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Tenure of Office Act

Having noted the change in President Andrew Johnson’s views regarding Reconstruction, the Radical Republicans acted to expand Congressional power at the expense of the Executive branch. In March 1867, the Tenure of Office Act was passed by both houses, but vetoed by the President. Then it was re-passed in Congress by the necessary two-thirds margin and became law. The law provided for the following, that:

  • Any official appointed with the advice and consent of the Senate would require similar consent for dismissal
  • Presidential cabinet members were to hold their position for a full term unless removed by the Senate.
The Radical Republicans were specifically trying to extend protection to Edwin M. Stanton, the secretary of war, who had been cooperating actively with Johnson’s opponents. Johnson sought to challenge the constitutionality of the measure by dismissing Stanton. U.S. Grant was tapped as interim secretary, but backed out. Another individual was named by the president, but Stanton locked his office doors and refused to vacate. Eventually, the secretary tired of the spectacle and gave up office in May 1868. However, the fact that Johnson had attempted to ignore this act of Congress became one of the main the impeachment proceedings against him. The Tenure of Office Act was amended during the Grant administration and repealed in 1887. The U.S. Supreme Court in 1926 ruled in Myers v. United States that the law was unconstitutional.)