CSU Archives/Everett Collection.
Americans exercise their good sense by not caring much about the impeachment of President Andrew Johnson.
….Owing to a combination of circumstances, the trial has produced absolutely no excitement in the public mind. All attempts to make it “sensational” have failed utterly. The attitudes, the speeches, the evidence have been listened to by the country with perfect calm. It has been found impossible to work people up into anything like fervor about the case. We hear of “tremendous pressure” being brought to bear on the Senate in favor of conviction, but it is not organized pressure from the party at large; most of it, we suspect, comes from individual politicians in search of places. There has been no perceptible addition to the mails, in the shape of letters from imperious constituents; and if there have been any prayers offered up for the President’s condemnation, they have been private prayers.
The natural consequence of this absence of excitement, for which, let us add, we have to thank not the politicians or newspapers, but the popular good sense, has been the absence of any disturbance in business or in society. Had the public risen to the same height of moral exaltation as the original impeachers and the Washington correspondents of the party organs, few of us would have passed many nights in bed during the last two months, or had either heart or head for the care of our private affairs. But, owing to the general coolness, not only has the Senate been enabled to conduct the trial with fairness, dignity, and decorum, but the world of trade and commerce has enjoyed unwonted repose. Gold has declined; business has, if anything, showed signs of revival; and owing to the concentration of the attention of the House and Senate on the trial, a temporary stop has been put to the attempts to tinker currency which were so common during the winter. The natural result of this general repose has been to deprive the impeachment, in the public eye, of most of its obnoxious features. Although we are satisfied few, if any, of those who before it was commenced thought it inexpedient, now think differently, nobody considers it as dangerous as he once did. Moreover, enough has been brought against the President to make an otherwise harmless attempt to convict and remove him seem reasonable and justifiable. People say to themselves that if impeachment involves no more disturbance to the body politic than this impeachment has so far caused, the House cannot be very much blamed for trying it, even if it results in nothing. So that even if the party has been unwise in taking the matter up, it has more than atoned for its want of wisdom by its manner of conducting the process….
There is another reason for thinking that the public is now not only ready to forgive the party for bringing the President to trial, but will probably be disappointed if he is acquitted, and that is, that what it most disliked about impeachment was the beginning of it. Having been begun, whatever mischief it can do has been done. It is doubtful, therefore, whether people will not be sorry now if, after what they most feared has come to pass, the process does not end in getting rid of the author of all the mischief. Mr. Johnson minus impeachment is bad enough; Mr. Johnson plus impeachment would be worse still. He would not only, as we have said, put a wrong construction on his escape, but he would, knowing that he had nothing more to fear, probably take a more active part in the approaching campaign than any President has ever done before him; and it is not impossible even that he would sing songs of triumph on the stump throughout the summer. The only thing that reconciles anybody to this prospect is the looming up of Mr. Wade on the horizon. But Mr. Wade, it is right to say, has displayed, since the trial commenced, a great deal more discretion and delicacy than was expected of him, and even promises to afford the world a shining example of magnanimity in not taking part in the final vote. He also, it is said, steadily repels all applications on the subject of places. At worst, his term of office will be too short and most of the active politicians too busy during his term of office arranging combinations for Grant’s advent, to make it possible for him to do much mischief, even were he mischievously disposed, and he is too honest and frank a man to take part in any intrigues for the embarrassment of Grant’s administration.