Saturday, October 12, 2019

the last book I ever read (The Impeachers: The Trial of Andrew Johnson and the Dream of a Just Nation by Brenda Wineapple, excerpt seven)

from The Impeachers: The Trial of Andrew Johnson and the Dream of a Just Nation by Brenda Wineapple:

Grant supporters, however, were highly pleased with the results of the state elections. Voters were evidently drifting away from Radical Republicans, and Grant could thus step into the breach and save Republicans from their fanatical selves. As Thomas Ewing observed with pleasure, “no extreme Radical will be Johnson’s successor.” Chief Justice Salmon Chase, who wanted to be President, could be written off as an extremist, and the Ohio legislature, now controlled by Democrats, would not return Benjamin Wade to the Senate. So from the office of The New York Times, Henry Raymond excitedly counseled the general just to keep his mouth shut: “Say nothing, write nothing & do nothing which shall enable any faction of any party to claim you.”

Ditto impeachment: say nothing and by all means do nothing. “Johnson is as useful to us as the devil is to orthodox theology,” Horace Greeley noted. “We can’t afford to get rid of him till we have elected our President.” Most Republicans didn’t want to make a martyr out of him, especially since Democrats might urge him to counterattack, which would result in a risky confrontation between the executive and the legislature. Besides, Johnson had only about fifteen months left in office, not a very long political life. There was no need to impeach him—unless of course the man grew reckless, as Charles Eliot Norton sneered, given “a man of his temper.”

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