“Oh what queer plants! They are giant Jacks-in-the-pulpit!”
Has the President, under the Constitution, the more than kingly prerogative at will to remove from office and suspend from office indefinitely, all executive officers of the United States, either civil, military or naval, at any and all times, and fill the vacancies with creatures of his own appointment, for his own purposes, without any restraint whatever, or possibility of restraint by the Senate or by Congress through laws duly enacted?
The House of Representatives, in behalf of the people join this issue by affirming that the exercise of such powers is a high misdemeanor in office.
If the affirmative is maintained by the respondent, then, so far as the first eight articles are concerned--unless such corrupt purposes are shown as will of themselves make the exercise of a legal power a crime--the respondent must go, and ought to go quit and free.
Therefore, by these articles and the answers thereto, the momentous question, here and now, is raised whether the PRESIDENTIAL OFFICE ITSELF (IF IT HAS THE PREROGATIVES AND POWER CLAIMED FOR IT) OUGHT, IN FACT, TO EXIST AS APART OF THE CONSTITUTIONAL GOVERNMENT OF A FREE PEOPLE, while by the last three articles the simpler and less important inquiry is to be determined, whether Andrew Johnson has so conducted himself that he ought longer to held any constitutional office whatever. The latter sinks to merited insignificance compared with the grandeur of the former.
If that is sustained, then a right and power hitherto unclaimed and unknown to the people of the country is engrafted on the Constitution most alarming in its extent, most corrupting in its influence, most dangerous in its tendencies, and most tyrannical in its exercise.
Whoever, therefore, votes "not guilty" on these articles votes to enchain our free institutions, and to prostrate them at the feet of any man who, being President, may choose to control them.
A few days after this, Judge Curtis, of the President's counsel, spoke on behalf of the President. The first and principal Goverment of the Articles of Impeachment against Mr. Johnson was violation of the Office-Tenure Act, which had been passed the year before for the undisguised purpose of restricting the President's power to remove his Cabinet officers, particularly, his War Minister, Mr. Stanton. It was apparent that Mr. Butler had been embarassed in his plea by the proviso of that Act, that members of the Cabinet should hold "during the term of the President by WHOM THEY MAY HAVE BEEN APPOINTED and for one month longer."
Mr. Butler had asked--By whom was Mr. Stanton appointed? By Mr. Lincoln. Whose presidential term was he holding tinder when the bullet of Booth became a proximate cause of this trial? Was not this appointment in full force at that hour. Had any act of the respondent up to the 12th day of August last vitiated or interfered with that appointment? Whose Presidential term is the respondent now serving out? His own, or Mr. Lincoln's. If his own, he is entitled to four years up to the anniversary of the murder, because each presidential term is four years by the Constitution, and the regular recurrence of those terms is fixed by the Act of May 8, 1792. If he is serving out the remainder of Mr. Lincoln's term, then his term of office expires on the 4th of March, 1869, if it does not before.