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acts. That he might not, upon the views we have here briefly presented, or upon some other, have come to a conclusion more favorable to the validity of the acts, we do not know. It is enough to satisfy us that he acted wisely in rejecting the only view presented, that it is one which no lawyer, in our judgment, has ever been able to render entirely plausible in a legal point of view even to himself, except upon the mere ground of the exigencies of the war, which, with due deference, seems to us no argument at all. It is but dire necessity which knows no law. It is a forced and unlawyerlike construction, and we believe it will some time give place to one more rational, and equally favorable to the maintenance of this indispensable function of national sovereignty, to make money either of metals or paper.
2. It remains only to speak in a very brief way of Chief Justice Chase's connection with the Impeachment Trial of President Johnson. The trial itself was of a character which had never before occurred under the Constitution. Not, indeed, because it was mainly of a political character, and instigated largely, if not exclusively, by partisan rancor; for most of the American state trials, and, for that matter, the state trials in all countries, naturally rest, in a great measure, upon that basis. But it was an attempt to remove from office, and render forever infamous, the chief executive magistrate of the nation, upon charges of high crimes and misdemeanors, resting altogether, as far as we could ever see, upon the fact that the accused, being always, before the war, a member of the Democratic party, had come into the Republican party upon the issues involved in that controversy, and thus been elected Vice-President of the nation, and in consequence of the lamented death, by assassination, of President Lincoln, had succeeded to the office of President; and in the discharge of the duties of that office had fallen back upon some of the theoretical views and opinions in which he was educated and had hitherto acted. It may be fair, also, to remember, that after Mr. Johnson had been hotly pushed, and rudely rebuked, for not conforming more closely to the views and feelings of his new associates, he very probably had manifested some degree of stubbornness, and violence of temper and over-ardent zeal possibly,
and thus provoked numerous conflicts and some personal quarrels with his subordinates. The attempt to impeach him for malfeasance in office, however, in any view, rested mainly. upon no better ground than that he was in the way, and an obstruction to the speedy accomplishment of most of the party policies of the hour. It being known, also, that if he could be put out of place, his successor would prove a most subservient and devoted champion of the party, it became, in the view of the party leaders, a most desirable object to effect the change. There was, however, no regular and legal mode of effecting this, and most of those who afterwards entered into the prosecution with such apparent sincerity of purpose would, if left to their own impulses, no doubt have been content to wait the expiration of Mr. Johnson's term of office. But some few of the more resolute and determined, and not very scrupulous, perhaps, as is common in like emergencies in all parties, devised the plan of the impeachment. This possessed an imposing sound, and carried the more simple and subservient of the party with a rush amounting almost to frenzy and infatuation, as if it were one of the most righteous and praiseworthy indictments ever drawn up, against the most desperate and heartless villain ; almost without a parallel in the history of crime. Many attempted to give the trial a kind of factitious glory and grandeur, by comparing it with Bradshaw's Regicide Court, and the condemnation of Charles I. of England.
It would seem that the leaders had resolved, from the very outset, to make the trial as strictly political and partisan as possible, in order to preclude any faltering in the conduct of the senatorial majority, which would thus be ample to secure a conviction in any emergency, about four fifths being of the dominant party. They determined, therefore, that the tribunal should not even be called “a court,” but a Senate, or Council of State, convened to record the demands or decrees of the party, in obedience to the dictates of a party caucus, either openly or covertly convened. These men knew the temper and high tone as well as the talent of the Chief Justice, and they naturally dreaded the power of his influence in defeating their bad schemes. They therefore resolved at once to move upon this citadel of justice, which had now become their most dreaded
enemy, with their boldest and best-disciplined troops, and thus by a desperate charge break, if possible, the outer lines of his defences and ultimately compel him to surrender, willingly if possible, but forcibly if necessary, to their imperious demands. The managers upon the part of the House, accordingly, through a committee of the Senate, informed the Chief Justice, in advance of his taking his seat as President of the Court of Impeachment, that they would not recognize him in any other capacity than that of a simple moderator, to keep order and put questions, with no voice whatever in the proceedings, either to speak or to vote upon an equal division. This the Chief Justice, in a forcible and temperate reply, met squarely in the face, denying in the clearest and most unanswerable manner every requirement and demand of this arbitrary and desperate attempt on the part of the managers of the party to overawe the court and to exclude its appointed head, in the very words of the Constitution, from all just participation in the trial.
