited for Stanton's removal, with intent to violate the act of March 2, 1867, to regulate the tenure of certain civil offices, and with the further intent to remove Stanton from the office of Secretary of War, then in the lawful discharge of its duties, in contravention of said act without the advice and consent of the Senate, and against the Constitution of the United States.
Article 2 charges that the President, without authority of law, on the 21st of February, 1868, issued letter of authority to Lorenzo Thomas to act as Secretary of War ad interim, the Senate being in session, in violation of the tenure-of-office act, and with intent to violate it and the Constitution, there being no vancancy in the office of Secretary of War.
Article 3 alleges the same act as done without authority of law, and alleges an intent to violate the Constitution.
Article 4 charges that the President conspired with Lorenzo Thomas and divers other persons, with intent, by INTIMIDATION AND THREATS, to prevent Mr. Stanton from holding the office of Secretary of War, in violation of the Constitution and of the act of July 31, 1861.
Article 5 charges the same conspiracy with Thomas to prevent Mr. Stanton's holding his office, and thereby to prevent the execution of the civil tenure act.
Article 6 charges that the President conspired with Thomas to seize and possess the property under the control of the War Department by FORCE, in contravention of the act of July 31, 1861, and with intent to disregard the civil tenure-of-office act.
Article 7 charges the same conspiracy, with intent only to violate the civil tenure-ofoffice act.
Articles 3d, 4th, 5th, 6th and 7th may all be considered together, as to to the proof to support them.
It will be shown that having removed Stanton and appointed Thomas, the President sent Thomas to the War Office to obtain possession; that having been met by Stanton with a denial of his rights, Thomas retired, and after consultation with the President, Thomas asserted his purpose to take possession of the War Office by force, making his boast in several public places of his intentions so to do, but was prevented by being promptly arrested by process from the court.
This will be shown by the evidence of Hon. Mr. Van Horn, a member of the House, who was present when the demand for possession of the War office was made by General Thomas, already made public.
By the testimony of the Hon. Mr. Burleigh, who, after that, in the evening of the twenty-first of February, was told by Thomas that he intended to take possession of the War Office by force the following morning, and invited him up to see the performance. Mr. Burleigh attended, but the act did not come off, for Thomas had been arrested and held to bail.
By Thomas boasting at Willard's hotel on the same evening that he should call on General Grant for military force to put him in possession of the office, and he did not see how Grant could refuse it. Article 8 charges that the appointment of Thomas was made for the purpose of getting control of the disbursement of the moneys appropriated for the military service and Department of War.
In addition to the proof already adduced, it will be shown that, after the appointment of Thomas, which must have been known to the members of his cabinet, the President caused a formal notice to be served on the Secretary of the Treasury, to the end that the Secretary might answer the requisitions for money of Thomas, and this was only prevented by the firmness with which Stanton retained possession of the books and papers of the War office. It will be seen that every fact charged in Article 1 is admitted by the answer of the respondent; the intent also admitted as charged; that is to say, to set aside the civil tenure-of-office act, and to remove Mr. Stanton from the office of the Secretary for the Department of War without the advice and consent of the Senate, and, if not justified, contrary to the provisions of the Constitution itself.
The only question remaining is, does the respondent justify himself by the Constitution and laws?
On this he avers, that by the Constitution, there is "conferred on the President as a part of the executive power, the power at any and all times of removing from office all executive officers for cause, to be judged of by the President alone, and that he verily believes that the executive power of removal from office, confided to him by the Constitution, as aforesaid, includes the power of suspension from office indefinitely."
Now, these offices, so vacated, must be filled, temporarily at least, by his appointment, because government must go on; there can be no interregnum in the execution of the laws in an organized government; he claims, therefore, of necessity, the right to fill their places with appointments of his choice, and that this power can not be restrained or limited in any degree by any law of Congress, because, he avers, "that the power was conferred, and the duty of exercising it in fit cases was imposed on the President by the Constitution of the United States, and that the President could not be deprived of this power, or relieved of this duty, nor could the same be vested by law in the President and the Senate jointly, either in part or whole."
This, then, is the plain and inevitable issue before the Sehate and the American people:
Has the President, under the Constitution, the more than kingly prerogative at will to remove from office and suspend from office indefinitely, all executive officers of the United States, either civil, military or naval, at any and all times, and fill the vacancies with creatures of his own appointment, for his own purposes, without any restraint whatever, or possibility of restraint by the Senate or by Congress through laws duly enacted?
