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Freedom: A History of US.
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Webisode 7: What is Freedom?
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Senate Voting on Impeachment
Segment 4
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It is 1868. No president has ever been impeached. For two months the House of Representatives debates. Finally House members vote to impeach Andrew Johnson. Now the matter goes to the Senate See It Now - House of Representatives Impeachment Committee Check The Source - The Closing Argument of Thaddeus Stevens. Only they can try a president See It Now - Impeachment Ticket. If he is convicted of "high crimes and misdemeanors," he will be thrown out of office. Two-thirds of the senators must vote to convict, and the Republicans have more than enough votes to accomplish this Check The Source - The Closing Argument of Hon. Henry Stanbery.

On Saturday, May 16, the vote begins See It Now - Senate Voting on Impeachment. As expected, all the Democrats vote "not guilty." And Republican after Republican votes "guilty." Thaddeus Stevens, now an old man, and ailing, is carried in on a chair. He votes guilty.

But a few of the Republicans have had second thoughts. Some have been given assurances by President Johnson that if they help to acquit him he will no longer interfere with Reconstruction. Seven Republicans decided to vote for the President. The final result is thirty-five to nineteen See It Now - Impeachment Vote, exactly one vote short of the required two-thirds needed for conviction. The president is saved Check The Source - William H. Crook: On President Andrew Johnson's Acquittal.

Many scholars now think the Senate acted properly. Convicting a president is a big step. The Constitution says it is to be done for "high crimes and misdemeanors." Andrew Johnson was not guilty of that. It was his ideas that were on trial. Those ideas were awful—but ideas aren't meant to be impeached or tried. The Founders meant for voters to vote bad ideas out. But Thaddeus Stevens is bitterly disappointed. He says, "The country is going to the devil."

Stevens cares desperately about freedom and fairness for all Americans. He knows that President Johnson's ideas and policies are destroying the promise of Reconstruction. Stevens is ill and has only a few weeks to live. He uses his final days to write legislation and work on plans for free schools in the District of Columbia See It Now - The Capitol Building. When he dies, his body lies in state in the Capitol. Only Abraham Lincoln has ever received more tribute. He is buried in a cemetery where blacks and whites rest side by side. The words chiseled on his tombstone are his own: "I repose in this quiet and secluded spot, Not from any natural preference for solitude, But, finding other Cemeteries limited as to Race by Charter Rules, I have chosen this that I might illustrate in my death the Principles which I advocated Through a long life."


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Did You Know?
For almost a century, the Fourteenth Amendment was ignored or abused. Today, the majority of people agree that, aside from the Bill of Rights, the Fourteenth is the most important of all the amendments.


Did you know that Freedom is adapted from the award-winning Oxford University Press multi-volume book series, A History of US by Joy Hakim?



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