The Tenure of Office Act of 1867


The 1867 Tenure of Office Act was created to deny the U.S President power to remove anyone from office appointed by himself without the approved consent of the U.S Senate.

The American South in Healing

A short time after the American Civil War, United States President Andrew Johnson backed the re – admission of states which withdrew from the Union. In Congress and the Senate, there was a Republican two – thirds majority in control who passed laws over President Johnson’s vetoes. When this happened, five military districts were established which oversaw the establishment of brand new southern state governments. There were also local civil rights laws fashioned due to Congressional Reconstruction to protect the former Black slaves, to ensure good faith from the previous states of the Confederacy by being readmitted into the Union, to bring about law and order to areas in chaos and to punish the secessionists.

The Powers of the Tenure Act

The Tenure Act of 1867 gave power to the U.S President to suspend a federal government officer while the U.S Senate was not in session. This would permit President Andrew Johnson to suspend U.S Secretary of War Edwin Stanton until the U.S Senate reassembled. President Johnson was interested in inserting former Union General Ulysses S. Grant as new Secretary of War, but this would have violated the Tenure Act if the Senate was not involved. What’s more, Grant was not interested in becoming the Secretary of War. The Tenure Act of 1867 was created to protect members of office from what President Johnson was trying to do.

The Tenure Act, however, was controversial because its phrasing was not exceedingly clear. So the removal of Edwin Stanton as U.S War Secretary would not have actually violated anything at all. The act protected current cabinet officers for about one month after the appointment of a new president. Edwin Stanton served in the Lincoln administration, but was also a current cabinet officer. U.S Senate would convene on January 3, 1868 and vote on the crucial issue. The vote was 35 – 16 against the removal of the current War Secretary.
Johnson Impeached and Stanton Resigns

Next, President Johnson was impeached which was the first time ever for a sitting United States President. One vote stood in the way of President Andrew Johnson going to jail on impeachment charges. Then on May of 1868, U.S War Secretary Edwin Stanton would resign from office.

1867 Tenure Act Prevented Official Removal

Although the act was circumvented, in 1878, the Tenure of Office Act briefly prevented U.S President Rutherford B, Hayes from removing Chester A. Arthur and Alonzo B. Cornell from politically supporting the New York Customs House. The president, soon after, appointed his own civil servants during moves to reorganization the federal government.

The Tenure Act of 1867 Repealed

In 1887, the Tenure of Office Act of 1867 was repealed. And shortly after that, a comparable law was ruled unconstitutional by the United States Supreme Court in 1926 which dealt with a First – Class Postmaster in Portland, Oregon. He was fired by U.S President Woodrow Wilson abiding by an 1876 federal law. It stated that “Postmasters of the first, second and third classes shall be appointed and may be removed by the sitting President with the advice and consent of the Senate.” Postmaster Myers argued against his sudden dismissal.

Ultimately, the U.S Supreme Court Justices saw the 1876 statute as being unconstitutional because it violated the separation of powers between the executive and legislative branches.