Today in History

Today in History: May 16

The Kindergarten

A woman and a group of children in a garden
Kindergarten in a Vegetable Garden, Washington, D.C.
Frances Benjamin Johnston, photographer, [1899?].
Prints & Photographs Division Online Catalog

Elizabeth Palmer Peabody, the educator who opened the first English-language kindergarten in the United States, was born on May 16, 1804, in Billerica, Massachusetts. Long before most educators, Peabody embraced the premise that children's play has intrinsic developmental and educational value.

Peabody was a teacher, writer, and prominent figure in the Transcendental movement, editing The Dial, the chief literary publication of the movement, for two years, beginning in 1841. From 1834-36, she worked as assistant teacher to Bronson Alcott at his experimental Temple School in Boston.

After the school closed, Peabody published Record of a School, outlining the plan of the school and Alcott's philosophy of early childhood education, which had drawn on German models. When she opened her kindergarten in 1860—the first formally organized kindergarten in the United States, the concept of providing formal schooling for children younger than six was largely confined to German practice.

Through her own kindergarten, and as editor of the Kindergarten Messenger (1873-77), Peabody helped establish kindergarten as an accepted institution in U.S. education. She also wrote numerous books in support of the cause.

The extent of her influence is apparent in a statement submitted to Congress on February 12, 1897, in support of free kindergartens:

The advantage to the community in utilizing the age from 4 to 6 in training the hand and eye; in developing the habits of cleanliness, politeness, self-control, urbanity, industry; in training the mind to understand numbers and geometric forms, to invent combinations of figures and shapes, and to represent them with the pencil—these and other valuable lessons…will, I think, ultimately prevail in securing to us the establishment of this beneficent institution in all the city school systems of our country.

Hon. William Harris, Commissioner of Education,
"Free Kindergartens," circa 1897.
African American Perspectives, 1818-1907

Woodmere Academy
Woodmere Academy Kindergarten, Woodmere, New York,
Gottscho-Schleisner, Inc., photographer, December 9, 1946.
Architecture and Interior Design for 20th Century America, 1935-1955

Kindergarten
Kindergarten in Greenhills School, Greenhills, Ohio,
John Vachon, photographer, October 1938.
FSA/OWI Photographs, 1935-1945

Kindergarten play
Kindergarten Play, St. Vincent de Paul Institute, Tarrytown, New York,
Gottscho-Schleisner, Inc., photographer, June 2, 1947.
Architecture and Interior Design for 20th Century America, 1935-1955

After Peabody, other educators, such as Wisconsin-born Mary Davison Bradford (1856-1943), pioneered local kindergarten programs. In her Memoirs, Mary Bradford recollects beginning her teaching career at age sixteen, dressed in a "brown and white striped calico dress" and armed with "the ability to put [her]self in the child's place, and sense his point of view."

Bradford started teaching in a small rural school in a district run jointly by Kenosha and Racine counties. Along the way to becoming Kenosha's Superintendent of Schools, she instituted kindergartens, vocational training programs, breakfast programs for needy children, and a wide range of school reforms. Her memoirs, part of the American Memory collection Pioneering the Upper Midwest, circa 1820-1910, chronicle the development of Wisconsin's public school system.

Learn more about kindergartens and schools in American Memory:

The Andrew Johnson Impeachment

Senate impeachment trial of Andrew Johnson
The Senate as a Court of Impeachment for the Trial of Andrew Johnson (detail),
Theodore R. Davis, artist,
illustration in Harper's Weekly, April 11, 1868.
Portraits of the Presidents and First Ladies, 1789-Present

On May 16, 1868, the U.S. Senate voted 35 to 19, one vote short of the two-thirds majority needed to convict President Andrew Johnson of "high crimes and misdemeanors," as he was charged under the eleventh article of impeachment.  Ten days later, on May 26, the Senate also failed by the same margin (35 to 19) to convict Johnson on articles two and three. At this point the Senate voted to adjourn the impeachment trial without considering the remaining articles. When Johnson received the news, he broke into tears.

