Tenure of Office Act

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Tenure of Office Act

The assassination of President Abraham Lincoln on April 14, 1865, left the post–Civil War United States in the hands of his ineffectual and unpopular successor, Andrew Johnson. It became Johnson's responsibility to determine a reconstruction policy, and he incurred the anger of the Radical Republicans in Congress when he chose a moderate treatment of the rebellious South.

Congress sought to diminish Johnson's authority to select or remove officials from office, and the Radical Republicans particularly wanted to protect Lincoln's secretary of war, edwin m. stanton. Stanton, a valuable member of the existing cabinet, supported the Radicals' Reconstruction policies and openly opposed Johnson. On March 2, 1867, Congress enacted the Tenure of Office Act (14 Stat. 430), which stated that a U.S. president could not remove any official originally appointed with senatorial consent without again obtaining the approval of the Senate.

Andrew Johnson vetoed the measure and challenged its effectiveness when he removed the dissident Stanton from office. Stanton refused to leave, and the House of Representatives invoked the new act to initiate Impeachment proceedings against Johnson in 1868. The president was acquitted, however, when the Senate failed by one vote to convict him. Stanton subsequently relinquished his office, and the Tenure of Office Act, never a popular measure, was repealed in 1887.

Further readings

Hearn, Chester G. 2000. The Impeachment of Andrew Johnson. Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland.