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KateWilliamson 02/05/2020 07:39 AM CST


The President has always been the major figure for the U.S. citizens and foreigners. The procedure for the national leader’s dismissal in the United States is more rational and efficient if compared to other countries. In recent years, the application of impeachment against the head of the state has gained theoretical and practical relevance due to prospects of development in of this phenomenon in the modern democratic state. The current paper seeks to examine the impeachment process in the U.S, dismissal of Andrew Johnson, and its political motivation.

The United States adopted the impeachment procedure from the United Kingdom. Its mechanism is the following: the House of Representatives makes a charge, and through 2/3 of the votes, the Senate makes a condemnatory sentence. If the accusation is serious, bringing to trial may follow the impeachment. In the USA, the impeachment procedure is implemented in two phases. According to the model proposed by Alexander Hamilton, it is initiated in the House of Representatives and ends in the Senate, which makes a decision through the absolute majority. The judiciary also plays a crucial role: the head of the U.S. Supreme Court presides in the Senate meeting considering the case of the President’s dismissal.

Once, the impeachment was associated with doubt or distrust in officials. However, in the context of the Anglo-American legal doctrine, the impeachment is a quasi-judicial proceeding to prosecute officials who have committed serious offenses or misdemeanors. It is wrong to consider the procedure of President’s dismissal a result of his violation of the law. However, not only violations committed by the national leader matter in this case. In addition to the U.S. President, the Vice President and any other officials, including judges can be the subjects of liability.

In May 1865, Andrew Johnson presented his reconstruction plan characterized by less aggressive policy toward the Confederates, whom Lincoln patronized according to the leader’s view. Johnson, as a former Governor of the State of Tennessee, was selected by Lincoln as the Vice President to win the votes of Democrats in 1864. However, he was later strongly disapproved by congressmen. Radical Republicans wanted a rapid transformation of the economic and social system of the South. As active participants in the abolitionist movement, they believed that white Southerners sought to retain the slave system, changing it only externally. Radical Republicans observed former Confederates passing repressive laws, including the Black Codes, and imposing restrictions on former slaves. In response, the Congress with the majority of Radicals passed the Civil Rights Law enabling Black Americans to sue, testify in the court as well as buy property. President Johnson vetoed the bill, claiming that it restricted the states’ rights and could cause a racial conflict. The Congress overcame the presidential veto by one vote. Since then, the confrontation between Johnson and congressmen aggravated, and the conflict ended with the President’s impeachment.

As a result, in 1867, the Congress, contrary to the President’s will, passed the Military Reconstruction Act, under which the former Confederacy was divided into five military districts under the command of Union generals. The Martial Law was imposed on the South, and in order to protect former slaves and maintain order in the territory, special military units were organized. On March 2, 1867, the Congress overcame a presidential veto and passed the Tenure of Office Act, which prohibited the Chief Executive to dismiss public officials without the approval of the Congress. This law was aimed at protecting the Secretary of War Edwin Stanton, who supported radical reconstruction. In February 1868, the President replaced Stanton with Adjutant General of the Army Lorenzo Thomas, thereby violating the law of tenure. It took three days for the Congress to carry out the impeachment procedure for the so-called “grave crimes and misdemeanors.” Meanwhile, Stanton refused to leave his post and even tried to arrest Thomas for his attempts to take over the position of the Secretary of War. In May 1868, eleven articles of the impeachment were supported by the House of Representatives, but the Senate lacked one vote to dismiss the President. Johnson was not removed from the office, yet he did not run for a second presidential term. Andrew Johnson remained in office until the end of his tenure but completely lost the population’s support.

The most sensational impeachment occurred in 1868, when the House of Representatives dismissed Johnson for neglecting the legislation, namely the Tenure of Office Act. The intensely partisan politics caused the impeachment of Johnson. The Civil War almost came to an end when Johnson became the President. At that time, the public was arguing about the status of the post-war South. Johnson also favored reintegration of the Southern society. He was severely criticized by Radical Republicans, who called for African-American suffrage. Johnson did not focus on this issue, thereby motivating Radicals to seek his impeachment. The national leader was a victim of politics due to breaking the unjust law. From a technical perspective, Johnson violated the Tenure of Office Act. However, the passage of the bill provoked the President and enabled Radical Republicans to get rid of him. If the Congress dismissed Johnson due to the power struggle between the congressmen and president, this action would endanger the entire system of separation of powers.

To conclude, not only the President but also some other high-ranking officials, including judges can be dismissed according to the U.S. Constitution. Political confrontation, controversies, and misunderstanding between Radical Republicans and Johnson raised the issue of the leader’s impeachment. The reconstruction policy in the South caused many concerns in the conflicting parties. Radical Republicans sought to drastically change the socio-economic life in the region, eliminate the planter class system, and grant freed slaves the fundamental rights, including the right to vote and citizenship. However, Johnson severely opposed this initiative. Despite strong opposition of Johnson from congressmen, he did not break the law and violate the Constitution. Therefore, the impeachment of the national leader was politically motivated.

Kate Williamson, writer at