Local News

Raleigh Historian Discusses Andrew Johnson's Impeachment

Posted December 13, 1998

— A House of Representatives vote for impeachment doesnotmean a President must leave office. The Senate must follow impeachment with a trial to decide on removal.

The House impeached President Andrew Johnson in 1868, but he survived the Senate trial by one vote. A local historian says like Bill Clinton, Johnson had a knack for survival.

Tourists ofMordecai Historic Parkin Raleigh step into Andrew Johnson's humble beginnings and learn about his rise to the highest office in the land.

"To him, that was a proof of how much you could do in the United States and how wonderful the country was," said historian Dean Teitelbaum.

Teitelbaum says Johnson made a lot of enemies on his way to the top.

His strong support of the Union earned the scorn of many fellow southerners but won him a spot on the Republican ticket with Abraham Lincoln.

After the Civil War and Lincoln's death, Johnson earned the scorn of his own party.

"It is they who are amazed when he turns in a very different direction and begins to move to bring the South back into the Union as if the war had never been fought," said Teitelbaum.

Johnson freely pardoned many Confederate leaders and refused to use the Army to stop racial brutality in the South.

"And so, they started looking for something to attack him on," said Teitelbaum.

Johnson fired his Secretary of War, and some congressional Republicans charged him with violation of the Tenure of Office Act.

As the story goes, the House voted for impeachment, but the Senate spared him by one vote.

Teitelbaum says the stain of impeachment was not the final word on Johnson's legacy.

"He goes back to Tennessee and throws himself back into politics, and six years later, is actually is re-elected to the Senate," explained Teitelbaum.

The "I" word always accompanies his name in conversation, but Teitelbaum says Johnson never let impeachment define him.

Teitelbaum says there are few similarities between Johnson and Bill Clinton. He says Johnson's personal morals were never challenged.

However, like Clinton, Johnson depended on moderate Republicans for his political survival.


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