Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Bob Davis: Rubber Checks and Leotards

Two years after she caused a stir by publicizing a sexy private photo, Marty Davis—wife of Michigan congressman Bob Davis—was in the news again. This time, she was supporting a controversial measure to give members of Congress a 15.6 percent pay raise.

At the start of the congressional session in January 1987, members were receiving a cost of living salary increase from $75,100 a year to $77,400. It was not an insubstantial amount of money; according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, this salary would have the same buying power as $171,796 in present day - on par with the current base salary of $174,000 in today's Congress.

Under a proposal by President Ronald Reagan, however, the congressional salary would automatically increase to $89,500 per year unless the raise was voted down by both the House of Representatives and the Senate. This annual salary would have the same buying power as nearly $200,000 a year today.

Not surprisingly, many citizens were outraged by the proposal. Countless people would have considered the congressional salary to be more than adequate, and the idea of budgeting millions of dollars more to congressmen's paychecks was particularly contentious since it came in the midst of federal deficits and domestic budget cuts.

Many members of Congress agreed that the generous raise proposed by Reagan was unnecessary. Representative Virginia Smith, a Nebraska Republican, not only wanted to block the raise, but also the minor bump in pay members had received at the start of the session. "We can get by on $75,100 a year, and overwhelmingly the people back home in my district expect us to," she said. "For Nebraskans, times are harsh."

Smith's comment and proposal prompted Marty Davis to respond with a letter to the editor, which appeared in the Washington Post. "Seventy-five thousand dollars may blow people away in Nebraska," the letter read in part, "but in Washington, it is pin money."

Plenty of residents in Bob Davis's district were blown away by a $75,000 salary as well, and they weren't too pleased with Marty's comments. After all, the median price for a house in the northern Michigan region the congressman represented was only $31,000. Some constituents criticized her objection to the congressional salary as being out of touch. A duo from the town of Iron Mountain started a tongue-in-cheek charitable collection called Moola for Marty, urging their fellow "Yoopers" to send $1 checks to the congressman's wife to support her lifestyle.

Marty sent a lengthy followup letter to the Washington Post, admitting that it had been hyperbolic to dismiss the congressional salary as "pin money" but maintaining that the income was modest when all factors were considered. She said many congressmen were struggling to maintain two homes—one in their district, and one in the nation's capital—alongside car payments and other expenses.

Marty also suggested that politicians bore a disproportionate amount of the public's ire whenever people rose objections to salaries they considered exorbitant. "There's no great hue and cry over Washington Bullets star Moses Malone's hefty $2 million-plus salary for dribbling and shooting," she said. "But politicians, responsible for the laws of the land, are reviled for wanting a piece of the American dream - a few extra bucks to keep up with the cost of living."

Ironically, Bob Davis himself was not in favor of the pay raise for Congress. An aide to the congressman said Davis hadn't supported any such raises since he was first elected to the House of Representatives, and he didn't intend to start now. He also said that Davis was supportive of his wife, since he wasn't surprised that "two intelligent people might reach different conclusions" on the matter. The raise would ultimately go through in a rather farcical manner, after the House voted to reject it but only after missing the deadline by one day, thus causing the boost in pay to take place automatically.

The controversy over congressional salaries and Marty's remarks would mark something of a watershed moment in Davis's life. By the end of the year, the marriage to his outspoken wife would be faltering. A few years later, he would be named as one of the top offenders in the abuse of a House financial system; he would claim that his actions had been driven, in part, by the challenge of paying expenses related to his divorce and job responsibilities.

Early life and politics

Robert William Davis was born in Marquette, Michigan, on July 31, 1932. After graduating from Lasalle High School in St. Ignace in 1950, he went on to attend Northern Michigan University and Hillsdale College. In 1954, he earned a degree in mortuary science from Wayne State University.

Four years earlier, Davis's father had left his job at a funeral home to start his own. Davis joined him in the family business, running the Davis Funeral Home in St. Ignace from 1954 to 1966. For a time, he also owned a greenhouse and flower shop.

Davis's political career began in 1964, when he was elected to the city council of St. Ignace. He served as a Michigan state representative from 1966 to 1970, then as the majority whip of the state senate from 1970 to 1974. Between 1974 and 1978, he was the Republican leader in the state senate.

In 1978, Davis left state politics to run for the House of Representatives. He was elected to Michigan's 11th District, which at 22,000 square miles was one of the largest in the country. In addition to the entire Upper Peninsula, the district sprawled over much of the northern part of the state's Lower Peninsula, reaching as far as the suburbs of Detroit. Although he had spent much of his early life in St. Ignace, Davis would live in the more southern community of Gaylord for most of his time in Congress.

Davis with President Ronald Reagan in 1988 (Source)

A moderate conservative in his views, Davis would do his most substantive work on the Armed Forces Committee and the Merchant Marine and Fisheries Committee. The latter was considered particularly appropriate, since the 11th District bordered three of the five Great Lakes. During his time in office, he helped establish the Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary and Keweenaw National Historical Park. He worked to bring an addition to the Hammond Bay Biological Laboratory near Cheboygan to improve national research into sea lamprey control. He also successfully pushed back against efforts to decommission the Coast Guard cutter Mackinaw, arguing that it would impede icebreaking on the Great Lakes, and helped bring the service's buoy tender Acacia to Charlevoix.

Davis also secured funding and support for a variety of public improvements in his district, including roads, hospitals, libraries, and senior housing. In 1968, he joined with Governor George Romney to lower tolls on the Mackinac Bridge, which connects the Upper and Lower Peninsulas. This effort cut the toll from $7.50 for a round trip to $1.50 each way, quickly leading to a 22 percent boost in travel on the bridge.

He maintained nine offices throughout the vast district with a team of staffers to respond to constituent concerns. In a 1992 interview, he said he tried to help anyone who asked for assistance. "I've had people from Manistique call and tell me that their driveway wasn't plowed. We never turned down any [request for help]," he said. "We didn't always solve it, but no matter how small it was, we didn't turn it down."

This work made Davis a popular figure throughout much of Michigan. He easily won re-election in 1980 and the subsequent five House contests.

The black leotard

Davis married Marty, his third wife, in 1976. Marty was a former television and radio anchor, and worked as a freelance journalist in Washington, D.C. after Davis began serving in the House. In February 1985, she was outraged to read a letter in the magazine Washington Dossier which expressed surprise at the attractiveness of a congressman's wife. The implication, she felt, was that congressional wives were generally regarded as dowdy, stay-at-home types.

Marty fired off a letter to Dossier, Marty protesting that not all women married to congressmen were "cloying Barbie dolls swathed in Ultrasuede" or "stuck in a 1950s Donna Reed time warp." She said she was speaking for herself as well as "the business-oriented, career-oriented women in our ranks."

The letter likely would have attracted little notice had Marty not decided to back it up with a revealing photograph, with which she hoped to dispel the notion that an attractive, aspirational congressional wife was out of the ordinary. In the photo, Marty is bending over and shooting the camera an alluring look while wearing a cutaway black exercise leotard and high heels. She had originally taken the photo for her husband, to show off how she had lost 62 pounds after giving birth to their daughter.

The photo was quickly picked up and distributed in media outlets beyond Dossier. In an interview with the Washington Post, she marveled at the "completely overblown" coverage of the image and her letter. She said her husband had invited her to attend the State of the Union address, but she was worried she would upstage the President if she showed up. She turned down offers to appear on a number of TV shows, including Today and Good Morning America, saying she didn't want to "be fodder for the early morning news vulture."

At the same time, Marty was happy to use interviews on the subject to explain why she decided to send the photo to Dossier. It was clear that she had a good deal of pent-up annoyance over how congressional wives were treated in the nation's capital. More often than not, she complained, they were regarded as an extension of their husbands instead of individuals. She was disgusted by how frequently lobbyists called her "honey" or "sweetheart."

Yet her letter to Dossier had also been a way to combat perceptions that women married to congressmen weren't physically attractive. Men had frequently commented that she didn't "look like a congressman's wife." In her interview with the Washington Post, she commented, "Just because she's married to a congressman, she doesn't have to look like a toad. She's not a dog with no brains."

Marty said several congressional wives expressed their support and thanked her for changing the way people looked at them. Arlene Crane, wife of Republican Representative Philip Crane of Illinois, figured the photo had been meant as something of a joke. "If that's the case, she exhibited what has sustained me for the past 15 years in Washington, and that is a sense of humor," she said.

Other wives weren't laughing. Sally Dornan, who was married to Republican Representative Robert K. Dornan of California, thought Marty was simply trying to get attention and possibly trying to break into show business. Indeed, some of the people contacting her were Hollywood agents, and there was talk of making Marty the host of a women's talk show. "I exercise in a leotard, but I don't invite photographers in," said Sally. "She is certainly not speaking for me or many other wives I know."

There was even some speculation that Marty's risqué photo would erode support for her husband in Michigan. Dick Storm, a radio reporter with WHUH in Houghton, said, "We have a conservative population in the district, a lot of senior citizens and Apostolic Lutherans, and they're just not going to go for it." But a newspaper editor in the same town, Rick Fromm, said both Davis and Marty were well-liked in the district and the incident likely wouldn't have any effect. "I think most people, contrary to popular opinion, might think 'more power to her,'" he said. "She wanted to make a point and I think she made it very well."

Davis himself stood by his wife. He claimed that he had simply had a good chuckle when he found out about the image, and had suffered nothing worse than some ribbing by his colleagues. He commented that Marty's actions showed that "congressional wives aren't what people think."

Divorce from Marty

Despite showing support for Marty after both the photo imbroglio and her controversial stance on congressional pay, Davis's relationship with his wife was starting to break down. The couple began taking intermittent separations from one another in 1987. Davis began dating a woman named Brook Ball on and off during these breaks.

In December 1988, Davis and Marty officially separated. Davis filed for divorce in March 1989. About a month later, Marty filed for financial support in Virginia. Soon after, Davis came under scrutiny for his relationship with Ball.

