Friday, July 26, 2013

Andrew Johnson: The Presidents

Andrew Johnson was born in Raleigh, North Carolina on December 29th, 1808, to Jacob Johnson (1778–1812) and Mary ("Polly") McDonough (1783–1856), a laundress. He had a brother William, four years his elder, and an older sister Elizabeth, who died in childhood. (Being born in a log cabin was a political asset in the 19th century, and in the years to come Johnson would not hesitate to remind voters of his humble birth.) Jacob Johnson was a poor man, as was his father, William, but became town constable of Raleigh before marrying and starting a family. He died of an apparent heart attack while ringing the town bell, shortly after rescuing three drowning men when Andrew was three. Polly Johnson had worked as a washerwoman; she continued in that trade as the sole support of her children. At the time, her occupation was considered less than respectable as it often took her into others' homes unaccompanied; the Johnsons were considered white trash, and there were rumors that Andrew, who did not resemble his siblings, was fathered by another man. Eventually, Polly Johnson married Turner Doughtry, who was also poor.

Polly Doughtry apprenticed her elder son, William, to a tailor, James Selby. Andrew followed his brother as an apprentice in Selby's shop at the age of ten; he was legally bound to serve until his 21st birthday. Selby does not appear to have had any great influence on the future president. The apprentice was boarded with his mother for part of his service; one of Selby's employees was detailed to teach him rudimentary literacy skills. This minimal education was augmented by citizens who came to Selby's shop to read to the tailors as they worked; even before he was an apprentice, young Andrew came to listen. These readings began a lifelong love of learning for the boy; his biographer, Annette Gordon-Reed, suggests that Johnson, who would be acclaimed as a public speaker, learned the basics of that art as he threaded needles and cut cloth.

Andrew Johnson was not happy at James Selby's, and at about age 15, ran away with his brother. Selby responded by placing an advertisement in the paper, as customary for masters seeking missing apprentices, "Ten Dollars Reward. Ran away from the subscriber, two apprentice boys, legally bound, named William and Andrew Johnson ... [payment] to any person who will deliver said apprentices to me in Raleigh, or I will give the above reward for Andrew Johnson alone." The boys went to Carthage, North Carolina, where Andrew Johnson worked as a tailor for several months. Fearing he would be taken and returned to Raleigh, Andrew moved on to Laurens, South Carolina. There, he found work in his craft, and met his first love, Mary Wood, for whom he made a quilt. After his marriage proposal to her was rejected, Johnson returned to Raleigh, hoping to buy out his apprenticeship, but he could not come to terms with Selby. Then, like many others in the late 1820s, he journeyed west.

Johnson left North Carolina for Tennessee, traveling mostly on foot. After a brief period in Knoxville, he moved to Mooresville, Alabama. He then worked as a tailor in Columbia, Tennessee, but was called back to Raleigh by his mother and stepfather, who saw limited opportunities there and who wished to emigrate west. Johnson and his party traveled through the Blue Ridge Mountains to Greeneville, Tennessee. Andrew Johnson fell in love with the town at first sight, and when he became prosperous purchased the land where he had first camped and planted a tree in commemoration.

In Greeneville, Johnson established a successful tailoring business in the front of his home. In 1827, at the age of 18, he married 16-year-old Eliza McCardle, the daughter of a local shoemaker. The pair were married by Justice of the Peace Mordecai Lincoln, first cousin of Thomas Lincoln, whose son would become president. The Johnsons were married for almost 50 years and had five children: Martha (1828), Charles (1830), Mary (1832), Robert (1834), and Andrew Jr. (1852). Though she suffered from consumption, Eliza supported her husband's endeavors. She taught him mathematics skills and tutored him to improve his writing. Shy and retiring by nature, Eliza Johnson usually remained in Greeneville during Johnson's political rise. She was not often seen during her husband's presidency; their daughter Martha usually served as official hostess.

Johnson's tailoring business prospered during the early years of the marriage, enabling him to hire help and giving him the funds to invest profitably in real estate. He later boasted of his talents as a tailor, "my work never ripped or gave way." He was a voracious reader. Books about famous orators aroused his interest in political dialogue, and he had private debates with customers with opposing views on issues of the day. He also took part in debates at Greeneville College.

