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05-16   Print  E-mail
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On May 16, 1868, the U.S. Senate failed by just

 one vote to convict President Andrew Johnson of "high crimes and misdemeanors," as he was charged under the articles of impeachment. A second vote, taken on May 26, also fell short, by just one vote, of the two-thirds majority required to convict the president. When Johnson, a Southern Democrat, assumed the presidency after Lincoln's assassination, he intended to pursue a plan allowing former Confederate states to return representatives to Congress as soon as their legislatures had approved a constitution recognizing the abolition of slavery. Lacking the personal and political sagacity of President Lincoln, Johnson was unable to bring about the transition smoothly, and what ensued was a cataclysmic encounter between the executive and legislative branches.

In 1865, Johnson took advantage of a long Congressional recess to recognize a reconstruction government in all former Confederate states, except Texas. The states then took advantage of his conciliatory policy to pass "Black Codes" limiting freedmen's rights. Back in session, angry congressmen, led by men like Charles Sumner and Wendell Phillips, passed the Freedmen's Bureau and Civil Rights Bills to empower those the codes repressed. Johnson vetoed both bills, but Congress passed the first override in U.S. history to protect the civil rights legislation.


 

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