At the start of the year, Davis had gotten Ball a job helping to research and prepare reports for the minority members of the Merchant Marine and Fisheries Committee. She had no prior experience with maritime matters, having formerly worked as division secretary for the Air Force office at the Pentagon. Her new position on the committee came with a $28,000 salary, $6,000 more than she had previously been making. Soon after Ball started the job, Davis moved in with her. At 28 years old, she was exactly half his age.

When news of this arrangement broke, Davis insisted he had done nothing wrong. He and Ball had first checked with the Ethics Committee to make sure there wouldn't be any issues with the hire and their subsequent cohabitation. He noted how they had used similar caution when Ball accompanied him on a business trip through Europe in 1987; Davis's way had been paid by a company in his district, while Ball covered her own expenses.

Davis added that Ball was doing a capable job and was actually saving taxpayers money, since she drew the lowest pay on the committee. The average salary of a committee staff member was $30,000 higher. "I would have hired Brook for that position even if we hadn't been dating," she said. "But that's not what anyone in my position would say, and I don't expect many people to believe that." He didn't believe that the hiring issue would affect his popularity at home. "People base their opinions of me on how I do my job, and I do a good job...I made no mistake here," he maintained.

The issue also wound up making Davis's acrimonious divorce a more public affair. In the course of defending the hiring of his girlfriend, the congressman also accused Marty of bringing the issue to light in the first place. He said he had refused his ex-wife's demands for $4,000 a month in child support, and suspected that she had tipped off the Detroit Free Press about Ball's employment in hopes that the courts would order him to pay more alimony.

Marty denied this charge, but admitted that she had been in a tough spot financially since the divorce. In another interview with the Washington Post, she said she was "completely broke." She was living in Arlington with the five-year-old daughter she had had with Davis, and she was paying $3,068 a month for rent, a car lease, electricity, and her daughter's schooling. Between her limited earnings and considerable debts, she had been forced to apply for welfare; she was turned down because her income was $100 over the maximum limit.

Those who had been unsympathetic to Marty's complaints about congressional earnings a couple of years earlier may have been similarly unlikely to empathize with her current situation, given that her expenses included $1,900 a month for a three-bedroom apartment and tuition for private school. But she claimed that Davis was paying only $234 a week in child support, less than a third of what she said was necessary for her to get by. Davis's attorney called her estimates "unfair" and "untrue," saying Davis had been paying her rent for a few months in addition to the weekly child support.

A Michigan court set Davis's alimony payments at $2,000 a month, a sum he protested as too high. His own financial situation was not sound enough that he could sustain this kind of regular contribution, he said. Marty, abandoning her old position about inadequate congressional pay, responded that her ex-husband made $91,500 a year and could comfortably afford to pay twice what they were asking. Davis argued that his actual income was closer to $67,000 after taxes. The court ultimately made only a modest increase in Davis's alimony requirements, asking him to pay Marty $247 a week.

The general assessment held that the proceedings wouldn't hurt Davis's reputation too much, since he represented a larger and more rural district. "We're so spread out, we're so isolated, these kinds of things don't hit people the same way they do in a big city," said Bob Anderson, an attorney who ran unsuccessfully against Davis in the 1986 election.

In 1992, Davis married Ball. They would remain wed until Davis's death 17 years later.

Campaign funds

The complaints about congressional compensation raised by Marty at the start of the 1987 and Davis during the couple's divorce seemed to ring hollow after a July 1990 press investigation. Since 1978, Davis's campaign efforts had collected $1.6 million and spent $1.52 million. Over the course of these bids, $225,000 in campaign money had gone toward Davis's personal expenses.

This kind of remuneration was not prohibited under federal law. The Federal Election Commission would only investigate campaign funds used for personal expenses if there was a complaint. But the receipts did show that Davis had not been as hard up for cash as previously indicated. He often wrote out multiple checks on the same day, including one to Marty for $4,800 in 1984 and two $500 payments to his son, Bob Jr. The largest single check sent to his personal bank account from campaign funds, $7,721.28 on December 1, 1988, was for "travel, meals and lodging."

Davis hadn't reported these payments as income. He said there was no need to, since the checks were reimbursement for the considerable expenses he incurred in covering his sizable district. He also defended the use of $103,000 in campaign funds in non-election years. "Everything a congressman does is related to being re-elected," he said. Davis also added, "I campaign all the time. I don't wait to the last minute to campaign. I campaign 12 months a a year. I work at it all the time."

A loophole in the federal election laws also allowed congressmen to pocket any leftover campaign funds if they left office before 1993. Davis assured a reporter that he wouldn't be taking advantage of this potential windfall. "Bob Davis will be here long after that time," he said. "I don't intend to retire. Never."

Banking scandal

For more than 150 years, the House of Representatives had hosted a bank which was open only to a select group of members. These included congressmen, their spouses, House staffers, and journalists. During Davis's time in office, the House Bank was a fairly simple institution; it could cash checks for its members, but it didn't offer interest or grant loans. The Office of the Sergeant at Arms oversaw its operation.

On September 18, 1991, the General Accounting Office found that the House Bank had honored a whopping 8,331 bad checks in the year leading up to June 30, 1990. Two weeks after this revelation, the bank was closed and the Ethics Committee began a five-month investigation into the issue.

The committee found that the House Bank had developed the ill-advised practice of honoring checks even if they overdrew the balance in a member's account. The bank essentially considered the withdrawal to be an advance on their next deposit. The generous overdraft protection meant that members could abuse the system by having the bank honor thousands of dollars worth of bounced checks without seeing the slightest blemish on their credit.

In the 39 months between July 1, 1988 and October 3, 1991, nearly 20,000 bad checks had been written from House Bank accounts. Some had been six-figure sums. The investigation proceeded using account numbers instead of names, although there was plenty of debate over how many offenders should be exposed. The House Bank didn't have clear rules against overdrafts, and the Ethics Committee did not want to embarrass congressmen who may have only bounced one or two checks due to an honest mistake.

Jim Nussle (R-Iowa), briefly wore a paper bag when speaking before Congress about the House Bank scandal on Oct. 1, 1991. After removing the bag, he said it was time to expose the scandal and return honor to the institution. (Source)

The committee initially decided that it would spotlight members whose overdrafts were "routine, repeated and significant." Many congressmen had overdrawn their accounts to get money for their campaigns, but others had used them to acquire funding for business ventures or other potentially profitable actions. After much negotiation, they set up a rubric to identify the worst offenders. To qualify, a congressman would have had to overdraw their account by more than their net monthly pay in at least eight of the 39 months under review. These parameters would only lead to the exposure of the 24 worst offenders: 19 sitting congressmen and five former members.

There were complaints that this limited disclosure was inadequate, especially given the widespread abuse of the House Bank. Some pointed out that many of the most egregious offenders could still escape notice; some congressmen had written more than 800 bad checks, but hadn't overdrawn their accounts beyond their monthly salary. Republicans in particular were eager to press the issue, since Democrats represented the bulk of the offenders (in part because they outnumbered the GOP almost two-to-one in the House). These congressmen trumpeted the overdrafts as a sign of Democratic mismanagement of the bank as well as the House in general.

House Democrats eventually gave in to the pressure to name every member who had written at least one bad check on their House Bank account. A total of 325 members, including 269 still in the House, would be implicated; it was the largest ethics scandal in House history. On March 13, 1992, a unanimous House resolution agreed that every offender would be named.

One day after this vote, Davis flew home and held a town hall meeting. He confessed that he would not only be named in the forthcoming revelation, but that he would likely have one of the highest counts of bad checks; he had bounced more than 800 during the period in question. He said his overdrafts occurred during "the worst period in my financial life," when his finances were in turmoil as a result of his divorce. He also blamed his own "sloppy bookkeeping," "lax procedure" at the House Bank, and the expenses involved in traveling throughout the large district.

Davis said the overdrafts hadn't resulted in a loss of any taxpayer money, since any bad checks were buoyed up by deposits made from other congressmen and House Bank members. He also said that he had not broken any rules or laws since the bank was actually a "cooperative check-cashing fund" instead of a true financial institution. But he acknowledged that the revelation was likely to upset his constituents. "I realize the bottom line here is that congressmen got benefits that most Americans didn't and that was wrong," he said. "I offer my sincerest apologies to the people who I represent."

As the House began to publish the names of all offenders in the bank scandal, it emerged that Davis had written the third highest number of bad checks. Between July 1, 1988 and October 3, 1991, he had drawn 878 checks from the House Bank without sufficient funds in his account to cover them. He was overdrawn for 13 months of the 39-month period. The face value of the bad checks totaled more than $344,000, the sixth highest amount among all offenders.

Davis was one of only three of the 21 worst offenders who didn't report any unearned income during the period in question. In fact, his last financial discloser form named his home as his only personal asset. He also declared that he had debts to three lending institutions ranging from $35,000 to $115,000.

Davis's record not only opened him up for criticism from the Democrats, but also made him a target within his own party. The Republicans had hoped to capitalize on the banking scandal in the upcoming election, but soon found that many from their own ranks had also abused the House Bank. Democrats were particularly delighted to find that Minority Whip Newt Gingrich, who had been especially vocal in criticizing the Democrats over the issue, had collected $26,891 from 22 bad checks. A total of 117 of the offenders, or more than one in three, hailed from the GOP. Tommy F. Robinson, a former Republican congressman from Arkansas, had the highest tally of bad checks at 996.

A Newsweek poll suggested that voters would be unlikely to support the worst offenders in the House Bank scandal. In April, GOP national committeeman Chuck Yob wrote to Davis asking him to abandon any attempt for an eighth term.

On May 4, Davis announced that he would not run for re-election. He pointed out how a poll taken in the previous month had shown that he would likely win both the Republican primary for his seat as well as the general election. However, he figured he would only be able to win through a large fundraising effort and nonstop campaigning; he also assumed that any opponents in either race would use the banking scandal to launch an extremely negative campaign against him. "Ultimately, I decided that I was not interested in that kind of negativism," he said.

