The place Is Mike Johnson’s Ironclad Oath?


On August 16, 1867, a younger farmer named Alfred McDonald Sargent Johnson walked into the courthouse of Cherokee County, Georgia. He had an oath to swear.

The results of the Civil Warfare have been nonetheless seen in Canton, a village of about 200 folks and the county seat. For one factor, that makeshift courthouse was inside a Presbyterian church—its predecessor having been torched by William Tecumseh Sherman’s males shortly earlier than their march to the ocean. For an additional, Georgia was nonetheless beneath navy rule as federal officers debated how finest to reconstruct the previous Accomplice states. How does a authorities reintegrate the boys who, not that way back, have been engaged in a treasonous revolt?

Johnson had, like a lot of his neighbors, taken up arms towards america. At age 21, he’d joined Firm F of the third Georgia Cavalry. The Third had fought within the Chickamauga and Chattanooga campaigns, and Johnson had even been captured as a Union prisoner at New Haven, Kentucky. However he was only a foot soldier in a a lot bigger battle. Johnson had not grown up in a stereotypical plantation “large home”; his household’s farm was modest in dimension and census data don’t listing him or his father as having owned slaves. He ended the battle as a non-public, simply as he’d entered it. Johnson may not even have cared a lot for his battle expertise; Accomplice data listing him as having gone AWOL for a interval in 1863.

Nonetheless, the federal authorities had determined that even males like him couldn’t return to political energy with out making at the least a gesture of reconciliation. A couple of months earlier, Congress had handed, over President Andrew Johnson’s veto, an act that required the boys of Georgia and different southern states to swear an oath to be able to regain their voting privileges. That oath was why Alfred M. S. Johnson was within the courthouse that August day.


There had been a lot debate within the North, in the course of the battle and after it, about reintegrate former Confederates into political life—and the way forgiving to be of their revolt. Probably the most radical Republicans needed to require an “Ironclad Oath” swearing that the potential voter had “by no means voluntarily borne arms towards america” nor given “assist, countenance, counsel, or encouragement” to the Confederacy. Such language would have disenfranchised most white southern males.

The Wade-Davis Invoice of 1864 would have required a majority of white males in every state to take the Ironclad Oath earlier than full readmission to the union. Lincoln pocket-vetoed that invoice, contemplating it too harsh. He’d backed a rather more lenient plan requiring solely 10 p.c of a state’s pre-war voters to swear an oath earlier than that state could possibly be readmitted. And his model was extra forgiving than the Ironclad Oath, requiring solely future loyalty—that they might “henceforth faithfully help, defend, and defend the Structure of america and the Union of the States thereunder.”

The oath Alfred Johnson would take had been outlined in Congress’ Reconstruction Acts, and it was nearer to Lincoln’s than to the Ironclad Oath. Like Lincoln’s, it handled the leaders of the Confederacy with much less mercy than it did enlisted males. Johnson needed to swear that he had:

by no means been a member of any State Legislature, nor held any government or judicial workplace in any State and afterwards engaged in revolt or revolt towards america, or given assist or consolation to the enemies thereof;

that I’ve by no means taken an oath as a member of Congress of america, or as an officer of america, or as a member of any State Legislature, or as an government or judicial officer of any State, to help the Structure of america, and afterwards engaged in revolt or revolt towards america, or given assist or consolation to the enemies thereof;

that I’ll faithfully help the Structure and obey the legal guidelines of america, and can to the very best of my skill, encourage others so to do.

So assist me God.

Johnson had by no means been a state legislator, or a federal choose, or a member of Congress, so it could not have been a very tough oath to take. The revolt’s leaders must wait a bit longer to be allowed again into full political citizenship.

The worst class of rebels, the oath appeared to argue, was those that had joined the tried revolt after already been elected or appointed to trusted positions of energy—those that require an oath to help the Structure. Each Lincoln and President Andrew Johnson had made related exceptions for public officers who had rebelled, requiring a harder path to amnesty. The Fourteenth Modification, which was then earlier than the states for ratification, made the identical distinction—as Donald Trump is now discovering.


