A Look at the First Impeachment of a US President

A look back in history.  The impeachment of president Andrew Johnson.Everybody knows the story as to why Bill Clinton and Donald Trump were impeached.

Most people also know that Richard Nixon would have gotten impeached (and almost certainly acquitted by the Senate) in 1974, though he chose to resign before being removed from office.

The first impeachment of a US president - Andrew Johnson - is less talked about by the public. After all, that impeachment took place more than 140 years ago.


The impeachment of Andrew Johnson, the 17th President in the history of the United States, took place in 1868.

The House of Representatives charged Andrew Johnson via 11 articles of impeachment, two of which would make their way to the Senate for voting. The House would easily pass the resolution of impeachment by a vote of 126-47.

The Senate would vote 35-19 in favor of finding Andrew Johnson guilty, though they fell just 1 short of the 36 votes necessary to convict President Johnson. Andrew Johnson was acquitted and would remain in office.


So what happened? Why was Andrew Johnson impeached?

The main reason behind the impeachment? The Tenure of Office Act, which was in place from 1867-1887.

This Act stated that a President would be limited in their power to remove "certain office-holders" without the approval of the Senate.

Edwin Stanton was the Secretary of War, and he opposed President Johnson's policies of leniency towards the former Confederate States. The Tenure of Office Act was implemented specifically to protect Edwin Stanton, and the bill became law, despite President Johnson's veto.

Stanton and Johnson remained deeply divided on the way forward for the country after the Civil War, and President Johnson would eventually suspend Stanton from his position on August 12th, 1867.

The Senate would vote overwhelmingly to reinstate Stanton, which would set off a showdown between Johnson and Congress in 1868. After attempting to undermine Stanton, Johnson decided to terminate him on February 21st, 1868, in defiance of the Tenure of Office Act.

The Republicans in the Senate would pass a resolution declaring Stanton's dismissal illegal, and the House would eventually vote overwhelmingly to support multiple articles of impeachment for President Johnson.


The Tenure of Office Act would eventually be removed from law years later, though it will certainly retain a place in history, as it was the catalyst for the first impeachment of a US President in history.

Filed under: General Knowledge

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