The House of Representatives, in behalf of the people join this issue by affirming that the exercise of such powers is a high misdemeanor in office.
If the affirmative is maintained by the respondent, then, so far as the first eight articles are concerned--unless such corrupt purposes are shown as will of themselves make the exercise of a legal power a crime--the respondent must go, and ought to go quit and free.
Therefore, by these articles and the answers thereto, the momentous question, here and now, is raised whether the PRESIDENTIAL OFFICE ITSELF (IF IT HAS THE PREROGATIVES AND POWER CLAIMED FOR IT) OUGHT, IN FACT, TO EXIST AS APART OF THE CONSTITUTIONAL GOVERNMENT OF A FREE PEOPLE, while by the last three articles the simpler and less important inquiry is to be determined, whether Andrew Johnson has so conducted himself that he ought longer to held any constitutional office whatever. The latter sinks to merited insignificance compared with the grandeur of the former.
If that is sustained, then a right and power hitherto unclaimed and unknown to the people of the country is engrafted on the Constitution most alarming in its extent, most corrupting in its influence, most dangerous in its tendencies, and most tyrannical in its exercise.
Whoever, therefore, votes "not guilty" on these articles votes to enchain our free institutions, and to prostrate them at the feet of any man who, being President, may choose to control them.
A few days after this, Judge Curtis, of the President's counsel, spoke on behalf of the President. The first and principal Goverment of the Articles of Impeachment against Mr. Johnson was violation of the Office-Tenure Act, which had been passed the year before for the undisguised purpose of restricting the President's power to remove his Cabinet officers, particularly, his War Minister, Mr. Stanton. It was apparent that Mr. Butler had been embarassed in his plea by the proviso of that Act, that members of the Cabinet should hold "during the term of the President by WHOM THEY MAY HAVE BEEN APPOINTED and for one month longer."
Mr. Butler had asked--By whom was Mr. Stanton appointed? By Mr. Lincoln. Whose presidential term was he holding tinder when the bullet of Booth became a proximate cause of this trial? Was not this appointment in full force at that hour. Had any act of the respondent up to the 12th day of August last vitiated or interfered with that appointment? Whose Presidential term is the respondent now serving out? His own, or Mr. Lincoln's. If his own, he is entitled to four years up to the anniversary of the murder, because each presidential term is four years by the Constitution, and the regular recurrence of those terms is fixed by the Act of May 8, 1792. If he is serving out the remainder of Mr. Lincoln's term, then his term of office expires on the 4th of March, 1869, if it does not before.
Judge Curtis struck his first blow at the weak point of General Butler's speech. He said:
There is a question involved which enters deeply into the first eight Articles of Impeachment and materially touches two of the others; and to that question I desire in the first place to invite the attention of the court, namely--whether MR. STANTON'S CASE COMES UNDER THE TENURE-OF-OFFICE ACTS? * * * I must ask your attention therefore to the construction and application of the first section of that act, as follows: "that every person holding an official position to which he has been appointed by and with the advice and consent of the Senate, and every person who shall hereafter be appointed to any such office and shall become duly qualified to act therein, is and shall be entitled to hold such office until a successor shall have been in like manner appointed and duly qualified, except as herein OTHERWISE PROVIDED." Then comes what is otherwise provided. PROVIDED, HOWEVER, That the Secretaries of State, Treasury, War, Navy, and Interior Departments, the Postmaster General and Attorney General, shall hold their offices respectively for AND DURING THE TERM OF THE PRESIDENT BY WHOM THEY MAY HAVE BEEN APPOINTED."
The first inquiry which arises on this language, is as to the meaning of the words "for and during the term of the President." Mr. Stanton, as appears by the commission which has been put in the case by the Honorable Managers, was appointed in January, 1862, during the first term of President Lincoln. Are the words "during the term of the President," applicable to Mr. Stanton's case? That depends upon whether an expounder of this law, judicially, who finds set down in it as a part of the descriptive words, "DURING THE TERMS OF THE PRESIDENT," HAS ANY RIGHT TO ADD, "AND DURING ANY OTHER TERM FOR WHICH HE MAY BE AFTERWARDS ELECTED."
