Better Know A President XVII: Andrew Johnson

22 02 2011

So, it’s been a while. There has been a long emptiness between my last post in the series and this one. Ultimately I forgot what my goal was when I started this series, and that was to give a quick overview without going to in depth. I am so inspired by the Presidency. The job is has been served by a wide range of personalities and backgrounds, and even the bad ones still get their faces on statues. But with renewed vision, I intend to finish what I started. Without further interruptions…


Served from 1865 to 1869

Before serving as President, he served as a Representative and Senator from Tennessee, and also served as its Governor. He was Lincoln’s VP for a mere month before replacing him after his assassination.

Before politics, he served as a tailor in North Carolina and Tennessee. Having no formal education, (he taught himself to read and write, and his wife taught him arithmetic) he became inspired to politics by another famous Tennessean, Andrew Jackson.

In the U.S. Senate, Johnson supported the Homestead Act, allowing any citizen to claim 160 acres of undeveloped land west of the Mississippi River. This act signed in 1862, continued until 1976. Johnson supported the Union over slavery, and consequently was the only Senator from the South not to vacate his seat.

Johnson was chosen to replace Hannibal Hamlin as Lincoln’s VP to help the ticket have wider appeal. Johnson had typhoid when he gave a speech at the inauguration, and to help him fight the pain he experienced, he had been drinking heavily.

Johnson was a target during the Lincoln Assassination, as well as future President Ulysses Grant and Sec. of State William Sewell. His attacker failed to go through with his part of the plan.

The largest issue Johnson faced was Reconstruction. Johnson was elected to the Vice-Presidency as a Republican, but turned his back on them when he became President. His policies changed, to the anger of many Republicans, who thought they would easily be able to pass legislation. At once, Johnson fought for the immediate inclusion of the seceded states in Congress, and also fought against various civil rights bills, including the 14th Amendment. He also worked to pass laws against newly freed slaves.

There were two attempts to impeach Johnson. The first attempt failed, but the second attempt did not. Johnson violated the newly made Tenure of Office Act, when he attempted to remove Republican Edwin Stanton from his post as Sec. of War. The act made it so that anyone who was chosen to a cabinet position by a previous President could not be removed, unless the Senate approved.  The House voted for Impeachment, but the Senate accquited by only one vote. 7 Republicans borke party lines to keep him in office. In later years, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the Tenure of Office Act was unconstitutional.

Admitted Nebraska into the Union, and also bought Alaska from Russia at 2 cents an acre, for a total of 7.2 million dollars (108 million today)

While Governor of Tennessee, he made a suit for the Governor of Kentucky, who in turn made Johnson a shovel and tongs (he was a blacksmith)

Because he stayed with the Union, he repeatedly fought back mobs while he was in the South, even pulling a revolver at times to defend himself.


I feel incompetent to perform duties… which have been so unexpectedly thrown upon me.

Outside of the Constitution we have no legal authority more than private citizens, and within it we have only so much as that instrument gives us. This broad principle limits all our functions and applies to all subjects.

The goal to strive for is a poor government but a rich people.