Inside Edition sting

In a strange coda to his political career, Davis found himself targeted by the tabloid TV show Inside Edition. With so many congressmen being forced from office, rumors were swirling that the representatives affected by the scandal were desperate to stay in Washington and would do anything to secure new employment there. Inside Edition sought to test whether retiring representatives would stoop to corrupt acts in exchange for a lucrative new job.

The show created a setup where they would have a person claim to be representing a nonexistent trade association, the National Association of Bolt Distributors. They would offer the departing congressman a $250,000 annual salary to head this group. All they asked in the meantime was their assistance in influencing pending government legislation related to the fasteners industry. A hidden camera would be rolling to see if the congressman took the bait.

Inside Edition tried to tempt both Davis and Representative Robin Tallon, a South Carolina Democrat who would be stepping down after his term expired in 1993. Tallon had bounced two checks from the House Bank, but this hadn't played a factor in his decision to retire from office. Redistricting had given his district a majority black population, and he had been pressured to step aside and allow a black candidate to run.

In September 1992, Inside Edition went ahead with the sting. John L. Jackley, a former Democratic press secretary who had published a book about congressional chicanery five months earlier, disguised himself as lobbyist "Donald Lee" and met with Davis at a D.C. restaurant. Jackley, writing about the encounter for his next book, described Davis as boorish, dismissive of his constituents, and eager to accept a corrupt quid pro quo.

"You could almost see the drool of greed begin to form at the edges of his mouth. We had offered him a fantastic job—great pay, benefits, travel, the whole works—and he was beside himself with desire," Jackley wrote. "For one of the largest congressional check-overdrafters in the House, it was unparalleled. Davis represented Michigan's Upper Peninsula, and he candidly told us that after fourteen years in Washington, there was damn little that interested him back home."

The setup unraveled after the maître d' appeared and delivered a note to Davis, warning that he was being videotaped. Some GOP wonks had noticed Inside Edition's poorly disguised camera inside a gift box and relayed the message. Unnerved, Davis soon left the meeting. Nevertheless, Jackley claimed that Davis left a voice mail the next morning saying he had "taken the initiative" to set up meetings with an attorney, Dan Quayle's Council on Competitiveness, and a regulator working on bolt regulations at the National Institute of Standards.

Tallon claimed that he abandoned his own meeting as soon as the proposal of influence peddling came up. Jackley said he thought Tallon was also interested in the offer, but did note that the congressman was more cautious. In checking out the references from the meeting, Tallon discovered that Inside Edition was behind the whole thing.

In February 1993, word of the botched sting hit the papers. Davis said he was considering legal action against the program, but he ultimately never sued.

Later life

The Republicans continued to hold up the "Rubbergate" scandal as a primarily Democratic infraction. President George H.W. Bush even brought up the issue, accusing the Democrats of being incapable of running "a tiny bank or a tiny post office." He told voters, "It is time for a new Congress. You give me the right lawmakers, and I'll give you the right laws."

But the Democrats were easily able to accuse Republicans of hypocrisy. Three former representatives who had gone on to join the Bush Cabinet were found to have overdrafts: Defense Secretary Dick Cheney, Labor Secretary Lynn Martin, and Secretary of Agriculture Edward Madigan. In the 1992 election, the Democrats lost only nine seats to the Republicans; they maintained a healthy majority in the House. Bush himself would lose the presidency to Democratic candidate Bill Clinton.

By one measure, however, the scandal would have a major impact on the House of Representatives. Davis was one of 77 congressmen implicated in the affair who either left office or were defeated in their primary or the general election. This meant more than one in four sitting representatives who overdrew their accounts were not returned to office.

Malcolm Wilkey, a retired federal appeals court judge, was named as special counsel to investigate the House Bank scandal. He determined that 20 sitting or former members may have committed crimes in the course of the scandal. A number of people—including the former Sergeant at Arms and several former congressmen, their family members, or staffers—were ultimately convicted of charges stemming from the investigation. In 1993, Davis was cleared of any criminal wrongdoing by the Justice Department.

Despite his reassurance to a reporter in 1990 that he did not plan to retire, Davis's early departure meant he would be able to benefit from the loophole in federal campaign laws after all. He pocketed $40,147 in leftover campaign funds before leaving office in January 1993.

A photo of Davis and wife Brook Ball Davis, posted on Brook's Facebook page about seven months before Davis's death. (Source)

Redistricting changed the 11th District considerably. It was reduced to a much smaller area around Detroit and stayed firmly Republican, with GOP candidate Joe Knollenberg taking the seat in the 1992 election. Much of the area formerly covered by Davis would now be covered by the 1st District. Republican candidate Phillip Ruppe, who had preceded Davis in office for 12 years, lost the race in this district to Democratic candidate Bart Stupak.

Davis stayed in the D.C. area after leaving Congress and kept out of the headlines. He began his own lobbying firm, and also worked for the international law firm K&L Gates. He opposed an ultimately successful proposal to set term limits for state officials in Michigan in 1992, saying he thought his long tenure in office had helped him build trust and serve his constituents more effectively. In 2002, an act of Congress named the St. Ignace post office for him.

After suffering from kidney failure and heart trouble, Davis died on October 16, 2009 in Arlington, Virginia. He was 77 years old.

Sources: Biographical Directory of the United States Congress, ""Congress Wives Not Toads, One Says - And Proves It" in the Los Angeles Times on Feb. 6 1985, "Marty Davis and the Pose That Was" in the Washington Post on Feb. 7 1985, "Marty Davis Has Other Congressional Wives Talking" in UPI on Feb. 7 1985, "Congressman's Wife Shatters the Stereotype" in the Boca Raton News on Feb. 7 1985, "Marty Davis Bends Over Forwards to Create a New Image for Housewives" in People on Feb. 25 1985, Photo Changes Life for Legislator's Wife" in the Detroit Free Press on Mar. 4 1985, "2 in GOP Try to Block Pay Raise for Congress" in the Washington Post on Jan. 7 1987, "Congressman, Wife Differ on Pay Increase" in the Detroit Free Press on Jan. 20 1987, "Pay Raise Splits State Legislators" in the Battle Creek Enquirer on Feb. 2 1987, "What $75,000 Won't Buy in Washington" in the Washington Post on Feb. 8 1987, "Financial Gun is At Our Heads" in the Battle Creek Enquirer on Feb. 10 1987, "Congressman, Wife Trade Barbs in Pending Divorce" in the Detroit Free Press on May 31 1989, "Turmoil in Congress: Congressman Defends Hiring of Companion" in the New York Times on Jun. 1 1989, "Congressman Is Target of Hiring Controversy" in the Journal of Commerce on Jun. 1 1989, "Friend's Hiring Throws Davis Into Ethics Fray" in the Detroit Free Press on Jun. 4 1989, "Welfare Woes of Hill Wife Marty Davis" in the Washington Post on Jun. 8 1989, "So Davis Hired Lover? Voters Aren't Objecting" in the Detroit Free Press on Jun. 8 1989, "Davis Got $225,000 In Election Funds" in the Green Bay Press-Gazette on Jul. 29 1990, "24 May Be Named in House Bank Case" in the New York Times on Mar. 7 1992, "Michigan Congressman Admits to 800-Plus Overdrafts" in UPI on Mar. 14 1992, "House Bank List an Index of Lives Out of Control" in the Los Angeles Times on Mar. 15 1992, "Davis Bounces $344,000 in Checks; Will Voters Bounce Him?" in the Detroit Free Press on Mar. 15 1992, "Foley Proposes Using Outsider to Run House Services" in the New York Times on Mar. 16 1992, "Third-Worst Congressional Check Bouncer Is Retiring" in UPI on May 4 1992, "Stop Filibustering and Take Out The Trash!" in Spy in October 1992, "Tabloid Show Aims at Ex-Lawmakers" in the Detroit Free Press on Feb. 19 1993, "Voters Enraged Over House Bank Abuses" in the 1992 CQ Almanac, "Former U.S. Rep Bob Davis Dies at 77" in the Oakland Press on Oct. 16 2009, "Former Congressman Bob Davis, 77" in the Washington Post on Oct. 19 2009, "Legislators Recall Davis' Lifetime of Public Service" in The St. Ignace News on Oct. 22 2009, Beyond the Hill: A Directory of Congress from 1984 to 1993. Where Have All the Members Gone? by Rebecca Borders and C.C. Dockery, Below the Beltway: Money, Power, and Sex in Bill Clinton's Washington by John L. Jackley

Monday, October 9, 2017

William Taulbee: A Stain on the Capitol

In most sex scandals involving elected officials, the damage is limited to a politician's career. The scandal is easy fodder for a political opponent to use in the next election. Some voters may be willing to forgive infidelity, but others see it as a sign that the official is untrustworthy, morally unsound, or just plain sleazy.

Occasionally, however, a sex scandal ends in bloodshed. One of the most famous examples is the case of Representative Daniel Sickles, a New York Democrat, who shot and killed his wife's lover within sight of the White House. Arthur Brown, a Republican and one of the first two U.S. senators from Utah, was murdered by his mistress about nine years after he left office.

William Preston Taulbee is another federal politician who wound up meeting his end as a result of a sex scandal. It is unusual, however, in that he did not die at the hands of a jilted lover, cuckolded husband, or angry wife. Instead, he was gunned down by a reporter he had been routinely harassing for his coverage of the scandal.

Taulbee and Kincaid

Taulbee was born on October 22, 1851, near Mount Sterling in Morgan County, a mountainous area of eastern Kentucky. He attended the common schools and was also tutored by his father, who later served in the state's general assembly. In his youth, Taulbee also helped run the family farm.

Although he worked for a time shoveling coal, Taulbee soon left to become a teacher. He married Lou Emma Oney in 1871, and would have five sons with her. Taulbee continued teaching until 1877, when he began to study theology. He became an ordained minister and was admitted to the Kentucky conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church South. Taulbee also studied law and opened a practice after he was admitted to the bar in 1881.