I respectfully submit no such judicial interpretation can be put on the words. Then, if you please, take the next step: "During the term of the President by whom he was appointed, "At the time when this order was issued for the removal of Mr. Stanton, was he holding the term of the President by whom he was appointed? The Honorable Managers say yes; because, as they, say, Mr. Johnson is merely serving out the residue of Mr. Lincoln's term. But is that so under the provisions of the Constitution of the United States? * * Although the President, like the Vice President, is elected for a term of four years, and each is elected for the same term, the President is not to hold the office absolutely during four years. The limit of four years is not an absolute limit. Death is a limit. "A conditional limitation," as the lawyers call it, is imposed on his tenure of office. And when the President dies his term of four years, for which he was elected and during which he was to hold provided he should so long live, terminates, and the office devolves upon the Vice President. For what period of time? FOR THE REMAINDER OF THE TERM FOR WHICH THE VICE PRESIDENT WAS ELECTED. And there is no more propriety, under the provisions of the Constitution of the United litates, in calling the term during which Mr. Johnson holds the office of President, after it was devolved upon him, a part of Mr. Lincoln's term. then there would be propriety in saying that one sovereign who succeeded another sovereign by death, holds his predecessor's term.** They (the Cabinet officers) were to be the advisers of the President; they were to be the immediate confidential assistants of the President, for whom he was to be responsible, but in whom he was expected to repose a great amount of trust and confidence; and therefore it was that this Act has connected the tenure-of-office of these Secretaries to which it applies with the President by whom they were appointed. It says, in the description which the Act gives of the future tenure-of-office of Secretaries, that a controlling regard is to be had to the fact that the Secretary whose tenure is to be regulated was appointed by some particular President; and during the term of that President he shall continue to hold his office; but as for Secretaries who are in office, not appointed by the President, we have nothing to say; we leave them as they heretofore have been. I submit to Senators that this is the natural, and, having regard to the character of these officers, the necessary conclusion, that the tenure-of-office of a Secretary here described is a tenure during the term of service of the President by whom he was appointed; that it was not the intention of Congress to compel a President of the United States to continue in office a Secretary not appointed by himself. * * *
Shortly after this, occurred one of the most amusing and interesting incidents of the trial. Mr. Boutwell, who was altogether a matter-of-fact man, though at times indulging in the heroics, ventured, in the course of his argument, upon a flight of imagination in depicting the punishment that should be meted out to Mr. Johnson for venturing to differ with Congress upon the constitutionality of an act of that body. He said:
Travelers and astronomers inform us that in the Southern heavens, near the Southern cross, there is a vast space which the uneducated call the "hole in the sky," where the eye of man, with the aid of the powers of the telescope, has been unable to discover nebulae, or asteroid, or comet, or planet, or star, or sun. In that dreary, cold, dark region of space, which is only known to be less infinite by the evidences of creation elsewhere, the great author of celestial mechanism has left the chaos which was in the beginning. If this earth were capable of the sentiments and emotions of justice and virtue which in human mortal beings are the evidences and pledge of our divine origin and immortal destiny, it would heave and throb with the energy of the elemental forces of nature, and project this enemy (referring to President Johnson) of two races of men into that vast region, there forever to exist in a solitude eternal as life or as the absence of life, emblematical of. if not really, that outer darkness of which the Savior of mankind spoke in warning to those who are enemies to themselves and of their race and of God.
Mr. Evarts followed Mr. Boutwell, and in the course of his argument referred to this paragraph in Mr. Boutwell's speech in the following humorously sarcastic vein, during the delivery of which, the Senate was repeatedly convulsed with laughter. Mr. Evarts said:
I may as conveniently at this point of the argument as at any other pay some attention to the astronomical punishment which the learned and honorable manager Mr. Boutwell, thinks should be applied to this novel case of impeachment of the President. Cicero, I think it is, who says that a lawyer should know everything, for sooner or later, there is no fact in history, science or human knowledge that will not come into play in his arguments. Painfully sensitive of my ignorance, being devoted to a profession which "sharpens and does not enlarge the mind," I yet can admire without envy the superior knowledge evinced by the honorable manager. Indeed, upon my soul, I believe he is aware of an astronomical fact which many professors of the science are wholly ignorant of; but nevertheless, while some of his colleagues were paying attention to an unoccupied and unappropriated island on the surface of the seas, Mr. Manager Boutwell, more ambitious, had discovered an untenated and unappropriated region in the skies, reserved, he would have us think, in the final councils of the Almighty as the place of punishment for deposed and convicted American Presidents.