Johnson, a Southern Democrat, assumed the presidency after Lincoln's assassination. He issued a plan allowing former Confederate states to return representatives to Congress as soon as they repealed the ordinances of secession, repudiated Confederate debts, abolished slavery, and ratified the Thirteenth Amendment. Lacking the personal and political sagacity of President Lincoln, however, Johnson was unable to bring about the transition smoothly and what ensued was a cataclysmic encounter between the executive and legislative branches.

In 1865, Johnson took advantage of a long Congressional recess to recognize a Reconstruction government in all former Confederate states, except Texas. The states then took advantage of his conciliatory policy to pass "Black Codes" limiting freedmen's rights. When the 39th Congress reconvened in December 1865, the Republican majority in Congress refused to seat the newly elected Southern members of Congress.  In early 1866, angry congressmen, led by men such as Charles Sumner and Thaddeus Stevens, passed the Freedmen's Bureau and Civil Rights bills to empower those the codes repressed. Johnson vetoed both bills, but Congress overrode the veto of the Civil Rights Act on April 9, 1866, the first major piece of legislation to pass over a presidential veto in U.S. history.

Serving the Summons on President Johnson
George T. Brown, Sergeant-at-Arms, Serving the Summons on President Johnson (detail),
Theodore R. Davis, artist,
illustration in Harper's Weekly, March 28,1868.
Prints & Photographs Online Catalog

Clearly at cross-purposes, Congress approved the Fourteenth Amendment, while Johnson recommended that the states refuse to ratify it. Congress responded with its own militant reconstruction program and passed the Army Appropriations Act to thwart the president's power as commander in chief, insisting that his orders all be communicated through an intermediary. Congress also repassed the Freedmen's Bureau Act and overrode Johnson's veto.

Passage of the Tenure of Office Act only heightened the antagonism between Johnson and the Congress. The Act forbid the president from removing office-holders, including Cabinet members, without the Senate's approval. Formulated in language akin to that used in the Constitution to describe grounds for impeachment, the Act made the removal of office-holders without Senate approval a "high misdemeanor."

Johnson defied Congress by suspending Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton on August 12, 1867, and appointing Ulysses Grant secretary of war ad interim. Grant resigned this post on January 14, 1868, after the Senate refused to agree to Stanton's dismissal. Next, Johnson appointed Lorenzo Thomas as secretary of war on February 21, 1868 but this time Stanton, who had actually been working with radicals in Congress, barricaded himself inside his office.

Speech
The Last Speech on Impeachment—Thaddeus Stevens Closing the Debate in the House, March 2 (detail),
Theodore R. Davis, artist,
Illustration in Harper's Weekly, March 21, 1868.
Prints & Photographs Online Catalog

This deadlock culminated in the first presidential impeachment proceedings in U.S. history. In February 1869, the House voted articles of impeachment and seven House managers, including former Civil War Majors General Benjamin F. Butler and John A. Logan, prepared Johnson's trial. Lincoln appointee Salmon P. Chase, chief justice of the Supreme Court, presided. Ten of eleven articles concerned the Tenure and Army Appropriations Acts; the last article claimed that Johnson had attempted to undermine the Congress. Johnson did not attend the trial.

Learn more about impeachment in American Memory:

The Impeachment of President William Jefferson Clinton

The second trial of a U.S. president on articles of impeachment occurred in January and February of 1999. The Report of the Independent Counsel including all appendices and supplemental material are available through the Government Printing Office (GPO). Additional materials related to Clinton's impeachment are available on THOMAS, including the enrolled version of House Resolution 611, impeaching William Jefferson Clinton, President of the United States, for high crimes and misdemeanors, as well as House Report 105-830 of the House Judiciary Committee. The record of roll call votes on the two articles adopted — Article 1: "willfully provided perjurious, false and misleading testimony" and Article II: "prevented, obstructed, and impeded the administration of justice" — and the two that were rejected are maintained by the Office of the Clerk of the House.

The proceedings of the Senate trial are available as part of the Congressional Record for the Senate beginning on January 20, 1999. Browse successive issues of the Record for the complete trial or see Miscellaneous Senate Publications Related to the Impeachment of President William Jefferson Clinton maintained by GPO. The two Senate roll call votes of February 12, 1999, for Article I and Article II finding the president not guilty are available as maintained by the Senate Bill Clerk under the direction of the Secretary of the Senate.