Impeachment of Andrew Johnson

The Impeachment of Andrew Johnson, who became the 17th President of the United States after Abraham Lincoln was assassinated, was one of the most dramatic events in the political life of the United States during Reconstruction. The first impeachment of a sitting United States president, it was the culmination of a lengthy political battle between the Southern Democrat Johnson and the "Radical Republican" movement that dominated Congress and sought control of the South through Reconstruction policies.

Johnson was impeached on February 24, 1868, in the U.S. House of Representatives on eleven articles of impeachment detailing his "high crimes and misdemeanors", in accordance with Article Two of the United States Constitution. The House's primary charge against Johnson was with violation of the Tenure of Office Act, passed by Congress the previous year. Specifically, he had removed Edwin M. Stanton, the Secretary of War (whom the Tenure of Office Act was largely designed to protect), from office and replaced him with General Lorenzo Thomas.

The House agreed to the articles of impeachment on March 2, 1868. The trial began three days later in the Senate, with Chief Justice of the United States Salmon P. Chase presiding. The trial concluded on May 16 with Johnson's acquittal. The final tally of votes for conviction was one fewer than the two-thirds required.

The impeachment and subsequent trial gained a historical reputation as an act of political expedience, rather than necessity, based on Johnson's defiance of an unconstitutional piece of legislation and with little regard for the will of the public (which, despite the unpopularity of Johnson, opposed the impeachment). Until the impeachment of Bill Clinton 131 years later (which also ended in an acquittal), it was the only impeachment trial of a President in the history of the United States.

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