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Tenure of Office Act

johnson stanton president congress

The assassination of President ABRAHAM LINCOLN on April 14, 1865, left the post–Civil War United States in the hands of his ineffectual and unpopular successor, ANDREW JOHNSON. It became Johnson's responsibility to determine a reconstruction policy, and he incurred the anger of the Radical Republicans in Congress when he chose a moderate treatment of the rebellious South.

Congress sought to diminish Johnson's authority to select or remove officials from office, and the Radical Republicans particularly wanted to protect Lincoln's secretary of war, EDWIN M. STANTON. Stanton, a valuable member of the existing cabinet, supported the Radicals' Reconstruction policies and openly opposed Johnson. On March 2, 1867, Congress enacted the Tenure of Office Act (14 Stat. 430), which stated that a U.S. president could not remove any official originally appointed with senatorial consent without again obtaining the approval of the Senate.

Andrew Johnson vetoed the measure and challenged its effectiveness when he removed the dissident Stanton from office. Stanton refused to leave, and the House of Representatives invoked the new act to initiate IMPEACHMENT proceedings against Johnson in 1868. The president was acquitted, however, when the Senate failed by one vote to convict him. Stanton subsequently relinquished his office, and the Tenure of Office Act, never a popular measure, was repealed in 1887.


Hearn, Chester G. 2000. The Impeachment of Andrew Johnson. Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland.

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over 10 years ago

I've always wondered if Johnson was looking for a fight and got it. The reason is that, unless my arithmetic is wrong, the current Congress ended on March 3, 1867, and the new Congress wouldn't convene until December, 1867, unless called into emergency session earlier (as I understand the way things worked prior to the XXth Amendment.

So, Johnson could've done nothing, and the Tenure of Office Act would've been pocket-vetoed, and the new Congress would've had to pass it all over again 9 months or so later.