February 6, 2009

Learn something this Friday

Benjamin Franklin Wade missed out being President of the US by one single vote. Al Gore has nothing to complain about. You see, in the years after the end of the Civil War there was major disagreement on how to bring the recalcitrant Rebel States back into the Union. Lincoln believed that since the States were not allowed to leave in the first place, then there was nothing to 'bring back". Hard-core Republicans like Wade thought the South should be punished.

Benjamin Franklin Wade was as partisan a Senator that ever walked the halls of the Capitol Building. He makes Kennedy and Reid look like mere pikers. Franklin was an ass and hated all who did not agree with him. He rose to become President Pro Tempore of the Senate after Andrew Johnson took over the White House following Lincoln's death.

Johnson took a soft approach to reconstruction and the hard-line of the Republican Party thought he was falling back on his old Democratic Party leanings. They felt he should be impeached. Not for any crime, but because he not following the party line. The Radical Republicans thought impeachment should be like the term of office for the British Prime Minister -- when the President lost the support of Congress he should be let go.

Congress passed a bill saying no appointees to a cabinet position could be fired by the President after they had been confirmed by Congress. Johnson fired Sec of War Seward and that was the excuse Congress needed to begin impeachment. Johnson thought the firing would be challenged in the court system and he would be supported by the Supreme Court, but Congress moved swiftly. The overwhelming majority of the House were Republicans and Articles of Impeachment were voted quickly.

The trial moved to the Senate where our good friend Mister Wade failed to excuse himself, even though he had everything to gain by Johnson's impeachment. There was no Vice President, so Wade was next in line should Johnson be impeached.

Just enough Republicans felt that a real crime should be committed before the President was booted and that using impeachment as a political tool would set a bad precedent. Most importantly, a vote against impeachment was a vote against Wade as President. One newspaper at the time wrote, "Andrew Johnson is innocent because Ben Wade is guilty of being his successor" [Trefousse, Hans L. Benjamin Franklin Wade: Radical Republican From Ohio. New York: Twayne Publishers Inc., 1963. p. 309.]The Senate failed to impeach Johnson by one single vote. Johnson remained in office, and Benjamin Franklin Wade missed out on being President.

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