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 Stanton subsequently relinquished his office, and the Tenure of Office Act, never a popular measure, was repealed in 1887.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.

References in periodicals archive ?
Although Wilson plainly disliked the Tenure of Office Act, he
fell within an exception to the Tenure of Office Act, which was still in
The Tenure of Office Act demonstrated that congressional
from the Tenure of Office Act in his civil service bills to protect his
The Tenure of Office Act thus created a dramatic change in relations between the President and the Senate concerning the President's cabinet.
After the Tenure of Office Act was passed, President Johnson decided to remove Edwin Stanton as his Secretary of War and eventually did so without the approval of the Senate.
In 1867, the no-pay provision of the 1863 enactment was wrapped into the Tenure of Office Act, which Act in amended form remains in effect today.
As noted by Cadwalader, Congress and the Senate, by the Tenure of Office Act and other measures, had over the years opposed rather than ratified the executive practice.
In this case, it was not legislation that shaped the process of impeachment, as the independent counsel statute did; it was the legislation the violation of which constituted the principal charge against the president: the Tenure of Office Act restricting Johnson's ability to remove senior officials.
Here was a clear violation of the Tenure of Office Act, in the view of House Republicans.
Third, the high-ranking law officers were somewhat protected from firing by the revised Tenure of Office Act.
It would have been possible for Representative Jenckes to insert into the DOJ Act the same language from the Tenure of Office Act requiring Senate consent for removals.