At first, I thought that his mind had become so enlarged that it was not sharp enough to observe that the Constitution has limited the punishment, but on reflection I saw that he was as legal and logical as he was ambitious and astronomical; for the Constitution has said "remove from office," and has put no limit to the distance of removal so that it may be without the shedding of a drop of his blood or taking a penny of his property, or confining his limbs. Instant removal from office and transportation to the skies. Truly this is a great undertaking, and if the learned manager can only get over the obstacle of the laws of nature, the Constitution will, not stand in his way.
He can contrive no method but that of a convulsion of the earth that shall project the deposed President to this indefinitely distant space; but a shock of nature of so vast an energy and for so great a result on him might unsettle even the footing of the firm members of Congress. We certainly need not resort to so perilous a method as that. How shall we accomplish it? Why, in the first place, nobody knows where that space is but the learned manager himself, and he is the necessary deputy to execute the judgment of the court. Let it then be provided that, in case of your sentence of deposition and removal from office, the honorable and astronomical manager shall take into his own hands the execution of the sentence. With the President made fast to his broad and strong shoulders, and having already assayed the flight by imagination, better prepared than anybody else to execute it in form, taking the advantage of ladders as far as ladders will go to the top of this great capitol, and spurning there with his foot the crest of Liberty, let him set out upon his flight while the two houses of Congress and all the people of the United States shall shout--"Sic itur ad astra!" But here a distressing doubt strikes me. How will the manager get back. He will have got far beyond the reach of gravitation to restore him, and so ambitious a wing as his should never stoop to a downward flight. Indeed, as he passes through the constellations, the famous question of Carlyle (by which he derides the littleness of human affairs upon the scale of the measure of the heavens,) "What thinks Bootes as he drives his hunting dogs up the zenith in their leash of sidereal fire?" will force itself on his notice. What, indeed, will Bootes think of this new constellation? Besides, reaching this space beyond the power of Congress ever to send for persons and papers, how shall he return, and how decide in the contest there become personal and perpetual--the struggle of strength between him and the President? In this new revolution thus established forever, who shall decide which is the sun and which is the moon? Who determine the only scientific test, which reflects hardest upon the other?"
Gen. Logan, one of the managers, appeared for the prosecution, upon the close of the examination of witnesses. The following is a brief extract from his very long and labored argument, and relates to the Tenure-of-Office Act:
It is a new method of ascertaining the meaning of a law, plain upon its face, by resorting to legislative discussions, and giving in evidence opinions affected by the law. As a matter of fact; it is well known the act was intended to prevent the very thing Mr. Johnson attempted in the matter of Mr. Stanton's removal. I think this manner of defense will not avail before the Senate. The law must govern in its natural and plain intendment, and will not be frittered away by extraneous interpretation. The President in his veto message admits substantially this construction.
The proviso does not change the general provisions of the Act, except by giving a more definite limit to the tenure-of-office, but the last paragraph of the Act puts the whole question back into the hands of the Senate according to the general intention of the Act, and provides that even the Secretaries are subject to removal by and with the advice and consent of the Senate.
The Act first provides that all persons holding civil offices at the date of its passage appointed by and with the advice and consent of the Senate, shall only be removed in the same manner. This applies to the Secretary of War. This proviso merely gives a tenure running with the term of the President and one month thereafter, subject to removal by and with the advice and consent of the Senate. The law clearly gives Mr. Stanton a right to the office from the 4th of March, 1865, till one month after the 4th of March, 1869, and he can only be disturbed in that tenure by the President by and with the advice and consent of the Senate.
Yet, although Mr. Stanton was appointed by Mr. Lincoln in his first term, when there was no tenure-of-office fixed by law, and continued by Mr. Lincoln in his second term, it is argued that his term expired one month after the passage of the Tenure-of-Office Act, March 2nd, 1867, for the reason that Mr. Lincoln's term expired at his death. This is false reasoning; the Constitution fixed the term of the President at four years, and by law the commencement of his term is the 4th of March. Will it be said that when Mr. Johnson is deposed by a verdict of the Senate, that the officer who will succeed him will serve for four years? Certainly not. Why? Because he will have no Presidential term, and will be merely serving out a part of the unexpired term of Mr. Lincoln, and will go out of office on the 4th of March, 1869, at the time Mr. Lincoln would have retired by expiration of his term, had he lived. * * *
The only question, then, which remains, is simply this: Has the accused violated that (Tenure-of-Office) Act? No one knows better than this accused the history of, and the purpose to be secured by, that Act. It was ably and exhaustively discussed on both sides, in all aspects. In the debates of Congress it was subsequently reviewed and closely analyzed in a Veto Message of the respondent. No portion of that Act escaped his remark, and no practical application which has been made of it since did he fail to anticipate. He knew before he attempted its violation that more than three-fourths of the Representatives of the people in Congress assembled had set their seal of disapprobation upon the reasons given in the Veto Message and had enacted the law by more than the constitutional number of votes required. Nay, more; he was repeatedly warned, by investigations made looking toward just such a proceeding as now being witnessed in this court, that the people had instructed their Representatives to tolerate no violation of the laws constitutionally enacted.
