Lethbridge Herald, The (Newspaper) - April 17, 1974, Lethbridge, Alberta
Wtdnmdfty, April LETHBRIDGE HERALD-21 Turn back a century First U.S. impeachment had grand-opera quality By RICHARD L. STROUT Christian Science Monitor WASHINGTON, D.C. An mpeachment trial in the U.S. Senate the thought is stunning. There is no slightest sign that the U.S. has yet come to grips with that possibility, or even tried to brace itself for the once in a lifetime drama. It would be the second time in U.S. history, the first in 106 years. Let us turn back a century. Time: 1 p.m., March 13, 1868. Place: the senate chamber by gaslight. The black robed chief justice of the United States enters and mounts the podium. "Make he says. "Hear ye! Hear cries the sergeant at-arms. ''All persons are commanded to keep silence while the Senate of the United States is sitting for the trial of the articles of impeachment exhibited by the House of Representatives against Andrew Johnson, president of the United States." Summoned The House of Representatives is summoned. (On Feb. 22 it had voted 11 articles of impeachment, 126-47, at the opposite wing of the great capitol.) The House resolves itself into the committee of the whole, and then moves down the long central corridor to the Senate, two-by-two, preceded by its chairman, supported by the clerk and doorkeeper and the seven managers who will present its case as prosecutors. The chief justice: "The Sergeant at arms will call the accused." The Sergeant at arms: "Andrew Johnson, president of the United States, appear and answer the articles of impeachment exhibited against you by the House of Representatives of the United States. Today's sergeant at arms is quiet-voiced William H. VVannall. He is not a man you would pick out of a crowd to trumpet that solemn summons to a president. Yet the printed description of Mr. Wannall's duties, presented over the years to gawking tourists, who glance at his Capitol office, notes significantly that he, "pursuant to Senate may be empowered to arrest anyone, including even the president of the United States Andrew Johnson was impeached for attempting to- remove stiff necked secretary of war Edwin Stanton. Mr. Stanton was leaking administration secrets -to the-radical Republicans in the senate. They had passed a tenure of office act forbidding removal without senate consent. Tactless The deeper issue was how to treat the defeated South. President Johnson, a recklessly tactless man a onetime tailor, whose wife taught him to read wanted a lenient attitude. The clash was inevitable. With this one terrifying precedent of impeachment in all American history, the century old timetable is being carefully scrutinized by chairman Peter W. Rodino Jr. of the House judiciary committee. Act One was the first effort at House impeachment, which failed. On motion of a member, Jan. 7, 1867, the House voted an inquiry, 108-39, by the judiciary committee. The latter stalled for 11 months and then issued a majority report, Nov. 25, urging impeachment. The report charged "usurpation of power" with 17 specifications. A minority dissented. A key issue was whether impeachment required an indicatable offense. No, said the majority. Failed On Dec. 7, 1867, the House rejected the report, and the first attempt to impeach failed, 57 to 108. Then came Act Two. It came with the thunderbolt of President Johnson's dismissal of secretary Stanton, Feb. 21, 1868. The secretary barricaded himself in the war department. On the same day the angered House started its second impeachment drive. It turned to a new group, sthe committee on reconstruction. The next day the committee voted impeachment. From Feb. 22-24 the House debated whether an impeachable offense must be an indictable crime. No, it decided. The House voted to impeach, 12847. It impeached first and drew up its 11 articles of impeachment second. Protocol was debated. It was agreed to describe Johnson as "president" and not as "acting president." The seven managers were chosen by ballot, in which 16 members got votes. The House gave the managers authority to send for (by subpoena) "persons and papers" (tapes hadn't been invented That ended Act Two. Act Three began with a procession: at 1 p.m., March 4, 1868, the House marched over to the senate two-by-two and presented its articles of impeachment. (Some date the start of the "trial" here, but the presiding officer, the chief justice, was not present.) Great drama Stately ritual, with an almost Wagnerian, grand opera quality, filled the great drama. Now it was the senate's turn. Every day of the formal procedure the' House came over with its managers and departed with them. The actual trial, in the sense of delivery of adversary arguments, began March 30. The senate recessed April 4 to April 9. National tension mounted. It was almost intolerable. Newspapers speculated on the votes. It would be sensationally close. When the final arguments came May 6, there "were in the gallery applause and and spectators were cleared. Now the final act. It took a couple of days to decide the procedure of balloting; which of the 11 articles should come first? They decided on the catchall No. 11. Each article should be put separately. The vote evidently would be on party lines. Roll call And so, on May 16, 1868, chief justice Salmon P. Chase ordered: "Call the roll." The chief clerk called the name of Senator Anthony. Mr. Anthony rose in his place. The chief justice asked: "Mr. Senator Anthony, how say you? Is the respondent, Andrew Johnson, president of the United States, guilty or not guilty of a high misdemeanor, as charged in this Mr. Anthony: "Guilty." They had known it would be a toss-up. Fifty four senators present and voting. A two- thirds majority would be 36. Most senators had declared themselves. But not Sen, Edmund G. Ross (R) of Kansas, a newcomer, who had everything to gain, nothing to lose, by voting "guilty." Silence "How say asked the stern chief justice. There was absolute silence. Every eye was on him. As he wrote later, "I almost literally looked down into my own grave." His first reply was inaudible. The second time it was clear, "Not guilty." That did it. The vote was 35- 19, one vote short of two thirds. The stunned senate recessed 10 days, to May 26. It tried twice more on two other articles, each time with 35-19 votes, one vote short. The Senate Journal says: "Ordered and adjudged: that the said Andrew Johnson, president of the United States, be, and he is, acquitted of the charges in said articles made and set forth." The differences between then and now are these: the issue then was relatively simple. Now it is diffuse. Mr. Johnson had a relatively short time to serve, Mr. Nixon three years. The 1868 approach was passionately partisan. Today so far anyway a measure of bipartisanship prevails. Profits dip OTTAWA (CP) Air Canada's profit in 1973 was million, down from million the previous year, says the corporation's annual financial statement. Operating revenue rose sharply to million last year from million in 1972 but operating expenses also jumped considerably, to million from million. Taking the vote in the U.S. Senate chamber, May ANDREW JOHNSON somte is CARIBBEA Soft-Sided Luggage Durable Samsonite Caribbea soft-sided luggage can take a beating and still look beautiful, trip after trip! Made of rich grained Vinyl with double-stitched side panels for strength. Heavy-duty double zippers, steel-reinforced outer frame. Continental handle makes for a comfortable grip. Woman's sizes in pink, M9S 24" Pullman Each blue, tan or orange: Carry-on Ovarnlght. 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