Johnson helped organize a mechanics' (working men's) ticket in the 1829 Greeneville municipal election. He was elected town alderman, along with his friends Blackston McDannel and Mordecai Lincoln. Following the 1831 Nat Turner slave rebellion, a state convention was called to pass a new constitution, including provisions to disenfranchise free people of color. The convention also wanted to reform real estate tax rates, and provide ways of funding improvements to Tennessee's infrastructure. The constitution was submitted for a public vote, and Johnson spoke widely for its adoption; the successful campaign provided him with statewide exposure. On January 4, 1834, his fellow aldermen elected him mayor of Greeneville.

In 1835, Johnson made a bid for election to the "floater" seat which Greene County shared with neighboring Washington County in the Tennessee House of Representatives. According to his biographer, Hans Trefousse, Johnson "demolished" the opposition in debate and won the election with almost a two to one margin. Soon after taking his seat, Johnson purchased his first slave, Dolly, aged 14. Dolly had three children over the years. Johnson had the reputation of treating his slaves kindly, but the fact that Dolly was dark-skinned, and her offspring much lighter, led to speculation both during and after his lifetime that he was the father.


In his first term in the legislature, which met in the state capital of Nashville, Johnson did not consistently vote with either the Democratic or the newly formed Whig Party, though he revered President Andrew Jackson, a Democrat and Tennessean. The major parties were still determining their core values and policy proposals with the party system in a state of flux. The Whig Party had organized in opposition to Jackson, fearing the concentration of power in the Executive Branch of the government; Johnson differed from the Whigs as he opposed more than minimal government spending and spoke against aid for the railroads, while his constituents hoped for improvements in transportation. After Brookins Campbell and the Whigs defeated Johnson for re-election in 1837, Johnson would not lose another race for thirty years. In 1839, he sought to regain his seat, initially as a Whig, but when another candidate sought the Whig nomination, he ran as a Democrat and was elected. From that time he supported the Democratic party and built a powerful political machine in Greene County. Johnson became a strong advocate of the Democratic Party, noted for his oratory, and in an era when public speaking both informed the public and entertained it, people flocked to hear him. 

In 1840, Johnson was selected as a presidential elector for Tennessee, giving him more statewide publicity. Although Democratic President Martin Van Buren was defeated by former Ohio senator William Henry Harrison, Johnson was instrumental in keeping Tennessee and Greene County in the Democratic column. He was elected to the Tennessee Senate in 1841, where he served a two-year term. He had achieved financial success in his tailoring business, but sold it to concentrate on politics. He had also acquired additional real estate, including a larger home and a farm (where his mother and stepfather took residence), and among his assets numbered eight or nine slaves.


Having served in both houses of the legislature, Johnson saw election to Congress as the next step in his political career. He engaged in a number of political maneuvers to gain Democratic support, including the displacement of the Whig postmaster in Greeneville, and defeated Jonesville lawyer John A. Aiken by 5,495 votes to 4,892. In Washington, he joined a new Democratic majority in the House of Representatives. Johnson advocated for the interests of the poor, maintained an anti-abolitionist stance, argued for only limited spending by the government and opposed protective tariffs. With Eliza remaining in Greeneville, Congressman Johnson shunned social functions in favor of study in the Library of Congress. Although a fellow Tennessee Democrat, James K. Polk, was elected president in 1844, and Johnson had campaigned for him, the two men had difficult relations, and President Polk refused some of his patronage suggestions.

In his campaign for a fourth term, Johnson concentrated on three issues: slavery, homesteads and judicial elections. He defeated his opponent, Nathaniel G. Taylor, in August 1849, with a greater margin of victory than in previous campaigns. When the House convened in December, the party division caused by the Free Soil Party precluded the formation of the majority needed to elect a Speaker. Johnson proposed adoption of a rule allowing election of a Speaker by a plurality; some weeks later others took up a similar proposal, and Democrat Howell Cobb was elected.