Mr. Groesbeck, in behalf of the defense, said in closing his argument:
What is to be your judgment, Senators, in this case? Removal from office and perpetual disqualification? If the President has committed that for which he should be ejected from office it were judicial mockery to stop short of the largest disqualifications you can impose. It will be a heavy judgment. What is his crime in its moral aspects, to merit such a judgment? Let us look to it.
He tried to pluck a thorn out of his very heart, for the condition of things in the War Department, and consequently in his Cabinet, did pain him as a thorn in his heart. You fastened it there, and you are now asked to punish him for attempting to extract it. What more? He made an ad interim appointment to last for a single day. You could have terminated it whenever you saw fit. You had only to take up the nomination which he had sent to you, which was a good nomination, and act upon it and the ad interim vanished like smoke. He had no idea of fastening it upon the department. He had no intention of doing anything of that kind. He merely proposed that for the purpose, if the opportunity should occur, of subjecting this law to a constitutional test. That was all the purpose it was to answer. It is all for which it was intended. The thing was in your hands from the beginning to the end. You had only to act upon the nomination, and the matter was settled. Surely that was no crime.
I point you to the cases that have occurred--of ad interim appointment after ad interim appointment; but I point especially to the case of Mr. Holt, where the Senate in its legislative capacity examined it, weighed it, decided upon it, heard the report of the President and received it as satisfactory. That is, for the purpose of this trial, before the same tribunal, res adjudicate, I think, and it will be so regarded.
What else did he do? He talked with an officer about the law. That is the Emory Article. He made intemperate speeches, though full of honest, patriotic sentiments; when reviled, he should not revile again; when smitten upon one cheek he should turn the other.
"But," the gentleman who spoke last on the part of the managers, "he tried to defeat pacification and restoration." I deny it in the sense in which he presented it--that is, as a criminal act. Here, too, he followed precedent and trod the path in which were the footsteps of Lincoln, and which was bright with the radiance of his divine utterance, "charity for all, malice toward none." He was eager for pacification. He thought that the war was ended. The drums were all silent--the arsenals were all shut; the roar of the canon had died away to the last reverberation; the armies were disbanded; not a single army confronted us in the field. Ah, he was too eager, too forgiving, too kind. The hand of conciliation was stretched out to him and he took it? It may be he should have put it away; but was it a crime to take it? Kindness, forgiveness a crime! Kindness a crime! Kindness is omnipotent for good, more powerful than gunpowder or canon. Kindness is statesmanship. Kindness is the highest statesmanship of heaven itself. The thunders of Sinai do but terrify and distract; alone they accomplish little; it is the kindness of Calvary that subdues and pacifies.
What shall I say of this man? He is no theoriest; he is no reformer; I have looked over his life. He has ever walked in beaten paths, and by the light of, the Constitution. The mariner, tempest-tossed in mid-sea, does not more certainly turn to his star for guidance than does this man in trial and difficulty to the star of the Constitution. He loves the Constitution. It has been the study of his life. He is not learned and scholarly like many of you; he is not a man of many ideas or of much speculation but by a law of the mind he is only the truer to that he does know. He is a patriot, second to no one of you in the measure of his patriotism. He loves his country; he may be full of error; I will not canvass now his views; but he loves his country; he has the courage to defend it, and I believe to die for it if need be. His courage and patriotism are not without illustration. My colleague (Mr. Nelson) referred the other day to the scenes which occurred in this Chamber when he alone of twenty-two Senators remained; even his State seceded, but he remained. That was a trial of his patriotism, of which many of you, by reason of your locality and of your life-long associations, know nothing. How his voice rang out in this hall in the hour of alarm for the good cause, and in denunciation of the rebellion! But he did not remain here; it was a pleasant, honorable, safe, and easy position; but he was wanted for a more difficult and arduous and perilous service. He faltered not, but entered upon it. That was a trial of his courage and patriotism of which some of you who now sit in judgment on more than his life, know nothing. I have, often thought that those who, dwelt at the North, safely distant from the collisions and strifes of the war, knew little of its actual, trying dangers. We who lived on the border know more. Our horizon was always red with flame; and it sometimes burned so near us that we could feel its heat upon the outstretched hand. But he was wanted for a greater peril, and went into the very furnace of the war, and there served his country long and well. Who of you have done more? Not one. * * * It seems cruel, Senators, that he should be dragged here as a criminal, or that any one who served his country and bore himself well and bravely through that trying ordeal, should be condemned upon miserable technicalities.