Taulbee's first foray into politics occurred in 1878, when he was elected clerk of the Magoffin County Court. He was re-elected in 1882. Two years later, he became the Democratic candidate for the House of Representatives and handily defeated his Republican opponent, William L. Hurst. He faced a tougher re-election fight in 1886, even though he was battling the same opponent. Both Taulbee and Hurst traveled extensively through their district prior to the election, engaging in fiery debates on 27 occasions. Although it was a tighter race, Taulbee was returned to the House.

There is little information about Taulbee's service in the nation's capital. He was known as a gifted speaker, described as having a dignified bearing despite his rather young age. He was also popular enough in his district that one phrase suggested, "As goes Taulbee, so goes the mountains." His supporters nicknamed him "Our Pres" or "Pres Taulbee."

Soon after winning his second term, rumors began to circulate that Taulbee would not run again in 1888. He essentially confirmed these suspicions when he said he had purchased a house in Washington, D.C. and planned to live there after retiring from Congress.

Charles Euston Kincaid was slightly younger than Taulbee. He had been born on May 18, 1855, and spent much of his early life around Lexington. Kincaid graduated from Centre College and began working in journalism, editing a newspaper in Lawrenceburg for two years. He then worked as a correspondent for the Lexington Courier-Journal, covering state politics and later matters related to the South and Cuba.

Kincaid also dabbled in politics. He picked up the nickname "Judge Kincaid" after he was elected a municipal judge in Lawrenceburg in 1879, and a year later he was appointed a state railroad commissioner. Kincaid also spent a good deal of time abroad, serving as a consular agent to England under President Grover Cleveland. In 1884, he was one of the emissaries appointed by the state legislature to travel to Italy and persuade the authorities there to repatriate the body of Kentucky sculptor Joel T. Hart. Kincaid also served as the private secretary to Governor Proctor Knott and later to Senator John Williams.

By the late 1880s, Kincaid was working as the Washington, D.C. correspondent for the Louisville Times. He was a social friend of several congressmen, but also known for unflinching accounts challenging those in power. Most targets simply shrugged off the attacks, however. Senator James B. Beck, a Kentucky Democrat, commented, "He's one of those small, buzzing bees. He won't hurt anybody, and he's too little to take hold of."

It is unclear how well Taulbee and Kincaid were acquainted during the former's last years in the House. Kincaid undoubtedly had contact with the congressman while covering the actions of Kentucky's congressmen and senators. But any hope of a cordial relationship disappeared after Taulbee became involved in a salacious scandal in December 1887.

"Brown-Haired Miss Dodge"

The first report that Taulbee was having an extramarital affair didn't even include the congressman's name. The Washington Post issued a brief article saying a Patent Office employee had caught a Kentucky representative "in a very compromising position" with one of the office's clerks. This wasn't exactly an uncommon occurrence. The model room of the Patent Office, where the miniature versions of various inventions submitted with patent applications were stored, was nicknamed the "Lovers' Retreat" because it was a popular place for flirtatious clerks and their wooing suitors to meet during lunch breaks. The thick cases holding the models offered plenty of hiding places for discreet trysts.

The Patent Office's model room as it appeared in the mid-1860s (Source)

Kincaid pursued the matter further, publishing an article in the Louisville Times with a rambling headline: "Kentucky's Silver-Tongued Taulbee Caught in Flagrante, or Thereabouts, with Brown-Haired Miss Dodge, Also of Kentucky." The headline also declared that the duo had been "lunching on forbidden fruit and hidden waters" and asked, "What's the world coming to?"

Kincaid's reports gave more details than the Washington Post brief, but still erred on the side of Victorian modesty. Taulbee and the clerk had been discovered "in a compromising way," "held sweet communion for half an hour before going to plebeian Monday lunch," and were "rather warmer than they were proper." Kincaid also detailed the circuitous routes Taulbee took to rendezvous with his mistress as well as other maneuvers he employed to try to keep the affair hidden, and determined that the congressman had helped the clerk get her job so they could arrange their meetings more easily. He would later maintain that he had told Taulbee he would be glad to interview him to get his side of the story, but that the congressman had not accepted the offer.

The clerk, Laura L. Dodge, was more accommodating. She sat down for an interview with Kincaid, who described the 17-year-old as beautiful, petite, "plump as a partridge," and "bright as sunshine and saucy as a bowl of jelly." Dodge admitted that she was not from Kentucky, as she had told the Patent Office. She refused to answer Kincaid's question about where she was actually from, saying she didn't want to get Taulbee in trouble. The congressman was a gentleman, Dodge said, and she was supposed to be a lady. "We will both swear on a stack of Bibles that we have not done anything," she declared.

Kincaid wasn't convinced. "What a mess this is for an ex-Methodist minister and a Congressman from the grand old Commonwealth of Kentucky," he ended the article.

Abuse of Kincaid

While newspapers in Kentucky picked up the tale of infidelity, the scandal aroused little interest in the nation's capital. The Washington Post didn't even follow up on its brief to identify the congressman. Patent Commissioner Benton J. Hall said he would investigate the matter, but the outcome was never reported. It seemed one likely result was the dismissal of Dodge, who left the Patent Office in the wake of Kincaid's articles but was soon able to find work in the Pension Office.

Taulbee did not seek the Democratic nomination in 1888, but it seemed clear that he had already made this decision soon after starting his second term, not because he had been exposed as an adulterer. He had also irritated his party a few years earlier. At the 1887 state convention, he proposed censuring President Grover Cleveland. The suggestion which was greeted by hisses and easily voted down.

After leaving office at the beginning of 1889, Taulbee stayed in Washington, D.C. to work as a lobbyist. He was successful in this role, earning a great deal of money. He lost some of these assets in the same year he left office, when House cashier Craven Silcott absconded with $75,000 in congressional payroll funds. The vanished funds included some savings Taulbee had had with the Sergeant at Arms, but he remained comfortably wealthy. His reputation in Kentucky also seemed to be intact. Kentucky's Semi-Weekly Interior Journal suggested that he was still "the most popular man in the district," and that his endorsement would all but guarantee victory for any congressional hopeful from eastern Kentucky.

Kincaid was still working as a correspondent covering Congress, so he ended up frequently crossing paths with Taulbee. Even though Taulbee had weathered the scandal fairly well, he was apparently none too fond of how the reporter had portrayed him. There were suggestions that Kincaid's articles had helped destroy Taulbee's marriage to Eliza, although the matrimony seems to have survived as well; the two would ultimately be buried together. Perhaps Taulbee simply held a grudge against Kincaid for the tenor of his articles.

Whatever the reason for Taulbee's enduring hatred for Kincaid, he rarely if ever encountered the reporter without bullying him. On several occasions, Taulbee insulted Kincaid or warned that he would someday kill him. Sometimes the harassment carried over into physical abuse. Kincaid recalled separate incidents where Taulbee had shoved him against an iron railing, slammed him into the door of a streetcar, and crushed his foot under his heel while the two men were in an elevator. Taulbee also got into the habit of tweaking Kincaid's nose or ear to indicate that he didn't consider the reporter to be worth fighting.

A brawl between Taulbee and Kincaid would have been extremely one-sided. The former congressman was described as "tall and sinewy," having retained the muscular physique built up in his youth of hard labor. Kincaid, by contrast, was "a little pint of cider fellow," barely five feet tall and weighing less than 100 pounds. He also had a range of health problems, including astigmatism which limited his vision as well as liver and digestive problems. On two occasions in the previous five years, he had nearly died of typhoid fever.

Kincaid never responded to Taulbee's insults, threats, or abuses. He did not want to worry his sick mother, he later said; he also told Taulbee that he did not want any trouble. He hoped that Taulbee would simply tire of this behavior and leave him alone.

Instead, the bullying continued unabated for a full year. It finally culminated in a confrontation on a House stairwell on a winter afternoon.

The final confrontations

On the morning of February 28, 1890, Taulbee spotted Kincaid near the entrance to the House of Representatives chamber. He called out that he wanted to see him. Kincaid responded that he couldn't, since he was "waiting for a gentleman."

Perhaps taking this as an insult, Taulbee responded by grabbing Kincaid by the collar, throwing him about, and giving his ear a violent twist. The House doorkeepers, who controlled access to the chamber, separated the two men.

The exact verbal exchange that followed between Taulbee and Kincaid is uncertain, but the intent of the words is clear. Kincaid protested, "I am not prepared to cope with you physically," to which Taulbee replied, "Well, you had better be." Another version had Kincaid saying, "I am a small man and unarmed," with Taulbee responding, "You had better be armed, or go arm yourself."

Both Taulbee and Kincaid were able to enter the House soon after the scuffle. Word of the altercation spread through the press gallery and among the members of Congress. Some had long expected that the feud between the two men would only end when one of them killed the other. Taulbee's words suggested that the fatal showdown was imminent.

About two hours after the initial confrontation, Kincaid and Taulbee met again on the eastern side of the House wing of the Capitol Building. A Y-shaped staircase descends toward a basement restaurant, and the encounter occurred near where the twin sets of marble stairs meet.

Kincaid had gone home in the interim and retrieved a revolver. Referencing Taulbee's earlier request, Kincaid allegedly declared, "Taulbee, you can see me now." He then raised the gun and shot Taulbee in the face.

An illustration of the incident, inaccurately showing Kincaid shooting Taulbee in the back of the head (Source)

The shot was audible in many parts of the building, including the House chamber. The bullet just missed Taulbee's eye, piercing his cheek. Bleeding profusely, Taulbee managed to stagger away from the scene. Kincaid promptly surrendered to a police officer who rushed to the scene, confessing that he was the shooter.

