Salmon P. Chase to Clark Williams, May 16, 1868
Transcription
 
[page one-document]

Washington May 16, 1868.

My dear Sir,1

    I was glad to see your handwriting once more. I do

not quite agree with you. To me the most important thing

seems to me--not that Mr Johnson should be acquitted,

or convicted,--but--that his Judges, the Senators of the United

States, should render an honest & impartial judgment

according toconstitution & the laws upon the facts

proved before them. In what I have done as presiding

officer I have endeavored to be & I believe I have

been perfectly unbiased.

    I had written thus far when the time came for me

to go to the Capitol, whence I have just returned. You have

already learned the result of the vote on the [11]th

article on which the Senate required the question to be put first;

thirty five declaring the President guilty & nineteen

declaring him not guilty; so that there not being two thirds voting

guilty he was declared acquitted.2 I was under the impression,

that the result would be the other way until the vote

had been taken: with one exception, I had never heard any Senator,

who had not pronounced his opinion in [committee],

ever intimate what his vote would be on this article;

and yet if you were to believe what is published in the

papers you would imagine that I had contrived the whole

[page two-document]

thing.3

    The truth is that conviction, which should be a judicial, has

assumed very much the character of a party question; and here

in my judgment is the chief danger to our country.

    What possible harm can result to the country from the

continuance of Andrew Johnson [nine] months longer in the Presidential

chair, compared with that which must arise if impeachment

becomes a mere mode of getting rid of an obnoxious President.

What would be thought of a jury or a court which would convict

or sentence a man to the penitentiary, because of "general cussedness"

to use the current phrase without sufficient proof of specific

charges of offenses or crimes. Suppose the proof insufficient of

crimes definitely charged could the jury convict? Suppose the

proof sufficient but the facts alleged not to constitute the

crimes charged, what court would sentence. If any body brought

a suit against you would you be satisfied with the Court or the

jury which would find & adjudge against you without good

warrant in law & in fact?

    But I have written more than I intended. All I meant

to say when I began was that I fear you do not allow sufficiently

for honest differences of judgment, and that your old friend

is still just what you always took him to be and that nobody

shall fail of having a fair and impartial trial in any tribunal

when he presides, if your friend has the power of securing it to him.

Clark Williams E.
 

Source:  Chase Papers, Library of Congress.

1. Chase had known Williams, evidently a Cincinnati attorney, since the 1840s.

2. The Senate had voted earlier in the day. Trial of Andrew Johnson, 2:486-87.

3. Rumors circulating in the press placed Chase and the Democrats at the center of a plot to destroy Republican unity and acquit Johnson. New York Times, May 14, 1868; New York Tribune, May 14, 1868; Wilkes' Spirit of the Times, May 16, 1868.

 

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