If he has committed any gross crime, shocking alike and indiscriminately the entire public mind, then condemn him; but he has rendered services to the country that entitle him to kind and respectful consideration. He has precedents for everything he has done, and what excellent precedents! The voices of the great dead come to us from the grave sanctioning his course. All our past history approves it. How can you single out this man, now in this condition of things, and brand him before the world, put your brand of infamy upon him because he made an ad interim appointment for a day, and possible may have made a mistake in attempting to remove Stanton? I can at a glance put my eye on Senators here who would not endure the position he occupied. You do not think it is right yourselves. You framed this civil tenure law to give each President his own Cabinet, and yet his whole crime is that he wants harmony and peace in his.
Senators, I will not go on. There is a great deal that is crowding on my tongue for utterance, but it is not from my head; it is rather from my heart; and it would be but a repetition of the vain things 1 have been saying the past half hour But I do hope you will not drive the President out and take possession of his office. I hope this, not merely as counsel for Andrew Johnson, for Andrew Johnson's administration is to me but as a moment, and himself as nothing in comparison with the possible consequences of such an act. No good can come of it, Senators, and how much will the heart of the nation be refreshed if at last the Senate of the United States can, in its judgment upon this case, maintain its ancient dignity and high character in the midst of storms, and passion, and strife.
A somewhat startling incident, which for the moment threatened unpleasant results, occurred in the course of the trial. In his opening speech for the prosecution, Mr. Manager Boutwell used this language, speaking of the President:
The President is a man of strong will, of violent passions, of unlimited ambition, with capacity to employ and use timid men, adhesive, subservient men, and corrupt men, as the instruments of his designs. It is the truth of history that he has injured every person with whom he has had confidential relations, and many have escaped ruin only by withdrawing from his society altogether. He has one rule of his life: he attempts to use every man of power, capacity, or influence within his reach. Succeeding in his attempts, they are in time, and usually in a short time, utterly ruined. If the considerate flee from him, if the brave and patriotic resist his schemes or expose his plans, he attacks them with all the energy and patronage of his office, and pursues them with all the violence of his personal hatred. He attacks to destroy all who will not become his instruments, and all who become his instruments are destroyed in the use. He spares no one. * * * Already this purpose of his life is illustrated in the treatment of a gentleman who was of counsel for the respondent, but who has never appeared in his behalf.
The last paragraph of the above quotation manifestly referred to a disagrement between the President and Judge Black, which led to the retirement of that gentleman from the Management of the Defense of the President, a few days prior to the beginning of the trial.
To this criticism of the President, Judge Nelson, of Counsel for Defense, responded a few days later, with the following statement:
It is to me, Senators, a source of much embarassment how to speak in reply to the accusation which has thus been preferred against the President of the United States. * * *
In order that you may understand what I have to say about it I desire to refer the Senate to a brief statement which I have prepared on account of the delicacy of the subject; and, although I have not had time to write it out as I would have desired to do, it will be sufficient to enable you to comprehend the facts which I am about to state. You will understand, Senators, that I do not purport to give a full history of what I may call the Alta Vela case, as to which a report was made to the Senate by the Secretary of State upon your call. A mere outline of the case will be sufficient to explain what I have to say in reference to Judge Black:
Under the guano act of 1856, William T. Kendal on the one side, and Patterson and Marguiendo on the other, filed claims in the Secretary of State's office to the island which is claimed by the government of St. Domingo.
