Wednesday, October 2, 2019

The First U.S. President to Face Impeachment

Blogger: Amber Schamel
President Andrew Johnson
With all of the news talk about the potential impeachment of President Trump, I thought it would be interesting to take a look into impeachments in our history and see what other presidents have faced this same process. 

In the 45 Presidents of the United States of America, Trump is only the 4th that has been threatened with impeachment. Of those, only two were formally impeached. Today we'll be looking at the first, President Andrew Johnson.

President Johnson was in office during a very difficult time in American history. As the president to follow the assassination of Abraham Lincoln, and in charge of reconstructing a country that was fractured by the Civil War, he certainly had a tough job on his hands. 

One of the main challenges, was the division in political parties and how they believed the Reconstruction should be done. President Lincoln had begun to form policies that were lenient toward Southerners, hoping that extending a gracious hand would aid reintegration. However, Radical Republicans strongly disagreed with this, and favored harsher policies toward the rebelling states and their citizens. Many of the radicals believed that the new president would lean their way, given his background, however when Johnson took office, he stayed with Lincoln's policies. The second wrench thrown into the mix, was the difference in Civil Rights views. These two issues put Congress and President Johnson at odds. Thus began a war of vetoes and acts of Congress. 

Up until the midterm elections, President Johnson had enough democratic seats in Congress to allow his vetoes to stand. However, after the elections in 1866, Republicans took the majority and were able to override his vetoes. 

Andrew Johnson Impeachment Trial

Not only did Congress override him, they also passed the Tenure of Office Act to limit the president's ability to replace members of his cabinet without congressional consent. This act was specifically designed to protect Edwin Stanton, the Secretary of War appointed by Lincoln, but also a Radical Republican. Johnson had tried to get Stanton removed from the office and appointed General Grant in his stead, but Congress reinstated Stanton. Despite the insistence of Congress to keep Stanton, Johnson tried to replace him anyway, claiming he was merely suspending Stanton and appointing others as "substitutes". This action enraged congress, and led to the resolution for impeachment three days later. 

In the end, Johnson was not impeached because, during the trial, the judgement fell one vote short of the 36 votes needed to convict him. In 1887, the Tenure of Office Act was repealed, so it is probably a good thing that President Johnson wasn't impeached for violating it. It seems that the true problem was a standoff between two political parties, which isn't just grounds for impeachment.


Two-time winner of the Christian Indie Award for historical fiction, Amber Schamel writes riveting stories that bring HIStory to life. She has a passion for travel, history, books and her Savior. This combination results in what her readers call "historical fiction at its finest".  She lives near Denver, Colorado near her favorite stretch of mountain range. Amber is a proud member of the American Christian Fiction Writers Association. Visit her online at and download a FREE story by subscribing to her Newsletter!

1 comment:

  1. I know it's not a historical precedent we are viewing now. Thanks for the post.