If Johnson considered retiring from politics upon deciding not to seek re-election, he soon changed his mind. The congressman's political friends began to maneuver to get him the nomination for governor. The Democratic convention unanimously named him, though some party members were not happy at his selection. The Whigs had won the past two gubernatorial elections, and still controlled the legislature. That party nominated Henry, making the "Henry-mandering" of the First District an immediate issue. The two men debated in county seats the length of Tennessee before the meetings were called off two weeks before the August 1853 election due to illness in Henry's family. Johnson won the election by 63,413 votes to 61,163; some votes for him were cast in return for his promise to support Whig Nathaniel Taylor for his old seat in Congress. 

Tennessee's governor had little power - Johnson could propose legislation but not veto it, and most appointments were made by the Whig-controlled legislature. Nevertheless, the office was a bully pulpit that allowed him to publicize himself and his political views. He succeeded in getting the appointments he wanted in return for his endorsement of John Bell, a Whig, for one of the state's U.S. Senate seats. In his first biennial speech, Johnson urged simplification of the state judicial system, abolishment of the Bank of Tennessee and establishment of an agency to provide uniformity in weights and measures; the last was passed. Johnson was critical of the Tennessee common school system and suggested funding be increased via taxes, either statewide or county by county - a mixture of the two was passed.

When the presidential election of 1856 approached, Johnson hoped to be nominated; some Tennessee county conventions designated him a favorite son. His position that the best interests of the Union were served by slavery in some areas made him a practical compromise candidate for president. He was never a major contender; the nomination fell to former Pennsylvania senator James Buchanan. Though he was not impressed by either, Johnson campaigned for Buchanan and his running mate, former Kentucky representative John C. Breckenridge, who were elected.

Johnson decided not to seek a third term as governor, with an eye towards election to the U.S. Senate. In 1857, while returning from Washington, his train derailed, causing serious damage to his right arm. This injury would trouble him in the years to come.

Johnson's first tenure in the Senate came to a conclusion in March 1862 when Lincoln appointed him military governor of Tennessee. Much of the central and western portions of that seceded state had been recovered. Although some argued that civil government should simply resume once the Confederates were put down in an area, Lincoln chose to use his power as commander in chief to appoint military governors over Union-controlled Southern areas. The Senate quickly confirmed Johnson's nomination along with the rank of brigadier general. In response, the Confederates confiscated his land, took away his slaves, and made his home into a military hospital. Later in 1862, after his departure from the Senate and in the absence of most Southern legislators, the Homestead Act was finally enacted; it, along with legislation for land grant colleges and for the transcontinental railroad, has been credited with opening the American West to settlement.


As military governor, Johnson sought to eliminate rebel influences in the state, demanding loyalty oaths from public officials, and shutting down newspapers run by Confederate sympathizers. At that time, much of eastern Tennessee remained in rebel hands, and the ebb and flow of war through 1862 sometimes brought Confederate control close to Nashville. The Confederates did allow his wife and family to pass through the lines to him. Johnson undertook the defense of Nashville as best he could; the city was continually harassed with cavalry raids led by General Nathan Bedford Forrest. Relief from Union regulars did not come until William S. Rosecrans defeated the Confederates at Murfreesboro at the start of 1863. Much of eastern Tennessee was retaken later that year. 

When Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation in January 1863, freeing the slaves in rebel-controlled areas, he exempted Tennessee at Johnson's request. The document increased the debate over what should happen to the slaves after the war - not all Unionists supported abolition. Johnson decided that slavery had to end, stating, "If the institution of slavery ... seeks to overthrow it (the Government), then the Government has a clear right to destroy it". He reluctantly supported efforts to recruit former slaves for the Union Army, feeling it more appropriate that African-Americans should perform menial tasks and free up whites to fight. Nevertheless, he succeeded in enlisting 20,000 black troops for the Union.

In 1860, Lincoln's running mate had been Maine Senator Hannibal Hamlin. Vice President Hamlin had served competently, was in good health, and had not expressed an unwillingness to run. Nevertheless, Johnson emerged as running mate for Lincoln's re-election bid in 1864.

