Michael Zak

In the end, the May 1868 vote to remove Johnson fell one vote short of the required two-thirds, with all twelve Democrat Senators backing their man. Seven Republican Senators also voted to acquit. Their refusal to rid the country of the Andrew Johnson presidency is often described as a matter of principle, but a closer look reveals much more. According to the presidential succession law at the time, Johnson would have been replaced by the President pro tempore of the Senate, Ben Wade. The cantankerous Senator had just lost his re-election bid, and few Republicans were eager to see him President for the last ten months of Johnson's term. Though radically against slavery, he held other views unpopular within our Party. Wade was a "greenbacker," for instance, in favor of using inflation as away of easing debt burdens. Also, putting Wade in the White House would have needlessly imperiled the nomination of Ulysses Grant for President at the 1868 Republican National Convention less than a week later.

The seven Republican Senators who voted with Johnson were inclined to tolerate white Democrat supremacist hegemony in the South. Though they all campaigned for Grant in the fall, not one would be nominated for another term. In 1872, their faction of our Party would split away as the Liberal Republicans, and twelve years after that became the "Mugwumps" who shifted over to the Democratic Party.

This article, adapted from Back to Basics for the Republican Party also appeared in American Thinker


Michael Zak

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

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