Andrew Johnson

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Andrew Johnson
Andrew Johnson by Cooper.jpg
17th President of the United States
From: April 15, 1865 – March 4, 1869
Vice President None
Predecessor Abraham Lincoln
Successor Ulysses S. Grant
16th Vice President of the United States
From: March 4, 1865 – April 15, 1865
President Abraham Lincoln
Predecessor Hannibal Hamlin
Successor Schuyler Colfax
Military Governor of Tennessee
From: March 12, 1862 – March 4, 1865
Predecessor Isham G. Harris
Successor E. H. East
U.S. Senator from Tennessee
From: October 8, 1857 – March 4, 1862; March 4, 1875 – July 31, 1875
Predecessor James C. Jones; William G. Brownlow
Successor David T. Patterson; David M. Key
17th Governor of Tennessee
From: October 17, 1853 – November 3, 1857
Predecessor William B. Campbell
Successor Isham G. Harris
Former U.S. Representative from Tennessee's 1st Congressional District
From: March 4, 1843 – March 4, 1853
Predecessor Thomas D. Arnold
Successor Brookins Campbell
Party Democrat, National Union
Spouse(s) Eliza McCardle Johnson
Religion Methodist[1]

Andrew Johnson (1808-1875) became the 17th president of the United States of America (1865–69) with the assassination of Abraham Lincoln in April 1865. Johnson, a Democrat, had been elected vice president in 1864 running on a National Union ticket with Republican Abraham Lincoln in the midst of the American Civil War. Johnson was deeply influenced by Jacksonian democracy.

He fiercely opposed the Radical Republican policy of Reconstruction and equal rights for Blacks in the defeated ex-Confederate states. After the Radicals swept the 1866 elections, Johnson barely escaped removal from office, but was largely powerless. Racist Democrats of the white South, and advocates of a strong presidency, made Johnson a hero in the 1930s and 1940s New Deal era. The impeachment of Bill Clinton, and the failure by the U.S. Senate to remove him, caused renewed interest in Johnson and some implicit support of him by liberals defending Clinton against removal.

Andrew Johnson is described as one of the worst Presidents due to him being an incompetent and corrupt Democrat. The Ku Klux Klan was organized during his presidency as Johnson handed out pardons and amnesties for Democrat leaders who engaged in rebellion against the United States.


Johnson, a poor boy from North Carolina, became a tailor in Tennessee, and rose steadily in the ranks of the Democratic party. As a U.S. Senator he was the most prominent southerner to remain with the Union when the Confederacy was formed in 1861, was a highly visible "War Democrat." Lincoln appointed him military governor of Tennessee, 1862–64, as he worked vigorously to suppress the rebellion. In 1864 he was Lincoln's running-mate on the "National Union Party" ticket, set up to attract War Democrats.


Johnson took charge of Reconstruction with the goal of reuniting the nation as quickly as possible. He appointed Unionist southerners as governors, allowed the old legislatures to meet, and demanded that they repeal secession and ratify the 13th Amendment (which abolished slavery). All ex-Confederate states did so, but the Radical Republicans in Congress refused to agree that the war was over.

Johnson, a poor politician, lost support rapidly. His veto of the Freedman's Aid Bill astonished Republicans; his veto of the Civil Rights Bill angered the moderates who once supported him. Johnson blocked the 14th amendment the first time around.

However, in 1866 the Radical Republicans won control of Congress by large majorities, and they passed Reconstruction legislation over Johnson's veto. The Southern states were put under Army rule; blacks were registered as voters; 10,000 ex-Confederate leaders were disfranchised, and the states were required to ratify the 14th Amendment. A Republican coalition came to power in nearly all the South, comprising Carpetbaggers (Republicans recently arrived from the North), Scalawags (white southerners) and Freedmen.

Johnson had no party affiliation 1865–68, but was usually supported by Democrats. After leaving the White House he returned to the Democratic party. He was elected to the Senate shortly before his death, becoming the first and only ex-president to serve in the Senate.


See also: Freemasonry and the Andrew Johnson presidency

When Johnson tried to fire the Secretary of War, the House, lead by Radical Republican Thaddeus Stevens, impeached him. He was the first President to be impeached. The reason for impeachment, ostensibly his violation of the Tenure of Office Act, was actually his systematic defiance of Congress and his refusal to enforce the laws. Johnson did technically violate the Tenure of Office Act, which denied him the power to dismiss presidential appointees without the Senate's permission. This act was designed to protect Edwin M. Stanton, the Secretary of War under president Lincoln who had been held over in Johnson's cabinet.

The Senate was one vote shy of the 2/3 needed to convict, so Johnson was not removed in 1868, but he was almost powerless in domestic affairs.

Views on race

  • "This is a country for white men, and by God, as long as I am President, it shall be a government for white men. Everyone would, and must, admit that the white race is superior to the black."[2]


  • Beale, Howard K. The Critical Year. A Study of Andrew Johnson and Reconstruction (1930). ISBN 0-8044-1085-2
  • Benedict, Michael Les. The Impeachment and Trial of Andrew Johnson (1999). online edition, favors Radical viewpoint
  • Castel, Albert E. The Presidency of Andrew Johnson (1979). scholarly survey
  • DeWitt, D. M. The Impeachment and Trial of Andrew Johnson (1903). full text online
  • Dunning, William Archibald. Essays on the Civil War and Reconstruction (New York, 1898) online edition, hostile to Radicals
  • Dunning, William Archibald. Reconstruction, Political and Economic (1907) online edition
  • Fleming, Walter Lynwood. The Sequel of Appomattox: A Chronicle of the Reunion of the States (Yale University Press: Chronicles of America series; vol. 32) (1919) short popular history online version, hostile to Radicals
  • McKitrick, Eric L. Andrew Johnson and Reconstruction (1961). ISBN 0-19-505707-4
  • Mantell, Martin E. Johnson, Grant, and the Politics of Reconstruction (1973) online edition
  • Means, Howard. The Avenger Takes His Place: Andrew Johnson and the 45 Days That Changed the Nation (2006) excerpt and text search, popular biography hostile to Johnson
  • Milton, George Fort. The Age of Hate: Andrew Johnson and the Radicals (1930) online edition favorable biography
  • Patton, James Welch. Unionism and Reconstruction in Tennessee, 1860–1869 (1934) online edition
  • Rhodes, James Ford History of the United States from the Compromise of 1850 to the McKinley-Bryan Campaign of 1896. Volume: 6. 1920. Pulitzer prize. online edition
  • Schouler, James. History of the United States of America: Under the Constitution vol. 7. 1865–1877. The Reconstruction Period (1917) online edition
  • Stryker, Lloyd P. Andrew Johnson: A Study in Courage (1929). ISBN 0-403-01231-7 online edition favorable biography
  • Trefousse, Hans L. Andrew Johnson: A Biography (1989). ISBN 0-393-31742-0 online edition, most useful scholarly biography; hostile to Johnson
  • Winston, Robert W. Andrew Johnson: Plebeian and Patriot (1928) online edition favorable biography

Primary sources


  1. Many US presidents have Methodist ties
  2. Walker, Bruce (April 6, 2008) Who's an Uncle Tom? American Thinker. Retrieved June 22, 2021.

External links