A Note on the Johnson Impeachment

Some comparative history.

Photo by SLT

A little tidbit I learned not that long ago about the impeachment of President Andrew Johnson: he was impeached, on a strict party-line vote, and then the House wrote the articles of impeachment.

Again: he was impeached first and then the articles were written.

The timeline:

February 24, 1868

The U.S. House of Representatives passes a resolution impeaching the President of “high crimes and misdemeanors” by a strict party vote of 128 to 47. After the vote, the House appointed a committee to draw up specific charges.

February 29, 1868
The House committee reported ten articles of impeachment. After debate, the number of articles were reduced to nine. All but two were based on Johnson’s alleged violation of the Tenure of Office Act. After the House adopted these charges, it added two more articles of Impeachment.

While the conflict that eventually led to impeachment started in early 1867, the actual trigger for the February 24th vote was an action taken by Johnson only 3 days prior.

I think all of this has to be remembered when current politicians call the current process a hoax, sham, or witch hunt. (Or that the process is rushed).

FILED UNDER: Donald Trump, Impeachment, US Politics
Steven L. Taylor
About Steven L. Taylor
Steven L. Taylor is Professor of Political Science and Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at Troy University. His main areas of expertise include parties, elections, and the institutional design of democracies. His most recent book is the co-authored A Different Democracy: American Government in a 31-Country Perspective. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Texas and his BA from the University of California, Irvine. He has been blogging since 2003 (originally at the now defunct Poliblog). Follow Steven on Twitter


  1. I realized when I posted about McConnell and Graham (and Rand Paul) the difference between actual jurors in a criminal trial and Senators sitting as “jurors” in a Presidential impeachment trial. As you note, in the second case impeachment is at base a political issue so it’s not surprising that Senators are acting like politicians.

    That being said, the extent to which the Senate GOP is a craven sycophant to the President.

    It’s also worth noting that this is the first time in history that the Senate is in hands of the same political party as the President.

  2. James Knauer says:

    If Democrats have actually spoken to GOP Senators who have said in private they think the President should be removed from office, it’s time to name them all, loudly, each day, and each hour.

    Lev Parnas evidently met with the KGB in Ukraine with email proof and wants to talk to investigators. This matter is far from over, as obstruction prevents us from knowing the true depths.

    The danger for the U.S. is leopards do not change their spots. The President will most assuredly offend again, and worse, as the pattern is to only escalate. Guilty teenagers at age 70 have no other options.

  3. @Doug Mataconis:

    That being said, the extent to which the Senate GOP is a craven sycophant to the President.

    This is utterly fair.

  4. An Interested Party says:

    …the extent to which the Senate GOP is a craven sycophant to the President.

    Have the Democrats ever bowed and scraped like this? To Obama? To Clinton? How can these Republicans have so little self-respect by being so obsequious to this trash in the White House…

  5. Erik says:

    @An Interested Party: Authoritarians are not just leaders who want to impose their will on others. There is a distinct group of people who are authoritarian followers who are happier/more comfortable living in a society where they have an authoritarian leader to give allegiance to.