Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Impeachment of the President, 1868

Johnson's impeachment,  Harper's Weekly
    Andrew Johnson, vice-president of the United States under Abraham Lincoln, ascended to the presidency when Lincoln was assassinated. He was the 17th president, serving from1865 to 1869. Sometimes called the “accidental president,” he is considered by many one of America’s worst leaders.
     Johnson was impeached on February 24, 1868, in the U.S. House of Representatives for "high crimes and misdemeanors." The House agreed to eleven articles of impeachment, the primary charge being his violation of the Tenure of Office Act by his removal from office of Edwin McMasters Stanton, the Secretary of War. The trial began on March 2nd in the Senate before Salmon P. Chase, Chief Justice of the United States, and it concluded with Johnson’s acquittal on May 26th.
     The illustration of President Johnson's impeachment by Theodore R. Davis was published in Harper's Weekly. It is in the public domain.

     The trial was heavily attended, so much so that day passes were required for admittance. Among family memorabilia I inherited from my paternal grandmother is a pass for April 17th. Whose pass was it?
     The most likely family member to have secured a pass to the impeachment was John Wingate Clark, my 2X great–grandfather. He was appointed clerk to the Committee of Accounts in the House of Representatives in 1867 and later became clerk in the United States Treasury Department, a position he held until 1886.1
     From 1868 until her death in 1878, Martha Ellen Sarah (Philbrick) Clark, John’s wife, was the Washington correspondent for the Manchester (New Hampshire) Union.2 Maybe the pass was hers.

     1Harrison Ellery and Charles Pickering Bowditch, The Pickering Genealogy, being an account of the first three generations of the Pickering family of Salem, Mass., and of the descendants of John and Sarah (Burrill) Pickering, of the third generation  (privately printed, 1897), volume II, p. 732.
     2Ellery and Bowditch, The Pickering Genealogy, volume II, p. 732.