Michael Zak

Any Republican interested in a proposal by Unity08 for a bipartisan ticket should consider the disaster that befell the country when the GOP did nominate a bipartisan presidential ticket. In 1864, President Lincoln's running mate was a Democrat, Tennessee's Andrew Johnson. Though anti-Confederate, Johnson proved to be a racist buffoon and an alcoholic and a true Democrat. Thanks to John Wilkes Booth, choosing Andrew Johnson was the biggest mistake of Abraham Lincoln's life.

On this day in 1868, Republicans began the Senate trial of President Andrew Johnson. Among the seven U.S. Representatives serving as impeachment managers were anti-slavery crusader Thaddeus Stevens and John Bingham, co-author of the 14th Amendment. Another manager was John Logan, who would be the GOP's 1884 vice presidential nominee. As with the Clinton impeachment, the 126-47 vote in the House to prosecute Andrew Johnson had been along party lines.

Utterances by Johnson, lionized in John Kennedy's ghost-written Profiles in Courage, included:

"This is a country for white men, and by God, as long as I am President, it shall be a government of white men." and "I know that damned [Frederick] Douglass. He's just like any other damned n_____."

For three years after the Civil War, Republicans endured President Johnson's defense of the slave system. He had authorized neo-Confederate state governments in the South, vetoed the 1866 Civil Rights Act, opposed the 14th Amendment, disgraced his office, and failed to protect the emancipated slaves and white Unionists from their Democrat oppressors. By 1868, congressional Republicans had had quite enough of Andrew Johnson.

The 75-five year old Majority Leader, Thaddeus Stevens, was no longer able to walk and had to be carried to the Senate trial every day, so Rep. Bingham was the lead prosecutor. Chief Justice Salmon Chase, presiding over the trial, ruled consistently against the prosecution. Through intermediaries, Chase was actively seeking the Democratic Party presidential nomination for the fall elections. During the trial, important Democrats conveyed to the President through his private secretaries offers to raise troops in his defense. Johnson refused, but the offers do indicate the lengths many of his supporters were willing to go.

Michael Zak

Michael Zak's article is adapted from his book Back to the Basics for the Republican Party.

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