Although he had suffered a serious wound, Taulbee managed to stay conscious and conversant. He spoke with Senator John Griffin Carlisle, a Kentucky Democrat and former colleague; Carlisle had served in Congress since 1876, including three terms as Speaker of the House. Taulbee admitted to the earlier altercation with Kincaid, but told his friend, "He ought not to have done it. Why did he do so?"

Kincaid, speaking from his jail cell, claimed that he only shot Taulbee after he approached him in a threatening matter. Although the former congressman was said to be unarmed, contemporary articles noted that there were rumors that Taulbee's friends had made sure to relieve him of an "ugly-looking pistol" after the incident. Kincaid told reporters how Taulbee had told several people, including a judge, that he would have Kincaid's blood yet.

"Mr. Taulbee had been dogging me for more than a year. I am almost ashamed to admit it, but he has assaulted me six times," Kincaid said. He added, "No man has suffered more at the hands of another than I have from him. Mr. Taulbee has haunted me like a ghost. He has heaped insult after insult on me, and three different times threatened to kill me."

Reactions to the shooting were split between congressmen and reporters. Elected officials did not always have the best relationships with the press, and some thought that Kincaid and other reporters had dedicated too much attention to the Patent Office scandal. The press corps expressed regret for the incident, but was more likely to sympathize with Kincaid; his fellow reporters described him as an agreeable, fair person who wouldn't have harmed Taulbee unless provoked.

Several newspapermen were aware of the contentious relationship between Taulbee and Kincaid. Jay Durham, a former D.C. reporter, said, "He alway manifested the most intense hatred toward Kincaid. He was voluminous in vile epithets toward the correspondent."

Some accounts suggested that this was simply how Kentuckians settled their disagreements. The infamous feud between the Hatfields and McCoys had been raging for 10 years in the eastern part of the state, and it was only one of several deadly rivalries in the area. A little more than a decade earlier, a judge and former congressman had been gunned down outside his Owingsville hotel by a defendant dissatisfied with his ruling. Ten years after Kincaid shot Taulbee, an unknown assailant would assassinate Kentucky's governor after a contested election. The Courier-Journal of Louisville commented, "that which may regarded in Kentucky and other states of the Union as a matter of self-defense is treated here in Washington as murder in the first degree."

As Taulbee recovered in Providence Hospital, it seemed probable that he would survive. The bullet had lodged somewhere in his skull, and the physicians decided not to try to remove it.

More than a week after the shooting, however, his condition worsened. The bullet had come to rest just inside the skull, and an abscess had formed around the projectile and put pressure on the brain. On March 11, Taulbee died.

Kincaid's trial

Kincaid had been released on $2,000 bail, and turned himself in to face the upgraded charge of murder after Taulbee's death. He was released again due to poor health, and because his friends had helped him raise the $20,000 needed for the new bail, and allowed to return to Kentucky to recuperate.

In the spring of 1891, Kincaid returned to the nation's capital to stand trial on the charge of killing Taulbee. The proceedings had been delayed until after Congress adjourned on March 3, since Kincaid's defense attorneys included Senator Daniel Voorhees, a Democrat from Indiana. Kincaid was also represented by Washington advocate C. Maurice Smith, circuit court judge and former Republican congressman Jeremiah Wilson of Indiana, and Charles Grosvenor, a Republican congressman from Ohio who had left the House after losing his party's nomination in the previous year. U.S. Attorney Charles C. Cole, newly appointed by President Benjamin Harrison, would lead the prosecution.

An attempt to delay the trial a second time occurred after Voorhees came down with rheumatism. However, this request was denied after the court concluded that Kincaid was adequately represented by the remainder of his legal team. Testimony began on March 23.

Over the course of the two-week trial, eight sitting or former members of Congress were called to the stand. A number of Washington reporters also attended the trial as witnesses. The testimony outlined the animosity Taulbee felt toward Kincaid, establishing how the former congressman had tormented the reporter for months. One correspondent quoted Taulbee as saying, "He ought to be killed. By God, I'll kill him." Another said Taulbee had threatened to kick Kincaid's head off if he ever got within 10 feet of him. Many of the reporters said they had relayed these threats to Kincaid, and that he grew increasingly worried about his personal safety.

Two House doorkeepers, William McCormick and Robert Woodbridge, testified that they had witnessed the first confrontation between Taulbee and Kincaid. Woodbridge said he saw Taulbee pull on Kincaid's ear, while McCormick said he'd heard Taulbee call Kincaid a liar. About an hour later, McCormick said, Kincaid returned to the Capitol and spoke with him. He was in an anxious state, wondering what to do since he was a sick man and had been unable to cope with Taulbee while unarmed. McCormick told the reporter he had no advice to give.

The defense expanded on Kincaid's assertion that he had been in fear for his life when he shot Taulbee. Witnesses described Taulbee's long campaign of harassment against the reporter. Kincaid took the stand in his own defense, recounting how Taulbee had once threatened to cut his throat. He also said Taulbee had called him "a damn little coward and monkey" at their first confrontation on the fateful morning of February 28, 1890. The warning to arm himself had been enough to convince him to take up the revolver he never took outside his room.

Kincaid said that he had not been trying to seek out Taulbee, but had simply had another chance encounter with the former congressman. He had been taking one set of stairs down the Y-shaped staircase, intending to go to lunch and meet someone in the basement restaurant, when he unexpectedly came upon Taulbee and a companion on the platform. He said Taulbee immediately reacted by striding toward him, declaring, "I'll show you!"

Taulbee had a hand in his pocket, Kincaid testified. He said he began to retreat, and declared, "You're going to kill me, are you?" Kincaid also remembered that he had drawn his weapon and warned Taulbee several times to stand back. Taulbee had been undeterred, growling, "I'll show you." It was only when Taulbee was within reaching distance of him that he pulled the trigger, deciding that it was a choice between killing or being killed.

The prosecution suggested that Kincaid should have fled before opening fire for it to be a true case of self-defense; they also framed the matter as one of revenge. Kincaid, angered and humiliated by Taulbee's provocations, had finally decided to ambush him and end the harassment once and for all. One of their key witnesses was Samuel Donelson, a House doorkeeper who was the only witness of the shooting besides Kincaid and the deceased Taulbee. Donelson said Kincaid had waited until he and Taulbee were walking down the stairs before shouting, "Taulbee, you can see me now" and firing the single shot.

Taulbee's brother was also called to the stand. He said that three days before his death, Taulbee told him, "I did not know Kincaid was near and did not know who it was who shot me until I was told." Taulbee had also reportedly said he bore "no resentment" toward Kincaid, although he considered the shooting to be cowardly. The defense scrutinized the statements, pointing out discrepancies between the testimony of Donelson and Taulbee's brother.

The trial ended on April 8. After just a few hours of deliberation, the jury returned with a verdict. They determined that the matter had been one of self-defense; Kincaid was not guilty.

Aftermath and legacy

The shooting of Taulbee helped fuel a flurry of reform efforts on Capitol Hill. Constituents demanded for rules that could improve congressional conduct and morals while limiting corruption.

Kincaid returned to Kentucky and continued to work in politics and diplomacy alongside his journalistic endeavors. He also remained in poor health. He died in 1906, only 51 years old, while working for the Cincinnati Enquirer.

Dodge worked at the Pension Office until 1895, when she was fired. Five years later, she married a Pension Office reviewer named William Albert Paul; after his death in 1927, she was re-married to prominent attorney Tracy L. Jeffords and became well-known on the D.C. social scene. She died on Christmas Day in 1959 at the age of 89.

Taulbee's descendants showed little willingness to forgive Kincaid or accept the verdict that he was acting in self-defense. Six decades after the trial, one of his sons, John Taulbee, denounced the trial as "a farce." Not only had the defense bought off witnesses, he accused, but the shooting had nothing to do with Taulbee's hostility toward the reporter; instead, Kincaid had murdered his father because Taulbee had not named him to a political position. Virginia Hinds-Burton, a great-granddaughter of Taulbee's, said in 2007, "My great-grandfather was murdered. And his murderer got away with murder. And five boys were left without a father. A wife was left without a husband to support her."

A contemporary account of the shooting notes how House janitors started scrubbing away the bloodstains as soon as possible. Even so, much of the blood had soaked into the porous marble. "Some of the stains will remain there for all time," the article suggested.

The observation proved prescient. Visitors to the staircase today can still see dark splotches on the stone. These are said to be Taulbee's bloodstains, still evident after more than 125 years. Those with a belief in the paranormal say the ex-congressman continues to haunt the site of his killing to this day. Reporters who stumble on the stairs aren't just miscalculating a step, they say; rather, Taulbee trips members of the media to show his continuing disdain toward the field of journalism.


Biographical Directory of the United States Congress, "The Shooting of Congressman William Taulbee on the Steps of the U.S. Capitol" at House.gov, "Charles Kincaid Trial: 1891" at law.jrank.org, "Settled a Grudge" in the Chicago Tribune on Mar. 1 1890, "The Taulbee Inquest" in The Day on Mar. 13 1890, "The Kincaid Case" in the Terre Haute Daily News on Mar. 27 1891, "Kincaid on the Stand" in the Galveston Daily News on Apr. 2 1891, "Are Blotches in Capitol Bloodstains?" in the Poughkeepsie Journal on Nov. 1 1978, "A Historic Killing in the Capitol Building" on NPR on Feb. 19 2007, Kentucky Politicians: Sketches of Representative Corn-Crackers and Other Miscellany by John J. McAfee, Wicked Capitol Hill: An Unruly History of Behaving Badly by Robert S. Pohl, True Tales of Old-Time Kentucky Politics: Bourbon, Bombast, and Burgoo by Bery, Genealogy of the Lewis Family in America, From the Middle of the Seventeenth Century Down to Present Time by William Terrell Lewis

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Andrew Johnson: The First Test of Presidential Impeachment

The first suggestions that Andrew Johnson should be impeached were raised less than a week into his term as Vice President. On the morning of March 4, 1865, when he was to be sworn into office alongside President Abraham Lincoln, Johnson was suffering from typhoid fever. Meeting his his predecessor, Hannibal Hamlin, he drank a few whiskeys to try to combat the illness.

