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By this time, Stevens was in his seventies and in poor health; he was carried everywhere in a special chair. When Congress convened in early December , Stevens made arrangements with the Clerk of the House that when the roll was called, the names of the Southern electees be omitted.

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The Senate also excluded Southern claimants. A new congressman, Ohio's Rutherford B. Hayes , described Stevens: "He is radical throughout, except, I am told, he don't believe in hanging. He is leader. As the responsibilities of the Ways and Means chairman had been divided, Stevens took the post of Chairman of the House Committee on Appropriations , retaining control over the House's agenda.

It heard not only of the violence against African-Americans, but against Union loyalists, and against what southerners termed " carpetbaggers ", Northerners who had journeyed south after the restoration of peace. Stevens declared: that "our loyal brethren at the South, whether they be black or white" required urgent protection "from the barbarians who are now daily murdering them. The Committee of Fifteen began consideration of what would become the Fourteenth Amendment.

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Stevens had begun drafting versions in December , before the Committee had even formed. When Illinois Senator Lyman Trumbull introduced legislation to reauthorize and expand the Freedmen's Bureau , Stevens called the bill a "robbery" because it did not include sufficient provisions for land reform or protect the property of refugees given them by the military occupation of the South. Stevens criticized the passage of the Southern Homestead Act of , arguing that the low-quality land it made available would not drive real economic growth for black families. Congress overrode a Johnson veto to pass the Civil Rights Act of also introduced by Trumbull , granting African-Americans citizenship and equality before the law, and forbidding any action by a state to the contrary.

Johnson made the gap between him and Congress wider when he accused Stevens, Sumner, and Wendell Phillips of trying to destroy the government. After Congress adjourned in July, the campaigning for the fall elections began. Johnson embarked on a trip by rail, dubbed the " Swing Around the Circle ", that won him few supporters; his arguments with hecklers were deemed undignified. He attacked Stevens and other radicals during this tour.

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Stevens campaigned for firm measures against the South, his hand strengthened by violence in Memphis and New Orleans , where African-Americans and white Unionists had been attacked by mobs, including the police. Stevens was returned to Congress by his constituents; Republicans would have a two-thirds majority in both houses in the next Congress.

In January , Stevens introduced legislation to divide the South into five districts, each commanded by an army general empowered to override civil authorities. These military officers were to supervise elections with all males, of whatever race, entitled to vote, except for those who could not take an oath of past loyalty —most white Southerners could not. The states were to write new constitutions subject to approval by Congress and hold elections for state officials. Only if a state ratified the Fourteenth Amendment would its delegation be seated in Congress.

Stevens introduced a Tenure of Office Act , restricting Johnson from firing officials who had received Senate confirmation without getting that body's consent. The Tenure of Office Act was ambiguous, since it could be read to protect officeholders only during the tenure of the president who appointed them, and most of the officials the radicals sought to protect had been named by Lincoln. Chief among these was Secretary of War Edwin Stanton , a radical himself.

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Stevens steered a bill to enfranchise African-Americans in the District of Columbia through the House; the Senate passed it in , and it was enacted over Johnson's veto. Congress was downsizing the Army for peacetime; Stevens offered an amendment, which became part of the bill as enacted, to have two regiments of African-American cavalry.

His solicitude for African-Americans extended to the Native American; Stevens was successful in defeating a bill to place reservations under state law, noting that the native people had often been abused by the states. Stevens advocated a bill to give government workers raises; it did not pass. The new Congress , which convened on March 4, , was not as aggressive in opposing Johnson as Stevens had hoped. It soon adjourned until July, though its Judiciary Committee remained to hold hearings on whether the President should be impeached.

Wade was a radical who supported wealth redistribution; a speech of his in Kansas so impressed Karl Marx that he mentioned it in the first German edition of Das Kapital. Stevens, however, strongly supported the removal of the President, and when the Judiciary Committee failed to report, tried to keep Congress in session until it did. Grant , worked to undermine Johnson's Reconstruction policies. Johnson obeyed the laws that Congress had passed, sometimes over his veto, though he often interpreted them in ways contrary to their intent.

