In 1868, Andrew Johnson was the first U. S. president to be impeached. The level of distrust and hatred during his presidency was extremely high. Ross and several others faced criticism, ridicule, political suicide, and even the threat of assassination due to their unwavering determination to do what was right. The actions of Edmund Ross during the impeachment of Johnson were highly influential in the history of the United States. February 24, 1868, for the first time in U. S. history congress impeached president Johnson on 11 counts of high crimes and misdemeanors (History para 2).
After Johnson attempted to remove Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton which violated the Tenure of Office Act, caused an out roar by the senate. Three months later, Johnson’s trial was considered to be a big power-struggle between the president and the republican leaders in congress. According to John Kennedy, the struggle was between “the President determined to carry out Abraham Lincoln’s polices of reconciliation with the defeated south, and the more radical Republican leaders in congress… ” (Kennedy 1). Congress wanted to stack the odds in order to prevent Johnson from being acquitted; so when Edmund G.
Ross took a seat on the senate the republicans were relieved. They assumed Ross would support congress in their attempt to impeach Johnson (Kennedy 5). Edmund Ross, as well as others, stood by Johnson during the impeachment trials, sacrificing their political careers and social status (Kennedy 2). “In a lonely grave, forgotten and unknown, lies the man who saved a president, and who as a result may well have preserved for ourselves and posterity constitutional government in the United States… but a United States Senator whose name no one calls: Edmund G. Ross of Kansas” (Kennedy 3).
Although Ross met a great deal of pressure to find the president guilty, he chose to do what was right instead of surrendering his vote. The evidence provided against Johnson was found to be inadequate according to six republicans. Republican leaders felt betrayed and outraged, especially when Ross refused to announce his decision. This made Ross the tie-breaker and the center of attention in the public view. According to Kennedy, it was difficult for republicans to understand why the senator would be doubtful when he comes from such an anti-Johnson state, Kansas (Kennedy 5).
The leaders of the republican party assumed they would receive his vote. Although Ross had the political background and the support for the Republican party, he still remained doubtful which made republicans apprehensive. Republicans were shocked and outraged when Ross refused to make a decision; “the full blunt of the struggle turned at last on one remaining doubtful senator… ” (Kennedy 6). This was especially true after Ross made the remark “the thing is here; and, so far as I am concerned, though a Republican and opposed to Mr. Johnson and his policy, he shall have as far a trial as an accused man ever had on earth” (Kennedy 6).
Republicans were appalled, they bombarded Ross with demands from his peers to be reasonable and side with them. Ross was stubborn and refused to bend. President Johnson would have a fair trial, thanks to Ross and his persistence to a just and fair trial. The fight for a fair trial was not over; Republicans were furious with Ross and his fellow doubtful peers. They were harassed, scrutinized, and pressured. Every aspect of the senators’ lives was under evaluation; there home was under surveillance and the people they interacted with were observed. They received several threats against their political career as well as their lives.
The anti-impeachment Republicans were bothered from morning to night with appeals, considerations, and intimidations. Ross himself face some of the most criticism, he’s compared to a fox being trampled by his colleagues in their goal of gaining the knowledge of his vote (Kennedy 6). According to Kennedy, Ross indicated that he was in agreement with both sides, and because of this both tried to make this public. However, it was clear through his silence that he wanted to keep both the Republicans and those who were against impeachment wondering and waiting (Kennedy 7).
The Republicans hoped their political tactics would sway Ross and the other doubtful Republicans. They sent a committee of Congressman and Senators to Kansas and the other states represented by the doubtful men to spread the word of “Great Danger” that would spread if the impeachment of the President were to fail (Kennedy 7). They asked for the people to write letters demanding a guilty verdict from Ross; some offered bribes of twenty thousand dollars for the disclosure of the Senator’s plan. Ross even received a letter from his home state demanding the conviction of Johnson; it had more than one thousand signatures.
Republican’s acted on desperation to get a guilty verdict, but Ross refused to give in to the constant urging of his peers. Although he was threatened with “trumped-up charges” and his political demise; Ross chose justice by voting not guilty (Kennedy 7). Although Edmund Ross saved President Andrew Johnson with his vote, that same vote ruined his political career. Ross may have influenced US history, but he would not receive recognition until much later. In fact, Ross faced his “open grave”. To the public, he was nothing more than a “miserable poltroon and traitor”, according to the New York Tribune (Kennedy 9).
The Philadelphia Inquirer announced that the anti-impeachment group of Republicans had “tried, convicted, and sentenced themselves” (Kennedy 9). Johnson along with Ross served out the rest of their terms, but Ross was considered an outcast among his peers. He tried to persuade his peers to see reason unsuccessfully; he was often referred to as “the traitor Ross” (Kennedy 9). His peers wouldn’t even associate with him. Ross and his fellow anti-impeachment Republicans failed to be re-elected to the Senate; their political careers were over.