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Untrodden GroundHow Presidents Interpret the Constitution$
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Harold H. Bruff

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780226211107

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: September 2015

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226211244.001.0001

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Unmindful of the High Duties

Unmindful of the High Duties

Andrew Johnson

(p.157) Chapter Six Unmindful of the High Duties
Untrodden Ground

Harold H. Bruff

University of Chicago Press

Reconstruction occurred on a blank constitutional slate. President Andrew Johnson’s rigid character and outdated values adversely affected the nation’s approach to it. After following Abraham Lincoln’s early policy, he formed his own constitutional approach to Reconstruction before Congress convened, using the pardon power to reconstruct rebel states with few of the conditions needed to protect the freed slaves. Congress then asserted its own constitutional primacy, overriding Johnson’s vetoes of its legislation. He resisted enforcing the statutes, in disregard of his faithful execution duty. He assailed the legitimacy of the Reconstruction Congress and resisted the Fourteenth Amendment. Eventually, he was impeached, and narrowly escaped conviction and removal. Ironically, he was impeached for defying an unconstitutional statute, the Tenure of Office Act, which restricted his command of the executive branch. He should have been removed for his failures of faithful execution. The disputed election of 1876 was another Electoral College crisis.

Keywords:   Reconstruction, Andrew Johnson, pardon power, faithful execution, Reconstruction Congress, Fourteenth Amendment, Impeachment, Tenure of Office Act, election of 1876

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