The Tenure-of-Office Law

May 1, 1868


The Tenure-of-Office Law was deviously crafted as a trap for the President. The law maneuvers the President into complying with Congress or the President will be charged with the articles of impeachment. Mr. Johnson fell for the trick when he removed Mr. Stanton from office, an offense that Johnson is charged for impeachment under. If Grant becomes President, he will surely rid of this law as it is trap for the submission or removal of any President and makes the President vulnerable.


The Tenure-of-Office Law. This law was cunningly devised to tie up the President, and either force him into entire submission to Congress, or provoke him to some act of resistance upon which could be trumped up articles of impeachment. The Radicals who laid the trap were delighted when they saw the victim walking into it. When Mr. Johnson removed Mr. Stanton during the recess they considered that the bait had elicited a decided " nibble," and they had only to replace Mr. Stanton, to catch the President. This they promptly did, and the President, as they anticipated, entered the trap by attempting again to remove Mr. Stanton.- It was a looked-for event. It had been agreed on all hands (Radical) that that should be the signal of impeachment; and the moment Stanton was notified that he must give place to General Thomas, he post-haste-nay, probably with electric speed-informed Mr. Speaker Colfax, of the House of Representatives, that the President had ordered him to surrender the War Office! Colfax ,with as much haste, communicated the message to the House, and the Douse, with delightful alacrity, initiated and hurried through articles of impeachment. From beginning to end the measure was j "special"-intended for exclusive application to Mr. Johnson. Yet the New York Times-which considers all the acts of the Radicals monstrous, yet with a skill equalling that of the philosopher who extracted sunbeams out of cucumbers, discovers something useful in them all-sees in this tenure-of-office law a valuable principle. It reduces the power of patronage of the Executive office, which the Times contends has been for a long time grossly abused; therefore it is good. The Times advocates placing officers beyond the reach of removal by the President except for inefficiency, incapacity, or criminal conduct. This would be indeed a wise provision in our Government, and it ought to have been originally a part of the Federal Constitution, as it was a part of the Confederate Constitution. Office-hunting has been the bane of this Republic, and the patronage of the Government as wielded by the President for thirty years has done more injury to the public morals and the public interests than, perhaps, any other one cause. But any man who accords to the Radical party any such motive as that of putting an end to this great evil is a poor, deluded individual-as green as the springing grass of this season. They had no such intention. Their purposes were precisely opposite to any such patriotic and virtuous policy. Neither patriotism nor virtue is at any time a part of the impelling incentives to any of the acts of that greedy and besotted faction. The tenure-of-office law was to prevent Mr. Johnson from using the patronage of the Government in his own behalf, and also to prevent him from turning out of| office the then incumbents who were Radicals. It was, furthermore, intended as a j part of the scheme to evict Mr. Johnson from office in case he resisted, and by that means to take to themselves the entire patronage of the Government, and use it in the approaching campaign for their own benefit, and to help in the election of their nominee for the Presidency. So the tenure-of-office law being merely special and ephemeral-based on no general principle, but only to gain an advantage over the President-will be repealed as soon as its purpose is achieved. We have no doubt that General Grant has been given to understand as much. He would not consent to be President under any such humiliating restraint upon his authority. As we have before said, he will not occupy the position Mr. Johnson now occupies. Never ! He it is who has saved the Republican party. He is the strong arm on which they have latterly reposed, and whose strength and potency have revived their spirits and increased their confidence and boldness in a manner so palpable to the nation. As the benefactor of the Radical party in so great a degree, he will not consent to be the subordinate of Congress ; and they will have to demolish and hide away out of sight every particle of the shackles and chains with which they have fettered Mr. Johnson. We repeat, the tenure-of-office law will die with Mr. Johnson, and when General Grant is elected, he will take the place Congress now holds, and that body will " eat humble pie" at the prison board left by Mr. Johnson! The Radicals were compelled to seek the military arm in their revolutionary career. They found it, and under it they will find their bloody instructions rapidly returning to plague themselves.
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Mallory Haskins




“The Tenure-of-Office Law,” Reconstructing Virginia, accessed August 21, 2019,