The era immediately following the American Civil War was a tumultuous time, affecting many people in America. The many problems arising during this time, most notably troubles with the Reconstruction as well as the Ku Klux Klan (also called the KKK, a white supremacy group formed in 1866 which wanted the south to revert to its state from before the Civil War), plagued the country, making the job of president harder than normal.
After the assassination of Republican President Abraham Lincoln, who was the 16th president of the United States, his vice president, Andrew Johnson, ascended to the presidency. Being a Democratic president, Johnson often butted heads with Congress, which was made up of primarily Republican members. Congress was afraid that Johnson would start replacing their Republican members with Democrats, and Congress disliked that idea. They disliked it very much. So, in 1867, they decided to write up and pass the Tenure of Office Act. This act legally forbid Johnson to replace many of the Republican Congress members. This was, obviously, unconstitutional and very selfish of them to do this.
Well, far be it from Johnson to listen! He went ahead and replaced the U. S. Secretary of War, Edwin Stanton with someone else. This angered Congress deeply, so in 1868, Congress impeached President Johnson. Johnson was the first of two presidents in American history to be impeached! (The second and last president to be impeached was a Democrat President William Clinton in 1998) On May 16, 1868, the trial commenced. Obviously two-thirds of the votes of Congress were needed to remove Johnson from power. Turns out, there was only one vote shy of two-thirds, so Johnson remained the president. Republican-turned-Democrat Senator Edmund Ross of Kansas was the person who saved Johnson’s career as president. If Congress had ended up kicking out Johnson, the Senate president pro tempore, Benjamin Wade, would have taken on the duties of office until the following election. Wade had his own enemies within the Republican Party, including Edmund Ross (who saw Benjamin Wade taking away his patronage powers in Kansas). Ross switched parties from Republican to Democrat in 1868 to help Johnson in his impeachment. For the rest of his presidency, Johnson and Congress were at odds with each other.
Following Johnson’s single term, Ulysses Simpson Grant, a Union hero and general of the Civil War, was nominated then elected president. He was the 18th president of the United States, and was a Republican. There is not much to say about his first term served as president, as it went pretty smoothly as well as very prosperous. However, after being re-elected, a national depression swept the nation in 1873, also known as the Panic of 1873″. This depression was severe, and was not easy to overcome or live through for President Grant nor America. And while Johnson took more moderate actions for the Reconstruction as he wanted to give more ample time for the adjustments to take place than previously allotted, Ulysses Grant decided to take a more direct Federal approach on this subject.
When the election following Grant’s final term came around, the Electoral College votes were so close that nobody was elected, per se. The Democrats offered presidential candidate Rutherford B. Hayes the open spot of presidency under the condition that he would end the Reconstruction. He eagerly accepted the challenge. President Hayes successfully put an end to the Reconstruction process. President Rutherford also restored the popular faith in the presidency, too. Rutherford Hayes served only a single term, and he was the 19th president of the United States of America.
While some of the presidents studied above had more colorful or disastrous terms than others, they still worked hard to accomplish whatever they thought important. Johnson was just hanging by a thread when some members of Congress wanted him gone. Grant’s first term went smoothly, while his second term was stained with a national and economical disaster. The presidency of Hayes was for the most part unremarkable, except for the fact that he ended the Reconstruction. This particularly fragile time in American history was over.