The city on the Potomac River is bristling this year; the nation strongly divided. Acrid partisan politics is rampant. The word all over town is impeachment. The medium is having a field day. Welcome to 1868.

The government presses forward, in spite of rancorous bickering that sees the U. S. House of Representatives censuring Democrats E. D. Holbrook of Idaho and Fernando Wood of New York, for offensive utterances. There is much work ahead. Treaties with the Sioux and the Navajo as well as with China. The Territory of Wyoming to be created. Also created is a military prison in San Francisco harbor, on an island named Alcatraz. Federal workers are granted an eight-hour work day. The first official Memorial Day is observed, in Arlington, North Carolina.

Against this busy backdrop the impeachment machine grinds out its relentless drama. President Andrew Johnson, has picked up the banner of benign Reconstruction from the hands of the slain Abraham Lincoln, attempting to heal the wounds of civil conflict, but without punishment for the South and with few safeguards for the rights of the former slaves. He is from Tennessee! The Southern states repudiate the 14th Amendment which declares the all freed slaves citizens and bans Confederate leaders from holding political office until Congress permits it. At the end of last year, to gain control over the Army, Johnson fired Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton in an effort to gain complete control of the army. Stanton was temporarily replaced by Ulysses S. Grant. Now, on January 13th Congress re-instates Stanton. Johnson takes Grant to task for surrendering so easily and dismisses Stanton again. The Republican-dominated House of Representatives moves that Johnson be impeached on February 24th, for violating the Tenure of Office Act. By March 5th the Senate has organized a Court of Impeachment and drawn up an 11-article indictment. Eight days later the trial begins. The Republicans are handed a defeat when one of the articles of impeachment fail,s on the 16th of March - by one vote. Ten days later the 2nd and 3rd articles fail, again by just one vote. Johnson is acquitted.

His problems are not over. Congress passes new Reconstruction legislation, permitting southern states to re-enter the Union under the recently ratified 14th amendment, and the wrangling continues. In November, Johnson is defeated in his re-election bid by Ulysses S. Grant. On December 3rd Jefferson Davis goes on trial for treason. In one of the last acts of his own presidency, on Christmas Day, Andrew Johnson grants amnesty for all those southerners taking part in the recent rebellion. In the early days of 1869, this action will lead to the pardon of Davis. Both men are now members of the Ex Presidents Club.

For Classical ninety-one five, this is David Minor.


© 1998 David Minor / Eagles Byte