He apparently had a few too many. By the time Johnson was to give a brief address to the Senate, he was considerably drunk. Slurring his words, he delivered a rambling, incoherent, and overlong address boasting about his humble beginnings and his ultimate triumph over the Southern aristocrats who had looked down on him. At one point, Hamlin even pulled on Johnson's coattails in a futile effort to make him stop talking. After he finally wrapped up the address and took the oath of office, Johnson became so confused with his duty of swearing in the new senators that he turned the task over to a clerk.

The spectacle was all the more embarrassing because it came shortly before Lincoln's stately second inaugural address, which has endured as one of the great speeches of the Civil War. Senators were horrified by Johnson's performance; Senator Zachariah Chandler, a Republican from Michigan, recorded in his diary, "I was never so mortified in my life, had I been able to find a hole I would have dropped through it out of sight." Johnson was ridiculed in the press, with one article labeling him a "drunken clown."

Although Johnson showed no other signs of alcoholism beyond this public display, the speech led to rumors that he was a dipsomaniac. These gained further traction when Johnson, still suffering from typhoid fever, left the Senate for a few days. When he returned on March 11, there were suggestions that he had gone on a chaotic drinking spree. Some Republicans drafted a resolution calling for him to resign, and there was talk of impeachment as a way to remove him from the second highest office in the land.

Lincoln urged his colleagues to be calm, saying his Vice President was still getting accustomed to the job. "It has been a severe lesson for Andy, but I do not think he will do it again," he said.

Just a month later, Lincoln's reassurance would be put to the test as Johnson became President of the United States. Unfortunately, a rift between Johnson and the liberal wing of the Republican Party would quickly deepen, culminating in the first impeachment trial to affect a President of the United States.

Early life

Johnson was born in Raleigh, North Carolina, on December 29, 1808. His father died when he was three years old, and seven years later he was apprenticed to a tailor named James Selby. After working for Selby for five years, Johnson abruptly abandoned the apprenticeship after a neighbor threatened to sue him and his brother, William, for throwing pieces of wood at her house.

Running away to South Carolina, Johnson worked for another tailor for two years. Here he fell in love with a girl and asked her to marry him, but her family objected to the pairing. Dejected, Johnson returned to Raleigh and asked Selby to take him back in. Although Selby had posted notices offering a reward for Johnson's return, he now refused the young man's request.

A notice posted by Selby seeking the return of Andrew Johnson and his brother (Source)

Johnson subsequently moved to Greenville, Tennessee, with his mother and stepmother. Assisted by his wife Eliza, whom he married in 1827, he began a self-education effort. He had also learned enough about the tailoring business to start his own business.

Before long, Johnson had entered politics. He was elected a town alderman in 1829, and as mayor of Greenville in 1834. He joined the state militia around the same time, winning the nickname of "Colonel Johnson" after achieving this rank. Johnson served in the Tennessee house of representatives from 1835 to 1837 and again from 1839 to 1841, when he was elected to the state senate. During his political career, he helped write a new state constitution that eliminated the property-owning requirement to vote or hold office.

Running as a Democrat in 1842, Johnson was elected to the first of five terms in the U.S. House of Representatives. In this chamber, he came out against a number of spending initiatives including increases to soldiers' pay, accepting funds to start the Smithsonian Institution, infrastructure projects in the nation's capital, and funding to aid the victims and families of a cannon explosion on the USS Princeton that had killed eight people, including two Cabinet officials. Johnson was also opposed to plantation rule and protective tariffs. However, he did express support for the public funding of education.

These stances hint at Johnson's deep-seated hatred for the wealthy elite. He despised any organizations or people he saw as aristocratic, including military academies and future Confederate president Jefferson Davis, whom he said was part of the "illegitimate, swaggering, bastard, scrub aristocracy."

A depiction of Andrew Johnson in 1842, the year he was first elected to the House of Representatives (Source)

Some racist remarks are attributed to Johnson around this time. In 1844, he tacitly supported slavery by declaring that a black man was "inferior to the white man in point of intellect, better calculated in physical structure to undergo drudgery and hardship." His business was also successful enough that he bought a few slaves of his own. He proclaimed himself to be equally critical of both abolitionist and the most virulent pro-slavery plantation owners, saying both were driving the country toward war instead of reconciliation.

When it looked like a gerrymandering effort would threaten his seat in the House, Johnson ran for governor of Tennessee and was elected in 1852. His signature accomplishment during his time in office was the establishment of the first state law supporting public education through taxation. Although he won re-election against Know-Nothing candidate Meredith P. Gentry in 1856, he soon left the governor's office when the state legislature named him to the U.S. Senate.

During his time in the state house of representatives, Johnson had proposed a homestead bill to help Tennessee's poor residents acquire land to cultivate. He made a similar proposal in the Senate, advocating a bill to provide 160-acre plots. Although this bill passed in 1860, it was vetoed by President James Buchanan. Johnson would persist, pushing through the homestead bill in 1862.

Civil War

The long simmering tensions between the North and South finally came to a head in the election of 1860. Fearing that Lincoln would destroy the slave-based economy of the Southern states, many political figures below the Mason-Dixon Line threatened that secession would follow if the Republican candidate was elected President. Johnson sought to strike a balance, throwing his support behind Southern Democratic candidate John C. Breckinridge. He also opposed secession and urged Tennessee to remain in the Union if Lincoln came to office.

Breckinridge swept the Southern states, but came far short of Lincoln's electoral total. As calls for secession increased, Johnson continued to advocate for unity. On December 18, just two days before South Carolina became the first state to break away, Johnson pleaded, "Let us exclaim that the Union, the Federal Union, must be preserved!"

The attack on Fort Sumter prompted more states to secede. Johnson traveled throughout Tennessee, making public appearances urging the state to remain loyal to the Union. It was a risky move; despite Johnson's status as an elected official, his stance on secession had become quite unpopular. Across the state, he was burned and shot in effigy. In one instance, Johnson's train was stopped by an angry mob out to lynch the senator; he was reportedly saved only at the intervention of Jefferson Davis. At one appearance, he responded to an angry and hostile crowd by calmly taking a pistol out of his pocket, placing it on the pulpit where it could be quickly taken up at the first sign of trouble, and continuing his address.

Johnson's efforts were for naught. Tennessee voted to secede on June 8, 1861, becoming the last state to leave the Union. Although elected officials typically withdrew from Congress after the secession of their state, Johnson was the only senator from the South to keep his seat. This show of support for the Union made him a popular figure in the North, but he was forced to live in Washington, D.C., to avoid being arrested in Tennessee. Although Eliza continued to live in Greeneville for a time, she too eventually moved to the nation's capital.

The exile was fairly short-lived. After Union troops captured Nashville on March 4, 1862, Lincoln named Johnson to be the state's military governor and awarded him the rank of brigadier general. Resigning from the Senate to take on this duty, Johnson returned to Tennessee to find that the Confederacy had branded him an "enemy alien," subsequently confiscating and selling his property.

Johnson was faced with considerable challenges in his role as military governor of Tennessee. He seized the Bank of Tennessee and records left behind by the fleeing Confederate government, reorganized the Nashville city government, and silenced secessionist newspapers. The Confederacy continued to hold portions of the state and made frequent raids into Union-held territory. In 1863, he was embarrassed when a civil election named a conservative pro-slavery candidate to succeed him. On Lincoln's orders, Johnson ignored the result. He also issued a requirement that Tennessee residents needed to take a loyalty oath to the Union in order to vote, and even then would have to wait six months before casting a ballot.

While governor, Johnson showed more sympathy to the idea of emancipating slaves. But he considered this to be more of a military measure, one which would help end the war by taking valuable resources from the aristocratic plantation owners who had encouraged the war. "Treason must be made odious and traitors punished," he declared at one point. At Lincoln's urging, he worked to incorporate black soldiers into Tennessee regiments to defend against Confederate raids, although these troops never received enough arms or support to become a reliable force.

With the presidential election of 1864 looking to be a particularly close one, the Republicans chose Johnson as a compromise candidate for Vice President to replace Hannibal Hamlin. During the campaign, Johnson also continued to show some resentment for the aristocrats. At one stop in Logansport, Indiana, he noted how his Democratic opponents had laughed him off as a "boorish tailor." Johnson said he took it as a compliment, since it showed how he had risen from humble roots to a successful political career. He held the principle that "if a man does not disgrace his profession, it never disgraces him." In one address, he cited certain plantation owners by name and suggested that the nation would be improved if their land was broken up into smaller plots worked by "loyal, industrious farmers."

Johnson also demonstrated more support for the idea of ending slavery. "Before the rebellion, I was for sustaining the Government with slavery; now I am for sustaining the government without slavery, without regard to a particular institution," he declared in an address at Louisville, Kentucky on October 13, 1864. "Institutions must be subordinate, and the Government must be supreme." In same address, says he supports "the elevation of each and every man, white and black, according to his talent and industry."

Eleven days later, Johnson emancipated Tennessee's slaves. This action, again taken at Lincoln's urging, was essentially a voluntary one; since Tennessee had come under control of the Union at the time the Emancipation Proclamation had been issued, it was not considered to be in rebellion and its slaves had not been freed by the order. Johnson seemed particularly happy with emancipaction; on the same day he approved the action, he told a black audience in Nashville, "I will indeed be your Moses, and lead you through the Red Sea of war and bondage to a fairer future of liberty and peace."

Johnson even wanted to delay his inauguration until April so he could oversee the emancipation process in Tennessee, but Lincoln insisted that he be sworn in on schedule. Historians have noted that it was fortunate that Johnson agreed to take office when he did. If the office of Vice President was vacant at the time Lincoln was assassinated, the presidential succession may have been thrown into limbo.