Lincoln considered several War Democrats for the ticket in 1864, and sent an agent to sound out General Benjamin Butler as a possible running mate. In May 1864, the President dispatched General Daniel Sickles to Nashville on a fact-finding mission. Although Sickles denied he was there either to investigate or interview the military governor, Johnson biographer Hans L. Trefousse believes Sickles's trip was connected to Johnson's subsequent nomination for vice president. According to historian Albert Castel in his account of Johnson's presidency, Lincoln was impressed by Johnson's administration of Tennessee. Gordon-Reed points out that while the Lincoln-Hamlin ticket might have been considered geographically balanced in 1860, "having Johnson, the southern War Democrat, on the ticket sent the right message about the folly of secession and the continuing capacity for union within the country." Another factor was the desire of Secretary of State William Seward to frustrate the vice-presidential candidacy of his fellow New Yorker, former senator Daniel S. Dickinson, a War Democrat, as Seward would probably have had to yield his place if another New Yorker became vice president. Johnson, once he was told by reporters the likely purpose of Sickles' visit, was active on his own behalf, giving speeches and having his political friends work behind the scenes to boost his candidacy.

Although it was unusual at the time for a national candidate to actively campaign, Johnson gave a number of speeches in Tennessee, Kentucky, Ohio, and Indiana. He also sought to boost his chances in Tennessee while re-establishing civil government by making the loyalty oath even more restrictive, in that voters would now have to swear they opposed making a settlement with the Confederacy. The Democratic candidate for president, George McClellan, hoped to avoid additional bloodshed by negotiation, and so the stricter loyalty oath effectively disenfranchised his supporters. Lincoln declined to override Johnson, and their ticket took the state by 25,000 votes. Congress refused to count Tennessee's electoral votes, but Lincoln and Johnson did not need them, having won in most states that had voted, and easily secured the election.

Now Vice President-elect, Johnson was anxious to complete the work of re-establishing civilian government in Tennessee, although the timetable for the election of a new governor did not allow it to take place until after Inauguration Day, March 4. He hoped to remain in Nashville to complete his task, but was told by Lincoln's advisers that he could not stay, but would be sworn in with Lincoln. In these months, Union troops finished the retaking of eastern Tennessee, including Greeneville. Just before his departure, the voters of Tennessee ratified a new constitution, abolishing slavery, on February 22, 1865. One of Johnson's final acts as military governor was to certify the results.

On the afternoon of April 14, 1865, Lincoln and Johnson met for the first time since the inauguration. Trefousse states that Johnson wanted to "induce Lincoln not to be too lenient with traitors"; Gordon-Reed agrees.

That night, President Lincoln was shot and mortally wounded by John Wilkes Booth, a Confederate sympathizer. The shooting of the President was part of a conspiracy to assassinate Lincoln, Johnson, and Seward the same night. Seward barely survived his wounds, while Johnson escaped attack as his would-be assassin, George Atzerodt, got drunk instead of killing the vice president. Leonard J. Farwell, a fellow boarder at the Kirkwood House, awoke Johnson with news of Lincoln's shooting at Ford's Theater. Johnson rushed to the President's deathbed, where he remained a short time, on his return promising, "They shall suffer for this. They shall suffer for this." Lincoln died at 7:22 am the next morning; Johnson's swearing in occurred between 10 and 11 am with Chief Justice Salmon P. Chase presiding in the presence of most of the Cabinet. Johnson's demeanor was described by the newspapers as "solemn and dignified". Some Cabinet members had last seen Johnson, apparently drunk, at the inauguration. At noon, Johnson conducted his first Cabinet meeting in the Treasury Secretary's office, and asked all members to remain in their positions.

The events of the assassination resulted in speculation, then and subsequently, concerning Johnson and what the conspirators might have intended for him. In the vain hope of having his life spared, after his capture, Atzerodt spoke much about the conspiracy, but did not say anything to indicate that the plotted assassination of Johnson was merely a ruse. Conspiracy theorists point to the fact that on the day of the assassination, Booth came to the Kirkwood House and left one of his cards. This object was received by Johnson's private secretary, William A. Browning, with an inscription, "Are you at home? Don't wish to disturb you. J. Wilkes Booth."

