The Impeachment of Andrew Johnson
ĽOvert Obstruction of Congress

back to the Andrew Johnson Home Page


 
Editorial
Harper's Weekly, July 6, 1867, page 418

go to the previous article in this section
go to the next article in this section


RECONSTRUCTION AND OBSTRUCTION
The letters of General Sheridan and of General Sickles upon the opinions of the Attorney-General show very conclusively the result of his interpretation of the reconstruction law. His view of the military power of removal under the law, and his criticism of General Sickles’s action, has occasioned the request of that officer to be relieved. The General says: "Congress having declared these so called State governments illegal the declaration of the Attorney-General that military authority has not superseded them prevents the execution of the Reconstruction Acts, disarms me of means to protect life, property, or the rights of citizens, and menaces all interests in these States with ruin."

So in regard to the first opinion upon the registry, General Sheridan says: "The registration will be completed in Louisiana at the time specified, unless I am ordered to carry out the law under Mr. Stanbery’s interpretation, which practically in registration is opening a broad Macadamized road for perjury and fraud to travel on."

Now inasmuch as the plain intention of the law was to arm every military commander with the power of protecting life, property, and the rights of citizens: and in registration to avoid perjury and fraud, the Attorney-General’s interpretation directly defeats its purpose. The President in adopting this view intervenes to baffle the national intention. Does he expect to gain any political advantage from such a step? And in what way? He will not be able to persuade the country that the Radicals are merely anxious to exclude the late rebel States until after the Presidential election, because such representative Radicals as Wade, Wilson and Kelley have all declared that nothing was desired but conformity to the Act as it was universally understood before the Attorney-General gave his opinion; and because the whole Radical press, almost without exception, has taken the same ground. Every body knows that reconstruction was favorably proceeding under the Act until these opinions. They were given, indeed, in reply to a request for information, but they are none the less, as the letters of the two Generals show, directly subversive of the intention of the Act. Take the subject of registration, for instance. The registry is the foundation of the future State governments. If that is vitiated the election, the Convention, the Constitution are all made doubtful. Yet General Sheridan, who necessarily knows the practical operation of the interpretation of the Attorney-General infinitely better than that officer himself, says that it directly encourages fraud and perjury.

Does the President think that he can induce the country to believe that General Sheridan is a Radical partisan? When the question is asked, "What delays reconstruction?" there can be but one reply. It must be either the Reconstruction Act or the President. Yet what is more evident than that the work was going on most smoothly until the President, who, as General Sheridan says, "has been in bitter antagonism" to the law, undertook to explain it from his point of view? The people are just as logical this year as they were last year. They knew then that the difficulty was the determination of the President and his advisers to intrust the work of reconstruction to the late rebels, excluding the new and always loyal citizens. They know now that the intention of the President and his advisers is to come as near as possible to the same result. Now we suppose if the people are resolved upon any thing, it is that the whole body of loyal citizens in the Southern States shall unite in this work, and that a certain class of the late rebels shall be excluded from it. Does the President really suppose that he can defeat that purpose? Could any thing be more preposterously foolish after the experience of the last two years than such an expectation?

By his whole administration the President shows that he utterly misconceives the duty of his office. If he is called upon to approve a law which he considers to be absolutely unconstitutional and destructive of civil and religious liberty, he will, of course, refuse his assent. But if it becomes a law despite his opposition his duty is either to resign his office or to execute the law. It is certainly not his duty to obtrude his objections and deprecations at every stage, and to seek in every way to annul a law which the people of the United States have constitutionally enacted. Yet it is to this task that he constantly inclines, and he will continue in the same way to the end of his term. A balking horse is very inconvenient upon a journey; but he is less trying to the patience when his habits are understood. The fat boy in Pickwick was perpetually dropping asleep; but his infirmity at last excited no other remark than, "Confound that boy! He is asleep again." So with the President. During the next two years he will undoubtedly compel the country to exclaim more than once, "Drat that Andy! He’s obstructing again."

Articles Related to Overt Obstruction of Congress:
Congress
February 2, 1867, page 67
February 16, 1867, page 99
March 16, 1867, page 163


How Long?
June 29, 1867, page 402


Reconstruction and Obstruction
July 6, 1867, page 418


The Summer Session
July 6, 1867, page 418


The Fortieth Congress
July 17, 1867, page 467


Thanks to the District Commanders
July 27, 1867, page 467


Impeachment Postponed
July 27, 1867, page 467


A Desperate Man
August 13, 1867, page 546


The Secretary of War
August 24, 1867, page 530


Samson Agonistes at Washington (cartoon)
August 24, 1867, page 544


The Stanton Imbroglio (illustrated satire)
August 24, 1867, page 542


Secretary Grant
August 31, 1867, page 546


Southern Reconstruction
August 31, 1867, page 547


The Political Situation
September 7, 1867, page 562


General Thomas
September 7, 1867, page 563


Southern Reconstruction
September 7, 1867, page 563


The General and the President
September 14, 1867, page 578


General Sickles Also
September 14, 1867, page 579


Southern Reconstruction
September 21, 1867, page 595


The President’s Intentions
September 28, 1867, page 610


Impeachment
October 5, 1867, page 626


The Main Question
October 5, 1867, pages 626-627


Suspension during Impeachment
October 19, 1867, page 658


"Disregarding" The Law
November 2, 1867, page 691


Impeachment
December 14, 1867, page 786


General Grant’s Testimony
December 14, 1867, page 786


The President’s Message
December 14, 1867, page 787


General Grant’s Letter
January 1, 1868, page 2


Secretary Stanton’s Restoration
January 25, 1868, page 51


Reconstruction Measures
January 25, 1868, page 51


The President, Mr. Stanton and General Grant
February 1, 1868, page 66


Romeo (Seward) to Mercutio (Johnson) (cartoon)
February 1, 1868, page 76


The War Office
February 1, 1868, page 77


Secretary’s Room in the War Department (illus)
February 1, 1868, page 77


The New Reconstruction Bill
February 8, 1868, page 83

 

Website design © 1998-2005 HarpWeek, LLC
All Content © 1998-2005 HarpWeek, LLC
Please submit questions to webmaster@harpweek.com