US president Andrew Johnson
US president Andrew Johnson who survived being impeached by a single vote in the Senate. Image: PD-US

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The official House of Representatives document from December 1867 refers to the ‘high crimes and misdemeanors’ of which Johnson was accused.

Johnson was the 17th president of the United States and the first to be impeached, having allegedly violated the Tenure of Office Act by removing secretary of war Edwin Stanton from office three months earlier. He was eventually acquitted by a single vote in the Senate in May 1868.

While the impeachment case related to the fairly narrow implications of the Tenure of Office Act, the underlying issues primarily resulted Johnson's battle with Congress over issues to do with the emancipation of slaves and national reconstruction following the Civil War. 

The document relates to the first impeachment vote that was brought before the House on December 7, 1867 after Congress’ judiciary committee had resolved that the impeachment of Johnson could proceed.

However, on this occasion, the House voted against impeachment by 57 votes to 108.

The engrossed document (meaning the final official text), which is offered at Bonhams New York on March 6 with an estimate of $120,000-180,000, is signed by all 57 ‘Yea’ voters in the House of Representatives including Benjamin Butler, who would later serve as an impeachment manager, as well as Benjamin F. Wade, who would have succeeded Johnson as President had the Senate trial resulted in removal.

The document at Bonhams was compiled by the clerk Isaac Strohm and was signed and stamped with the official House seal by clerk Edward McPherson.

Impeachment resolution vote of President Andrew Johnson

The original engrossed copy of the first impeachment resolution vote of President Andrew Johnson in the House of Representatives, estimated at $120,000-180,000 at Bonhams.

The impeachment vote would come back to House on February 24, 1868 after Stanton had been reinstated by the Senate and then dismissed by Johnson for a second time. This time the House voted for the articles of impeachment by a vote of 128 to 47 which meant Johnson could be tried by the Senate.

In May 1868, 35 senators voted for the impeachment and 19 against, falling short of the two-thirds majority required for conviction by a single vote.

Bonhams’ senior specialist of books and manuscripts Darren Sutherland said: “This is a very timely reminder of an important moment in American history, with clear echoes of the present day. This official House manuscript is a vital and extremely rare document speaking directly to our past and the careful design of our governmental process across more than 200 years.”