“I thought you did know something of it,” replied Mark.
The Speaker pro tempore. Up to this point the discussion has been pertinent and germane to the question--very closely so--and the Chair is compelled to rule, the question of order being raised, that this is not germane or in order. The gentleman from Indiana will proceed in order.
Mr. Holman: I suppose, Mr. Speaker, the Constitution of the United States would scarcely be in order. I will not ask to have it read.
The debate continued in the vein illustrated in the foregoing extracts, from the morning of February 22, notwithstanding it was a National Holiday, such was the haste of the impeachers, to the evening of the 24th, almost without interruption. It was at times illustrated by marked ability, and on the Republican side by intense bitterness and partisan malignity. A large number of the members of the House participated in the debate.
Mr. Thaddeus Stevens then closed the debate in the following arraignment of the President:
Now in defiance of this law. (the Office-Tenure Act) Andrew Johnson, on the 21st day of February, 1868, issued his commission or letter of authority to one Lorenzo Thomas, appointing him Secretary of War ad interim, and commanded him to take possession of the Department of War and to eject the incumbent. E M. Stanton, then in lawful possession of said office. Here, if this act stood alone, would be an undeniable official misdemeanor-- not only a misdemeanor per se, but declared to be so by the act itself, and the party made indictable and punishable in a criminal proceeding. If Andrew Johnson escapes with bare removal from office, if he be not FINED AND INCARCERATED IN THE PENITENTIARY AFTERWARD UNDER CRIMINAL PROCEEDINGS, he may thank the weakness or the clemency of Congress and not his own innocence.
We shall propose to prove on the trial that Andrew Johnson was guilty of misprision of bribery by offering to General Grant, if he would unite with him in his lawless violence, to assume in his stead the penalties and to endure the imprisonment denounced by the law Bribery is one of the offenses specifically enumerated for which the President may be impeached and removed from office. By the Constitution, article two, section two, the President has power to nominate and, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate, to appoint all officers of the United States whose appointments are not therein otherwise provided for and which shall be established by law, and to fill up all vacancies that may happen during the recess of the Senate, by granting commissions which shall expire at the end of their nest session. Nowhere, either in the Constitution or by statute, has the President power to create a vacancy during the session of the Senate and fill it without the advice and consent of the Senate, and yet, on the 21st day of February, 1868, while the Senate was in session, he notified the head of the War Department that he was removed from office and his successor ad interim appointed. Here is a plain, recorded violation of the Constitution and laws, which, if it stood alone, would make every honest and intelligent man give his vote for impeachment. The President had persevered in his lawless course through along series of unjustifiable acts. When the so called Confederate States of America were conquered and had laid down their arms and surrendered their territory to the victorious Union the government and final disposition of the conquered country BELONGED TO CONGRESS ALONE, according to every principle of the law of nations.
Neither the Executive nor the judiciary had any right to interfere with it except so far as was necessary to control it by military rule until the SOVEREIGN POWER OF THE NATION had provided for its civil administration. No power but Congress had any right to say WHETHER EVER OR WHEN they should be admitted to the Union as States and entitled to the privileges of the Constitution of the United States. And yet Andrew Johnson, with unblushing hardihood, undertook to rule them by his own power alone; to lead them into full communion with the Union: direct them what governments to erect and what constitutions to adopt, and to send Representatives and Senators to Congress according to his instructions. When admonished by express act of Congress, more than once repeated, he disregarded the warning and continued his lawless usurpation. He is since known to have obstructed the re-establishment of those governments by the authority of Congress, and has advised the inhabitants to resist the legislation of Congress. In my judgment his conduct with regard to that transaction was a high-handed usurpation of power which ought long ago to have brought him to impeachment and trial and to have removed him from his position of great mischief.
I trust that when we come to vote upon this question we shall remember that although it is the duty of the President to see that the laws be executed, THE SOVEREIGN POWER OF THE NATION RESTS IN CONGRESS, who have been placed around the executive as muniments to defend his rights, and as watchmen to enforce his obedience to the law and the Constitution. His oath to obey the Constitution and our duty to compel him to do it are a tremendous obligation, heavier than was ever assumed by mortal rulers. We are to protect or to destroy the liberty and happiness of a mighty people. and to take care that they progress in civilization and defend themselves against every kind of tyranny. As we deal with the first great political malefactor so will be the result of our efforts to perpetuate the happiness and good government of the human race. The God of our fathers, who inspired them with the thought of universal freedom, will hold us responsible for the noble institutions which they projected and expected us to carry out.