Accession to President

On the evening of April 14, 1865, Johnson was woken and informed that Lincoln had been shot. The President lingered through the night before passing away the next morning. After scarcely a month as Vice President, Johnson was given the oath of office by Chief Justice Salmon P. Chase and became the 17th President of the United States.

An illustration showing Johnson being sworn in as President (Source)

It soon emerged that John Wilkes Booth, Lincoln's assassin, was one of several conspirators aiming to kill a number of high-ranking Union officials in a coordinated assault. Johnson himself had been one of the targets; George Atzerodt had registered at his hotel and, after drinking plenty of alcohol, got cold feet and left without attempting to assassinate Johnson. Atzerodt was arrested soon after, and was one of four conspirators hanged for their role in the plot.

Shortly before his attack on Lincoln, Booth learned of Atzerodt's failure and made a last-ditch effort to frame Johnson as being part of the plot. He left a card for the Vice President with the message, "Don't wish to disturb you. Are you still at home? J. Wilkes Booth." However, this card was instead picked up by Johnson's secretary, who had met Booth after one of his performances and mistakenly thought the card was for him.

Although the process of the disbanding and surrender of Rebel armies was ongoing at the time of Lincoln's death, the Confederacy had essentially ceased to exist. Robert E. Lee had surrendered the Army of Northern Virginia five days before Lincoln was shot, and Jefferson Davis would be captured by Union troops about a month later. Johnson was enraged by the conspirators' attack on the Union government, and for a time seemed bent on revenge. He considered pursuing treason charges against the former Confederate military and political leaders, and was only dissuaded at the urging of Ulysses S. Grant.

This pugnacious attitude helped convince the Radical Republicans that Johnson would be a helpful ally in the postwar Reconstruction era. This political faction would be defined by their pursuit of full emancipation and civil rights for ex-slaves. They had been somewhat disappointed by Lincoln's support of gentler forms of repatriation and occasional hindrance of larger reforms. For example, he opted not to sign the Wade-Davis Bill to enforce Reconstruction efforts with federal troops and readmit Southern states only after they agreed to protect the rights of freedmen; instead, he killed the 1864 legislation with a pocket veto.

Senator Ben Wade, a Radical Republican from Ohio and a co-sponsor of the Wade-Davis Bill, declared to the new President, "Johnson, we have faith in you. By the gods, there will be no trouble now in running this government." Such feelings would be short-lived.

Falling out with the Radicals

On May 29, 1865, Johnson issued two proclamations outlining his plans for Reconstruction. The first issued a pardon and a promise of amnesty for any ex-Confederates who were willing to take an oath of loyalty to the Union and pledge to support the emancipation of slaves in the South. He also named William W. Holden as the provisional governor of North Carolina and directed him to amend the state constitution. Similar proclamations were made for other Confederate states, but made no request for a change in voting rules. This meant that black men were still excluded from the ballot box.

In one area, Johnson seemed keen to levy some punishment on the former Confederates. The wealthiest landowners in the South, namely those with estates worth $20,000 or more, would be required to seek individual pardons. It seemed clear that Johnson was relishing the opportunity to have the high and mighty aristocrats groveling before him for forgiveness. Even with this condition, Johnson still agreed to return the land of most plantation owners who made an appeal and grant them a pardon.

Most notably, Johnson failed to intercede when the South made blatant efforts to return Confederate officials to power. The Confederate vice president, along with four generals and five colonels from the Confederate army, were all elected to Congress after the war. Johnson also took no actions when Southern governments began imposing stringent "black codes" to strip the civil rights of black citizens. These included vagrancy laws to have idle black residents arrested and put to work; in short, a de facto form of slavery.

There were signs that whatever support Johnson may have had for emancipation and equality had cooled. He told one group of African-Americans, "The time may soon come when you shall be gathered together in a clime and country suited to you, should it be found that the two races cannot get along together." His private secretary, William G. Moore, recorded that Johnson displayed a "morbid distress and feeling against negroes." In a December 1867 message to Congress, he would remark that "negroes have shown less capacity for government than any other race of people" and were more likely to "relapse into barbarism."

Some historians have suggested that Johnson was not trying to impede the progress of ex-slaves so much as he was trying to keep any Reconstruction efforts within the boundaries set by the Constitution. In his veto of the Civil Rights Act, he said it "contains provisions which I can not approve consistently with my sense of duty to the whole people and my obligations to the Constitution of the United States." When he vetoed a bill to extend the mission of the Freedmen's Bureau, which was assisting former slaves displaced in the wake of emancipation, Johnson reasoned that it was federal encroachment on a state issue and an improper use of the military during peacetime; he also argued that it would hinder ex-slaves from being able to sustain themselves, and said there were no similar provisions for poor white men who had been harmed by the war.

An 1866 political cartoon depicts Johnson using a veto to boot the Freedmen's Bureau (Source)

Johnson agreed with the Radical Republicans on some issues. In particular, he thought that some individual rebels should be punished and that new state governments established in the South should meet certain conditions before the states were formally reabsorbed into the Union. However, he also thought that some of the proposed Reconstruction programs would benefit landowners more than freedmen.

The Radical Republicans were less than pleased at Johnson's acquiescence to the status quo in the South. The former Confederate states were quick to return ex-Confederates to power, some before they had even received a pardon. The political faction was also appalled when, in the summer of 1865, Johnson ordered the Freedmen's Bureau to return abandoned plantation lands to their former owners. In several cases, these lands had already been divided up and distributed to former slaves. While Johnson had originally been welcomed as a leader who would deal firmly with the rebellious states, he was now praised among Southern Democrats as a President who would protect them against the Republican agenda and preserve white supremacy in the region.

At the end of the year, Johnson declared that the work of Reconstruction was complete. The Radical Republican resistance mobilized quickly. Led by Representative Thaddeus Stevens of Pennsylvania, they refused to recognize members of Congress sent by states who had seceded from the Union. They also created a Joint Committee on Reconstruction, which began working on the Fourteenth Amendment to prevent Southern states from getting a numerical advantage in Congress by excluding black residents from the population count if they weren't allowed to vote.

In a President's Day message in 1866, Johnson complained that the committee was concentrating the government power accompanying Reconstruction into a tiny fringe group. He also said this approach would make the more moderate and conservative Republicans less likely to support his administration.

Radical Republicans passed the Civil Rights Bill of 1866 in the spring, targeting the black codes in the South and granting citizenship to anyone born in the United States. Johnson vetoed the legislation, saying it was "made to operate in favor of the colored and against the white race." In the first instance of Congress overriding a veto on a major piece of legislation, and by a margin of a single vote in the Senate, Congress overrode the veto to enact the bill. During his time in office, 15 of Johnson's 29 vetoes would be overturned, the most of any U.S. President. These bills included statehood for Nebraska and voting rights of black residents of Washington, D.C.

The most noticeable split between Johnson and the Radical Republicans occurred after he opposed ratification of the Fourteenth Amendment. Although he was distrusted by both Democrats and Republicans, the President tried to rally moderate members of both parties in a separate Union Party before the 1866 elections. During a "swing around the circle" campaign to rally support for this effort, he frequently traded insults with hecklers and made embarrassing statements; in one, he suggested that divine intervention had removed Lincoln from office so he could ascend to the White House. After this disastrous campaign, Republicans easily won majorities in both houses of Congress.

Once the new Congress was sworn in, they quickly passed the Reconstruction Act. This legislation divided the former Confederate states into five military districts and installed new governments to oversee the process of bringing the South back into the Union. Johnson vetoed the bill, but the Radical Republican majority easily overturned it.

Another bill passed over the President's veto was the Tenure of Office Act, which made it illegal for the President to dismiss any appointees who had been approved by the Senate without first getting Senate approval. This bill was essentially an effort to head off any effort Johnson might make to dismiss Secretary of War Edwin Stanton, a Lincoln appointee who was allied with the Radical Republicans, and replace him with someone who would guide the military element of Reconstruction in a way that was more in line with Johnson's views. Stanton had already undermined Johnson to some extent, telling Grant he could still continue to impose martial law in the South as needed even after Johnson declared the war officially over, raising the question of whether martial law was still legal. Stanton also vowed to stay in office, saying he considered Johnson to be a man "led by bad passions and the counsel of unscrupulous and dangerous men."

Dismissal of Stanton

Edwin Stanton (Source)

In January 1867, Republican Representative James Ashley of Ohio made the first formal move toward impeaching the President by proposing an inquiry into Johnson's official conduct. He made a number of allegations against Johnson, including suggestions that he had had a role in Lincoln's assassination and that he had sold pardons to former rebels, but offered no proof for these accusations. In June, the House Judiciary Committee voted 5-4 against approving any articles of impeachment.

However, the Republican attitudes toward Johnson soon hardened. During a congressional recess in August, Johnson took the opportunity to remove some of the more vigorous Reconstruction commanders from their posts. He also asked for Stanton to step down, declaring that "public considerations of a high character constrain me to say, that your resignation as Secretary of War will be accepted." Stanton shot back, "Public considerations of a high character, which alone have induced me to continue at the head of this department, constrain me not to resign." Johnson responded by suspending Stanton and appointing Grant as an interim war secretary in the hopes that he would be more aligned with his views.

In November 1867, the Judiciary Committee reversed itself and approved an impeachment resolution in a 5-4 vote. Representative John Churchill of New York said several matters in recent months had swayed him, including Johnson's statements denouncing Reconstruction efforts, his veto of a third Reconstruction bill, his dismissal of military officers overseeing Reconstruction, and his suspension of Stanton. The majority report made a number of criticisms of the President, saying his lenient attitude toward former rebels was helping to stoke violent incidents in the South, such as a race riot in New Orleans that killed scores of black men demanding the right to vote.

But the report was fairly general in its denunciations. Representative Thomas Williams, the Pennsylvania Republican who chaired the Judiciary Committee, said he did not think impeachment was possible under the circumstances of Johnson's alleged misdeeds as well as the constraints of the Constitution. Although 57 Republicans favored the impeachment resolution in a vote before the full House, 68 joined with 38 Democratic colleagues to oppose it. Another 22 congressmen did not vote on the measure.

