Today in History, August 12: 1867 – “Hon. EDWIN M. STANTON, Secretary of War.
Sir: By virtue of the power and authority vested in me as President by the Constitution and laws of the United States, you are hereby suspended from office as Secretary of War, and will cease to exercise any and all functions pertaining to the same.
You will at once transfer to General Ulysses S. Grant, who has this day been authorized and empowered to act as Secretary of War ad interim, all records, books, and other property now in your custody and charge.
Volatile politics is nothing new in America. For his second term, President Lincoln had chosen Democrat Andrew Johnson as his vice President because he was from a border state, loyal to the Union, but a Southerner.
When Johnson assumed office after Lincoln’s assassination, he did not enforce reconstruction in the South as strongly as Lincoln’s contemporaries in the cabinet and the Congress wanted. The battle was ongoing, with Congress passing the Tenure of Office Act to prevent Johnson from firing cabinet members that did not agree with him.
Most prominent was Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton. On this date Johnson suspended Stanton and replaced him with the popular Gen. Ulysses S. Grant, who resigned the position once Congress reconvened and voted not to remove Stanton. Stanton refused to leave, to the point that in February of 1868 when Johnson formally fired him, Stanton barricaded himself in his office in the War Department.
The “radical” Republicans in the House voted to impeach Johnson over the ordeal, but the Senate, after a lengthy trial, kept him in office.