Alfred M. S. Johnson went again to farming after that August day. Not lengthy after, he had a son and named him Andrew Johnson—presumably in honor of the person who succeeded Lincoln within the presidency and had pardoned all ex-Confederates by the top of 1868.

Andrew Johnson ultimately moved west to Hempstead County, Arkansas. There, he had a son named Garner James Johnson. As a younger man, Garner Johnson left farming and moved to Shreveport, Louisiana, taking a job on the Kansas Metropolis Southern Railroad. He begat Raymond Ralph Johnson, who begat James Patrick Johnson, who begat James Michael Johnson.

On October 25, 2023, James Michael Johnson—higher referred to as Mike Johnson—was elected the 56th speaker of the Home of Representatives.

Like his great-great-great-grandfather Alfred, Mike Johnson was a part of an try to oust the duly elected authorities of america and substitute it with another to his liking. In Alfred’s day, the instruments have been secession and battle; Johnson’s have been spurious claims of voter fraud and trumped-up authorized arguments.

After Joe Biden’s victory over Donald Trump within the 2020 election, Mike Johnson labored onerous to forestall the transition of energy. Within the days after the vote, he advised interviewers that the allegations of rigged Dominion voting machines had “loads of advantage,” that there have been “credible allegations of fraud and irregularity,” and {that a} voting system was “suspect as a result of it got here from Hugo Chávez’s Venezuela.”

In December 2020, Johnson organized an effort to get his fellow Home Republicans to signal on to an amicus temporary for a lawsuit difficult election leads to the 4 states that may, if their votes have been thrown out, give Trump a second time period. He despatched all of them an e-mail with the topic line “**Time-sensitive request from President Trump**” saying the president could be watching to see which GOP members of Congress signed on and which didn’t.

About three-quarters of the Home Republicans who objected to the Electoral Faculty rely on January 6 cited authorized arguments Johnson had made, main The New York Occasions to name him “an important architect of the Electoral Faculty objections.” He gave what one fellow Republican member referred to as “a fig-leaf mental argument” for overturning the election.

Johnson’s makes an attempt have been unsuccessful. The Supreme Court docket rejected the lawsuit in a short, unsigned opinion. The 147 Congressional Republicans who, like Johnson, objected to the electoral vote rely have been outnumbered in the long run.

However America was as soon as once more pressured to ask: What do you do with males after they’ve fomented a revolt towards an elected authorities? After the Civil Warfare, the federal response was typically lenient. Among the many Confederacy’s prime leaders, solely Jefferson Davis served jail time, after which for simply two years. President Johnson pardoned the overwhelming share of ex-Confederates barely a month after Lincoln’s assassination; he spent the rest of his presidency pardoning the remainder. Inside a dozen years, conservative white southerners as soon as once more dominated the South—a management typically achieved by way of nice violence by former Accomplice troopers.

Mike Johnson didn’t lead a civil battle, in fact. However he did attempt to overturn an election and impose a president Individuals hadn’t voted for. And it’s placing how small the repercussions have been for individuals who did likewise. For members of Congress, opposing false claims of voter fraud has been rather more politically harmful than supporting them. Kevin McCarthy, Steve Scalise, Jim Jordan, and Tom Emmer every endorsed Johnson’s spurious authorized arguments, and every has been nominated for speaker this yr. And now, on the point out of Johnson’s actions, the Home Republican caucus does little however snicker and boo.

I preserve coming again to Alfred McDonald Sargent Johnson, Mike’s great-great-great-grandfather, and the oath he needed to take that day in Cherokee County, pledging to not have interaction in revolt once more. Mike Johnson wasn’t a lowly foot soldier caught in a battle he performed no position in beginning. He was its architect, its writer and finisher. And but the one oath he’s been requested to take is as speaker of the Home of Representatives.





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