Johnson presided with dignity over Lincoln's funeral ceremonies in Washington, before the leader's body was sent home to Springfield, Illinois, for burial. Shortly after Lincoln's death, Union General William T. Sherman reported he had, without consulting Washington, reached an armistice agreement with Confederate General Joseph E. Johnston for the surrender of Confederate forces in North Carolina in exchange for the existing state government remaining in power, with private property rights to be respected. This did not even acknowledge the freedom of those in slavery, and was not acceptable to Johnson or the Cabinet. Johnson sent word for Sherman to secure the surrender without making political deals, and he did. This action, together with his placing a $100,000 bounty on the head of Confederate President Davis, then a fugitive, gave him the reputation of a man who would be tough on the South. More controversially, he permitted the execution of Mary Surratt, the only woman convicted as a member of the conspiracy to assassinate Lincoln. Johnson refused to grant clemency, and Surratt was executed with three others, including Atzerodt, on July 7th, 1865.

Upon taking office, Johnson faced the question of what to do with the Southern states. President Lincoln had authorized loyalist governments in Virginia, Arkansas, Louisiana, and Tennessee as the Union came to control large parts of those states. Lincoln had advocated a ten percent plan that would allow recognized elections after ten percent of the voters in any state took an oath of future loyalty. Congress considered this too lenient; its own plan, requiring a majority of voters to take the loyalty oath for a state to be admitted, passed both houses in 1864, but Lincoln pocket vetoed it.

Johnson had three goals in Reconstruction. He sought a speedy restoration of the states, on the grounds that they had never truly left the Union, and thus should again be recognized once loyal citizens formed a government. To Johnson, African-American suffrage was a delay and a distraction; it had always been a state responsibility to decide who should vote. Second, political power in the Southern states should pass from the planter class to his beloved "plebians". Johnson feared that the freedmen, many of whom were still economically bound to their former masters, might vote at their direction. Johnson's third priority was election in his own right in 1868, a feat no one who had succeeded a deceased president had managed to accomplish.

The Republicans had formed a number of factions. The Radical Republicans sought voting and other civil rights for African-Americans. They believed that the freedmen could be induced to vote Republican in gratitude for emancipation, and that black votes could keep the Republicans in power and Southern Democrats, including former rebels, out of influence. They believed that top Confederates should be punished. The Moderate Republicans sought to keep the Democrats out of power at a national level, and prevent former rebels from resuming power. They were not as enthusiastic about the idea of African-American suffrage as their Radical colleagues, either because of their own local political concerns, or because they believed that the freedman would be likely to cast his vote badly. Northern Democrats favored the unconditional restoration of the Southern states. They did not support African-American suffrage, which might threaten Democratic control in the South.

Johnson was initially left to devise a Reconstruction policy without legislative intervention, as Congress was not due to meet again until December 1865. Radical Republicans told the President that the Southern states were economically in a state of chaos and urged him to use his leverage to insist on rights for freedmen as a condition of restoration to the Union. But Johnson, with the support of other officials including Seward, insisted that the franchise was a state, not a federal matter. The Cabinet was divided on the issue.

Johnson's first Reconstruction actions were two proclamations, with the unanimous backing of his Cabinet, on May 29th. One recognized the Virginia government led by provisional Governor Francis Pierpont. The second provided amnesty for all ex-rebels except those holding property valued at $20,000 or more; it also appointed a temporary governor for North Carolina and authorized elections. Neither of these proclamations included provisions regarding black suffrage or freedmen's rights. The President ordered constitutional conventions in other former rebel states.

As Southern states began the process of forming governments, Johnson's policies received considerable public support in the North, which he took as unconditional backing for quick reinstatement of the South. While he received such support from the white South, he underestimated the determination of Northerners to ensure that the war had not been fought for nothing. It was important, in Northern public opinion, that the South acknowledge its defeat, that slavery be ended, and that the lot of African-Americans be improved. Voting rights were less important - after all, only a handful of Northern states (mostly in New England) gave African-American men the right to vote on the same basis as whites, and in late 1865, Connecticut, Wisconsin, and Minnesota voted down African-American suffrage proposals by large margins. Northern public opinion tolerated Johnson's leniency as an experiment, to be allowed if it brought Southern acceptance of defeat. Instead, white Southerners were emboldened. A number of Southern states passed Black Codes, binding African-American laborers to farms on annual contracts they could not quit, and allowing law enforcement at whim to arrest them for vagrancy and rent out their labor. Most Southerners elected to Congress were former Confederates, with the most prominent being Georgia Senator-designate and former Confederate vice president Alexander Stephens. Congress assembled in early December 1865; Johnson's conciliatory annual message to them was well received. Nevertheless, Congress refused to seat the Southern legislators and established a committee to recommend appropriate Reconstruction legislation.