Although no seats at Congress were directly at stake, voters in Ohio both defeated a referendum on black suffrage and elected the Democrats to the majority in the legislature , meaning that Wade, whose term was due to expire in , would not be reelected. When Congress met again in December, although the Judiciary Committee voted 5—4 for impeachment, the House voted against it. Grant resigned as Secretary of War, and Stanton reclaimed his place.

What good did your moderation do you? If you don't kill the beast, it will kill you. He accused Johnson of usurping the powers of other branches of government, and of ignoring the will of the people. He did not deny impeachment was a political matter, but "this is not to be the temporary triumph of a political party, but is to endure in its consequence until the whole continent shall be filled with a free and untrammeled people or shall be a nest of shrinking, cowardly slaves.

Stevens led the delegation of House members sent the following day to inform the Senate of the impeachment, though he had to be carried to its doors by his bearers. Elected to the committee charged with drafting articles of impeachment, his illness limited his involvement.

This grounded the various accusations in statements Johnson had made denying the legitimacy of Congress due to the exclusion of the southern states, and stated that Johnson had tried to disobey the Reconstruction Acts. Stevens was one of the managers, or prosecutors, elected by the House to present its case in the impeachment trial.

Although Stevens was too ill to appear in the Senate on March 3, when the managers requested that Johnson be summoned the President would appear only by his counsel, or defense managers , he was there ten days later when the summons was returnable.


The New York Herald described him as having a "face of corpselike color, and rigidly twitching lips Increasingly ill, Stevens took little part in the impeachment trial, at which the leading House manager was Massachusetts Representative Benjamin F. Stevens nourished himself on the Senate floor with raw eggs and terrapin , port and brandy.

He spoke only twice before making a closing argument for the House managers on April As he spoke, his voice weakened, and finally he allowed Butler to read the second half of his speech for him.

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The President, having sworn to faithfully execute the laws, had intentionally disobeyed the Tenure of Office Act after the Senate had refused to uphold his removal of Stanton, "and now this offspring of assassination turns upon the Senate who have How can he escape the just vengeance of the law? Most radicals were confident that Johnson would be convicted and removed from office. Stevens, however, was never certain of the result as Chief Justice Chase the former Treasury Secretary made rulings that favored the defense, and he had no great confidence Republicans would stick together.

On May 11, the Senate met in secret session, and senators gave speeches explaining how they intended to vote. All Democrats were opposed, but an unexpectedly large number of Republicans also favored acquittal on some or all of the articles. The suspense was broken when Kansas Senator Edmund Ross , whose position was uncertain, voted for acquittal. This meant that, with the votes of those who remained, the President would not be convicted on that article. The article failed, 35 in favor to 19 against. In the hope that delay would bring a different result, Republicans adjourned the Senate for ten days.

Stevens was carried from the Senate in his chair—one observer described him as "black with rage and disappointment"—and when those outside clamored for the result, Stevens shouted, "The country is going to the devil! During the recess of the impeachment court, the Republicans met in convention in Chicago and nominated Grant for president.

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Stevens did not attend, and was dismayed by the exclusion of African-American suffrage from the party platform as radical influence began to fade in the Republican Party. Stevens did not give up on the idea of removing Johnson; in July, he proffered several more impeachment articles the House refused to adopt them. It was defeated; the Herald stated, "It is lamentable to see this old man, with one foot in the grave, pursuing the President with such vindictiveness.

Brodie suggested that Stevens's hatred of Johnson was the only thing keeping him from despair, aware as he was of the continued violence in the South, some of which was committed by the Ku Klux Klan. Several of the southern states had been re-admitted by this time, and the murders and intimidation were aiding the Democrats there in restoring white rule. With the Republicans unwilling to embrace black suffrage in their platform and the Democrats opposed to it, Stevens feared Democratic victory in the elections might even bring back slavery. With all this great struggle of years in Washington, and the fearful sacrifice of life and treasure, I see little hope for the Republic.

My life-long regret is that I have lived so long and so uselessly.