After the Chief Justice took his seat, however, as the head of the tribunal, it very early and very clearly became apparent that he was adequate to the emergency in giving the proper direction to the movements of the court. Even the most eloquent and daring of the managers seemed awed into decorum and silence by the presence, dignity, and impartiality of Mr. Chase throughout the trial, and never made any further attempt to enforce their demands, except by occasional appeals to the body of the court from the rulings of the Chief Justice, and in these they were signally defeated, the court even modifying their rules of order, prepared in advance in order to exclude the proper voice of the Chief Justice, thereby allowing him, by a clear majority of their number, to rule all points of order and of law, in the first instance, subject to appeal to the court if any senator desired it, and to give the casting vote upon any equal division of the court. It is too near the time of the trial and too many worthy and high-minded men were rashly driven or drawn into the effort to convict Mr. Johnson without evidence, to render it desirable to revive the incidents of the trial in detail. But, as before stated, thus it occurred, through the almost sublime determination and unequalled
talent and energy of the Chief Justice, as it always appeared to us, that what was designed as a mere formality in the sacrifice of Mr. Johnson upon the altar of mad party zeal became a dignified and decorous tribunal for his trial and acquittal. This trial in fact began and ended almost in the very
identical footprints of all our important state trials. The trial of Judges Samuel Chase of the National Supreme Court, and Peck of the District Court of Missouri, began in party rancor and ended in an acquittal by reason of some few of the more judicial-minded members of the Senate refusing to convict upon merely partisan grounds. So, too, in the case of Mr. Johnson, much of the more eminently legal and judicial talent of the majority which had been confidently depended upon for his condemnation refused to soil the ermine of the judge by any such base prostitution.
But we have said all that we desire upon this portion of Chief Justice Chase's judicial life. His conduct and talent, displayed in vindicating the character of the tribunal and his own position in regard to it, form unquestionably the most important and characteristic act of his judicial life, and did more, probably, than any other thing to secure the acquittal of the accused, and thus save as far as it could be done the credit both of the country and of the party instigating the prosecution. The accused before his death was returned a member of that same Senate and declared his determination to forgive and forget all past injuries at the hands of those who sought his overthrow. It is surely proper that others do the same. We would not have alluded to it but for the exceptional importance of the Chief Justice's connection with the trial and the essential bearing it will always be entitled to hold as evidence that Chief Justice Chase may justly be reckoned among the three great Chief Justices of the Supreme Court of the nation.
It is idle to suppose that Chief Justice Chase felt any special interest either in Mr. Johnson or his acquittal, except as it came from his general love of justice and his natural and just indignation at so barefaced an attempt to convert the highest judicial tribunal known to the Constitution and laws into a mere political and partisan instrument, while sitting to deprive
the highest executive officer of the nation, not only of his office, but virtually of his life and character at the same time, since it would deprive both of all value to an honorable man. The solemn farce maintained on the part of most of the managers of persistent refusal to address the Court of Impeachment during the trial in that language of courtesy due to the humblest municipal tribunal received fitting rebuke at the hands of Mr. Stevens of Pennsylvania, one of the managers, whose hatred of shams was only equalled by his love of decency, when he began his final argument in the case thus: “Mr. Chief Justice, may it please the court,” — thus yielding ererything upon this point which could fairly have been demanded, going even beyond the formal address of the counsel for the accused, who contented themselves with “Mr. Chief Justice and Senators," while the other managers persistently declined to address the court as such, or its head as Chief Justice.
We have thus made a brief, and we fear, somewhat imperfect record of the leading incidents in the public life and conduct as well as an estimate of the true character of one of the great and good men of the Republic. Few, if any, others have been called to the discharge of the duties of so many of the high places in office, both State and national, and no one, we believe, ever evinced the same degree of superiority and eminence in all the places of public trust to which he was called in such various and almost incompatible qualifications.
ISAAC F. REDFIELD.
ART. V.–1. Report to the Legislature of Massachusetts of the
Commissioners appointed to inquire into the Expediency of revising and amending the Laws relating to Taxation and ex
emption therefrom. Boston, January, 1875. 2. Report of the Treasurer and Auditor of Virginia to the House
of Delegates on the Subject of Taxation, together with the Draft
of a Tax Bill. Richmond, November, 1874. 3. Report of the Joint Special Committee on the Subject of Prop
erty liable to and exempt from Taxation, made to the General Assembly of the State of Rhode Island. January, 1875. VOL. CXXIII. —NO. 251. 21