On the 17th of June, 1867, the examiner of claims submitted a report adverse to the claim for damages against the Dominican government. On the 22d of July, 1867, Mr. Black addressed a letter to the President, (page 10) and another on the 7th of August, 1867. On page 13 it is said that Patterson and Marguiendo acquiesce in the decision. On page 13 it is shown that other parties are in averse possession. On page 15 it is asserted that the contest is between citizens of the United States, and can be settled in the courts of the United States. The contest now seems to be between Patterson and Marguiendo and Thomas B. Webster & Co.
On the 14th of December, 1859, Judge Black, as Attorney General, rejected the claim of W. J. Kendall to an island in the Carribean Sea, called Cayo Verde, and Mr. Seward seems to regard the two cases as resting on the same principle in his report of 17th of January, 1867.
On the 22d of July, 1867, Judge Black addressed a letter to the President enclosing a brief. On the 7th of August, 1867, he addressed another communication to the President. On the 7th of February, 1868, an elaborate an able communication was sent to the President, signed by W. J. Shaffer, attorney for Patterson and Marguiendo, and Black, Lamon &, Co., counsel, in which they criticised with severity the report of Mr. Seward and asked the President to review his decision.
According to the best information I can obtain, I state that ON THE 9TH OF MARCH, 1868, General Benjamin F. Butler addressed a letter to J. W. Shaffer, in which he stated that he was "clearly of the opinion that, under the claim of the United States its citizens have the exclusive right to take guano there," and that he had never been able to understand why the executive did not long since assert the rights of the government, and sustain the rightful claims of its citizens to the possession of the island IN THE MOST FORCIBLE MANNER consistent with the dignity and honor of the Nation.
The letter was concurred in and approved of by John A. Logan, J. A. Garfield, W. H. Koontz, J. K. Moorhead and John A. Bingham, on the same day, 9th of March, 1868.
This letter expressing the opinion of Generals Butler, Logan and Garfield was placed in the hands of the President by Chauncey F. Black, who, on the 16th of March, 1868, addressed a letter to him in which he enclosed a copy of the same with the concurrence of Thaddeus Stevens, John A. Bingham, J. G. Blaine, J. K. Moorhead and William H. Koontz.
After the date of this letter, and while Judge Black was the counsel of the respondent in this cause, he had an interview with the President, in which he urged immediate action on his part and the sending an armed vessel to take possession of the island; and because the President refused to do so, Judge Black, on the 19th of March, 1868, declined to appear further as his counsel in this case.
Such are the facts in regard to the withdrawal of Judge Black, according to the. best information I can obtain.
The island of Alta Vela, or the claim for damages, is said to amount in value to more than a million dollars, and it is quite likely that an extensive speculation is on foot. I have no reason to charge that any of the managers are engaged in it, and presume that the letters were signed, as such communications are often signed, by members of Congress, through the importunity of friends.
Judge Black no doubt thought it was his duty to other clients to press this claims but how did the President view it?
Senators, I ask you for a moment to put yourself in the place of the President of the United States, and as this is made a matter of railing accusation against him, to consider how the President of the United States felt it.
There are two or three facts to which I desire to call the attention of the Senate and the country in connection with these recommendations. They are, first, that they were all gotten up after this impeachment proceeding was commenced against the President of the United States.
Another strong and powerful fact to be noticed in vindication of the President of the United States, in reference to this case which has been so strongly preferred against him, is that these recommendations were signed by four of the honorable, gentlemen to whom the House of Representatives have intrusted the duty of managing this great impeachment against him.
Of course exception was taken to this statement, and to the revisal inferences therefrom, and the authenticity of the signatures mentioned at first denied, and then an effort made to explain them away, but it is unsuccessful.
The incident left a fixed impression, at least in the minds of many of the Senators, that an effort had been made to coerce the President, in fear of successful impeachment, into the perpetration of a cowardly and disgraceful international act, not only by his then Chief of Counsel, but also by a number of his active prosecutors on the part of the House.
It would be difficult to fittingly characterize this scandalous effort to pervert a great State trial into an instrumentality for the successful exploitation of a commercial venture which was by no means free from the elements of international robbery.
Yet to Mr. Johnson's lasting credit, he proved that he possessed the honesty and courage to dare his enemies to do their worst--he would not smirch his own name and disgrace his country and his great office, by using its power for the-promotion of an enterprise not far removed from a scheme of personal plunder, let it cost him what it might. It was a heroic act, and bravely, unselfishly, modestly performed.