Northerners were outraged at the idea of unrepentant Confederate leaders, such as Stephens, rejoining the federal government at a time when emotional wounds from the war remained raw. They saw the Black Codes placing African-Americans in a position barely above slavery. Republicans also feared that restoration of the Southern states would return the Democrats to power. In addition, according to David O. Stewart in his book on Johnson's impeachment, "the violence and poverty that oppressed the South would galvanize the opposition to Johnson" 

Even with the Republican victory in November 1866, Johnson considered himself in a strong position. The Fourteenth Amendment had been ratified by none of the Southern or border states except Tennessee, and had been rejected in Kentucky, Delaware, and Maryland. As the amendment required ratification by three-quarters of the states to become part of the Constitution, he believed the deadlock would be broken in his favor, leading to his re-election in 1868. Once it reconvened in December 1866, an energized Congress began passing legislation, often over a presidential veto; this included the District of Columbia voting bill. Congress admitted Nebraska to the Union over a veto, and the Republicans gained two senators, and a state that promptly ratified the amendment. Johnson's veto of a bill for statehood for Colorado Territory was sustained; enough senators agreed that a district with a population of 30,000 was not yet worthy of statehood to win the day.

In January 1867, Congressman Stevens introduced legislation to dissolve the Southern state governments and reconstitute them into five military districts, under martial law. The states would begin again by holding constitutional conventions. African-Americans could vote for or become delegates; former Confederates could not. In the legislative process, Congress added to the bill that restoration to the Union would follow the state's ratification of the Fourteenth Amendment, and completion of the process of adding it to the Constitution. Johnson and the Southerners attempted a compromise, whereby the South would agree to a modified version of the amendment without the disqualification of former Confederates, and for limited black suffrage. The Republicans insisted on the full language of the amendment, and the deal fell through. Although Johnson could have pocket vetoed the First Reconstruction Act as it was presented to him less than ten days before the end of the Thirty-Ninth Congress, he chose to veto it directly on March 2, 1867; Congress overruled him the same day. Also on March 2, Congress passed the Tenure of Office Act over the President's veto, in response to statements during the Swing Around the Circle that he planned to fire Cabinet secretaries who did not agree with him. This bill, requiring Senate approval for the firing of Cabinet members during the tenure of the president who appointed them and for one month afterwards, was immediately controversial, with some senators doubting that it was constitutional or that its terms applied to Johnson, whose key Cabinet officers were Lincoln holdovers.

Secretary of War Edwin Stanton was an able and hard-working man, but difficult to deal with. Johnson both admired and was exasperated by his War Secretary, who, in combination with General of the Army Grant, worked to undermine the president's Southern policy from within his own administration. Johnson considered firing Stanton, but respected him for his wartime service as secretary. Stanton, for his part, feared allowing Johnson to appoint his successor and refused to resign, despite his public disagreements with his president.

The new Congress met for a few weeks in March 1867, then adjourned, leaving the House Committee on the Judiciary behind, charged with reporting back to the full House whether there were grounds for Johnson to be impeached. This committee duly met, examining the President's bank accounts, and summoning members of the Cabinet to testify. When a federal court released former Confederate president Davis on bail on May 13th (he had been captured shortly after the war), the committee investigated whether the President had impeded the prosecution. It learned that Johnson was eager to have Davis tried. A bipartisan majority of the committee voted down impeachment charges; the committee adjourned on June 3rd.

Later in June, Johnson and Stanton battled over the question of whether the military officers placed in command of the South could override the civil authorities. The President had Attorney General Henry Stanbery issue an opinion backing his position that they could not. Johnson sought to pin down Stanton either as for, and thus endorsing Johnson's position, or against, showing himself to be opposed to his president and the rest of the Cabinet. Stanton evaded the point in meetings and written communications. When Congress reconvened in July, it passed a Reconstruction Act against Johnson's position, waited for his veto, overruled it, and went home. In addition to clarifying the powers of the generals, the legislation also deprived the President of control over the Army in the South. With Congress in recess until November, Johnson decided to fire Stanton and relieve one of the military commanders, General Philip Sheridan, who had dismissed the governor of Texas and installed a replacement with little popular support. He was initially deterred by a strong objection from Grant. On August 5, the President demanded Stanton's resignation; the secretary refused to quit with Congress out of session. Johnson then suspended him pending the next meeting of Congress as permitted under the Tenure of Office Act; Grant agreed to serve as temporary replacement while continuing to lead the Army.

