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Tenure of Office Act

Tenure of Office Act, in U.S. history, measure passed on Mar. 2, 1867, by Congress over the veto of President Andrew Johnson; it forbade the President to remove any federal officeholder appointed by and with the advice and consent of the Senate without the further approval of the Senate. It also provided that members of the President's cabinet should hold office for the full term of the President who appointed them and one month thereafter, subject to removal by the Senate. With this measure the radical Republicans in Congress hoped to assure the continuance in office of Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton and thus prevent any interference with the military occupation of the South in their Reconstruction plan. In order to bring about a court test of the constitutionality of the act, Johnson dismissed Stanton, but the Supreme Court, intimidated by the radicals, refused to pass on the case. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant, whom Johnson appointed Secretary ad interim, turned the office back to Stanton when the Senate refused to approve his dismissal. Johnson then appointed Gen. Lorenzo Thomas Secretary of War, but Stanton, barricading himself in the department, refused to yield. Johnson's alleged violation of the Tenure of Office Act was the principal charge in the impeachment proceedings against him. When this move failed (May, 1868), Stanton finally gave up. The act, considerably modified in Grant's administration, was in large part repealed in 1887, and in 1926 the Supreme Court declared its principles unconstitutional.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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