Back in March 1867 the United States Congress passed the Tenure of Office Act over President Andrew Johnson’s veto. The act required that any federal officeholder whose appointment required the advice and consent of the Senate could only be removed from office after a successor had been approved by the Senate. When Congress was not in session the president could suspend an officeholder until Congress reconvened, at which time the Senate could force the president to reinstate the officer. Cabinet members were protected during the term of the president and for one month afterwards. The Johnson cabinet created a confusing situation: were those cabinet officers appointed by Abraham Lincoln still protected until his would-be second term was up in March 1869?
150 years ago today President Johnson asked for Secretary of War Edwin Stanton’s resignation. Mr. Stanton refused, at least until the adjourned Congress was back in session.
In addition to agreeing that they were acting in the public interest, both President and Secretary of War agreed that the Tenure of Office Act was unconstitutional, at least when the cabinet discussed the measure in February 1867.
You can read the correspondence at Hathi Trust. The portrait of Edwin M. Stanton comes from the Library of Congress
-  Stahr, Walter Seward: Lincoln’s Indispensable Man. 2012. New York: Simon & Schuster Paperbacks, 2013. Print. pages 479-480. ↩