On January 11, 1868, the Senate made a move to return Stanton to his post. In a 35-6 decision, they voted to restore him as Secretary of War. Grant did not protest the decision, and soon became embroiled in a battle with Johnson over the question of whether he had supported the President's effort to unseat Stanton. Grant charged that Johnson had sought his help in violating the Tenure of Office Act. This brought on another impeachment effort, led by Stevens, but the Committee on Reconstruction tabled this measure in a 6-3 vote.

Johnson was still itching to get Stanton out of his Cabinet. He offered to name the renowned Civil War general William T. Sherman as an interim War Secretary, but Sherman declined. On February 21, he settled on Adjutant General Lorenzo Thomas, an opponent of Stanton. Johnson issued one letter appointing Thomas as the interim Secretary of War and a second informing Stanton that he had been removed from office.

Instead of leaving, Stanton ordered Thomas arrested for illegally taking office. He quickly found support from the Republicans in Congress. A Senate resolution, passed in a 29-6 vote, stated that Johnson's action was beyond his power.

Once Thomas was released on bail, he too firmly held that he held the legal right to the office. For a time, the country essentially had two Secretaries of War. Many veterans and militiamen vowed to uphold the legitimacy of one man or the other, sparking fears that the squabble might lead to violence.

A political cartoon showing Stanton preparing to attack Johnson and Lorenzo Thomas, using a cannon labeled "Congress" and the Tenure of Office Act as a rammer. (Source)

The attempted removal of Stanton proved to be enough to get an impeachment effort off the ground. Some in Congress sided with Johnson, accusing the Radical Republicans of overstepping their authority and inflaming sectional divides, but the majority held that Johnson had been the one to exceed the power of his office. On February 24, the House of Representatives voted 126-47 to pursue impeachment. The confrontation with Stanton was the inciting issue, although Stevens suggested that Johnson had also bribed Grant by offering to pay any fine levied against him for violating the Tenure of Office Act by serving as Secretary of War.

There were some suggestions that impeachment was unnecessary. Johnson had no hope of capturing the GOP's presidential nomination, which Republicans expected would go to Grant, so the President had just over a year left in office. "Why hang a man who is bent on hanging himself?" Horace Greeley asked in the New York Tribune. For the Radical Republicans, however, a greater issue was at stake. Johnson could easily wreak havoc on the Reconstruction efforts in his final year in office; by removing him, they would remove that threat.


On March 2, the House of Representatives approved the first article of impeachment against Johnson. Two more articles were passed the next day. Ultimately, the House would seek to remove Johnson based on 11 offenses. It was the first time a President had been impeached. The Constitution states that impeachment can take place if an official is found guilty of "treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors;" it would fall to the Senate to decide whether Johnson's behavior was enough to convict him on any of the charges and remove him from office.

Nine of the articles of impeachment were essentially different ways of accusing Johnson of violating the Tenure of Office Act. The tenth listed a number of inflammatory comments Johnson had made about Congress, charging that the remarks "brought the high office of the President of the United States into contempt, ridicule, and disgrace." The final article was a general summary of the charges against Johnson.

There were enough Republicans in the Senate to convict Johnson on any one of these articles of impeachment and remove him from office. But there was also a certain degree of reticence among the GOP senators. The office of Vice President had been vacant since Johnson was sworn in; as president pro tem of the Senate, Benjamin Wade would be next in line to be President if Johnson was removed. Some Republicans were less than enthusiastic about this possible accession, since they saw Wade as being too liberal on Reconstruction issues to prevail in the upcoming presidential election; others disagreed with Wade's economic policies, which included support for high tariffs.

Chief Justice Salmon Chase, who had sworn Johnson in just a few years earlier, would now oversee the impeachment trial in the Senate. Johnson did not attend personally, but spoke to the press on several occasions to offer remarks on the proceedings. Representative Benjamin Butler of Massachusetts, a former Civil War general, led the prosecution. Attorney General Henry Stanbery resigned to lead Johnson's defense team,which included three other lawyers who volunteered their services.

An illustration of an impeachment hearing for Johnson (Source)

Butler called 25 witnesses during the trial. The crux of his argument was that Johnson had acquiesced to the Tenure of Office Act by initially following it, but then knowingly violated it by removing Stanton from office. He also blamed Johnson for the unrest in the South, saying his lenient attitude toward former Confederates had emboldened white racists into making violent attacks on black residents and others.

However, Butler also made a number of missteps over the five days of presenting his case. One passage earned a good deal of criticism by telling the senators that they were "bound by no law, either statute or common," but were rather "a law unto yourselves, bound only by natural principles of equity and justice." The prospect of a trial to decide the fate of the President was so exciting that public admission to the galleries was by ticket only, but the testimony soon became tedious. One press account declared the fourth day of Butler's prosecution to be "intensely dull, stupid, and uninteresting."

An admission ticket to the impeachment trial for Johnson (Source)

Johnson's attorneys figured that the nine Democrats and three pro-Johnson Republicans in the Senate would vote for acquittal. In order to deprive the vote of the two-thirds majority necessary to convict Johnson, they would need to convince seven Republicans to vote against impeachment. The defense called 16 witnesses to support its case.

The defense focused on the validity of the Tenure of Office Act. Johnson's lawyers argued that the President had no obligation to retain Stanton since he wasn't Johnson's own appointee. Ben Curtis, a former Supreme Court justice and one of Johnson's defenders, pointed out how the bill initially didn't extend to Cabinet officers. The defense also suggested that Johnson may have simply misinterpreted the law, and that he had the right to test the constitutionality of the Tenure of Office Act and have the matter heard before the Supreme Court. Thomas, they reasoned, had simply been appointed to keep the War Department staffed in the interim. The defense also suggested that the impeachment effort against Johnson wasn't motivated by any serious "high crimes and misdemeanors," but rather by the rancorous relationship between the President and Congress.

In the midst of the proceedings, Johnson consulted with his supporters and decided to blunt the impeachment effort by naming a compromise candidate as War Secretary. On April 21, he offered the position to General John Schofield, a Civil War commander who had been helping to oversee the Reconstruction efforts. Another Johnson lawyer, William M. Evarts, promised that Johnson would cease his efforts to impede the Radical Republicans' policies on Reconstruction if he was acquitted.

The Senate took their first vote, on Article XI, on May 16. This was the catch-all summary of Johnson's misdeeds, and the tally was 35-19 in favor of conviction. It was one short of the two-thirds majority necessary to convict; the defense had been successful in swaying seven Republicans to their side. One GOP representative, James Grimes of Iowa, summed up his opposition by saying, "I cannot agree to destroy the harmonious workings of the Constitution for the sake of getting rid of an unacceptable President."

Ten days later, the Senate voted on the first and third articles of impeachment to see if any of the opposing Republicans had been swayed by the prosecution's arguments on the Tenure of Office Act. Both votes failed to convict Johnson in the same 35-19 split. As it appeared that the divide would not change on any of the remaining eight articles, no further votes were taken.

The narrow margin of the acquittal raised suspicions that bribery had been employed to convince just enough senators to vote against conviction. Butler set up an impromptu committee to investigate the matter, interviewing dozens of witnesses and confiscating correspondence and bank records. The committee seemed particularly interested in Edmund Ross, a moderate Republican who had cast the deciding vote against conviction, but the committee ultimately finished its work without presenting any evidence of bribery.

End of term and later life

Following Johnson's acquittal, Stanton stepped down so Schofield could continue working as an undisputed Secretary of War. Johnson continued to spar with the Radical Republicans, vetoing bills related to Reconstruction and earning condemnation for his failure to provide federal protection for black residents and white Unionists who were subject to violent attacks in the South.

Although Johnson harbored no expectations that the Republicans would support him as their presidential pick for the 1868 ticket, he did believe that the Democrats were likely to choose him. Instead, they selected Governor Horatio Seymour of New York. A disappointed Johnson endorsed to be his successor. Grant was chosen as the Republican nominee and easily won the election.

The Tenure of Office Act was sidelined during Grant's presidency, with Congress giving him the ability to fire Cabinet appointees and lower level officials without Senate approval. The act was repealed in 1887, during the presidency of Grover Cleveland. The Tenure of Office Act was referenced several decades later when the Supreme Court took up the case of Myers v. United States. In a 6-3 decision in 1926, the justices ruled that President Wilson had the authority to remove a postmaster from office without Senate approval and that the Tenure of Office Act had been unconstitutional.

Returning to Tennessee, Johnson was soon vying to return to politics. Running as a Democrat, he was an unsuccessful candidate for the Senate in 1869 and the House of Representatives in 1872. He was successful in his next bid for Senate, in January 1875, becoming the only President so far to return to serve in this chamber.

Lincoln's other Vice President, Hannibal Hamlin, was also a member of this Senate, along with several of the same people who had tried to oust him from the White House seven years earlier. After taking the oath of office, Johnson denied rumors that he would try to fulfill any sort of vendetta against these senators. "I have no enemies to punish nor friends to reward," he declared.

Johnson's time in the Senate was short-lived. He served only from the start of his term on March 5 to the end of a special session on March 24. On July 31, at the age of 66, he died of a stroke near Elizabethton, Tennessee.

Sources: The Biographical Directory of the United States Congress, The National Governors Association, "Andrew Johnson, 16th Vice President" at Senate.gov, Andrew Johnson National Historic Site (National Parks Service), "The Impeachment of Andrew Johnson" at Senate.gov, Impeached: The Trial of President Andrew Johnson by David O. Stewart, The Presidents of the United States by Frank Freidel and Hugh Sidey, The Impeachment of Andrew Johnson by Chester G. Hearn, Andrew Johnson by Kate Havelin, The American Presidency, edited by Alan Brinkley and Davis Dyer, Reconstruction: A Historical Encyclopedia of the American Mosaic edited by Richard Zuczek