Grant, under protest, followed Johnson's order transferring Sheridan and another of the district commanders, Daniel Sickles, who had angered Johnson by firmly following Congress's plan. The President also issued a proclamation pardoning most Confederates, exempting those who held office under the Confederacy, or who had served in federal office before the war and had breached their oaths. Although Republicans expressed anger with his actions, the 1867 elections generally went Democratic. No seats in Congress were directly elected in the polling, but the Democrats took control of the Ohio General Assembly, allowing them to defeat for re-election one of Johnson's strongest opponents, Senator Benjamin Wade. Voters in Ohio, Connecticut, and Minnesota turned down propositions to grant African-Americans the vote. The adverse results momentarily put a stop to Republican calls to impeach Johnson, who was elated by the elections. Nevertheless, once Congress met in November, the Judiciary Committee reversed itself and passed a resolution of impeachment against Johnson. After much debate about whether anything the President had done was a high crime or misdemeanor, the standard under the Constitution, the resolution was defeated by the House of Representatives on December 7th, 1867, by a vote of 57 in favor to 108 opposed. 

Johnson notified Congress of Stanton's suspension and Grant's interim appointment. In January 1868, the Senate disapproved of his action, and reinstated Stanton, contending the President had violated the Tenure of Office Act. Grant stepped aside over Johnson's objection, causing a complete break between them. Johnson then dismissed Stanton and appointed Lorenzo Thomas to replace him. Stanton refused to leave his office, and on February 24th, 1868, the House impeached the President for intentionally violating the Tenure of Office Act, by a vote of 128 to 47. The House subsequently adopted eleven articles of impeachment, for the most part alleging that he had violated the Tenure of Office Act, and had questioned the legitimacy of Congress.

On March 5th, 1868, the impeachment trial began in the Senate and lasted almost three months; Congressmen George S. Boutwell, Benjamin Butler and Thaddeus Stevens acted as managers for the House, or prosecutors, and William M. Evarts, Benjamin R. Curtis and former Attorney General Stanbery were Johnson's counsel; Chief Justice Chase served as presiding judge. The defense relied on the provision of the Tenure of Office Act that made it applicable only to appointees of the current administration. Since Lincoln had appointed Stanton, the defense maintained Johnson had not violated the act, and also argued that the President had the right to test the constitutionality of an act of Congress. Johnson's counsel insisted that he make no appearance at the trial, nor publicly comment about the proceedings, and except for a pair of interviews in April, he complied.

Johnson sought nomination by the 1868 Democratic National Convention in New York in July 1868. He remained very popular among Southern whites, and boosted that popularity by issuing, just before the convention, a pardon ending the possibility of criminal proceedings against any Confederate not already indicted, meaning that only Davis and a few others still might face trial. On the first ballot, Johnson was second to former Ohio representative George H. Pendleton, who had been his Democratic opponent for vice president in 1864. Johnson's support was mostly from the South, and fell away as the ballots passed. On the 22nd ballot, former New York governor Horatio Seymour was nominated, and the President received only four votes, all from Tennessee.

The conflict with Congress continued. Johnson sent Congress proposals for amendments to limit the president to a single six-year term and make the president and the Senate directly elected, and for term limits for judges. Congress took no action on them. When the President was slow to officially report ratifications of the Fourteenth Amendment by the new Southern legislatures, Congress passed a bill, again over his veto, requiring him to do so within ten days of receipt. He still delayed as much as he could, but was required, in July 1868, to report the ratifications making the amendment part of the Constitution.

On March 3rd, the President hosted a large public reception at the White House on his final full day in office. Grant had made it known that he was unwilling to ride in the same carriage as Johnson, as was customary, and Johnson refused to go to the inauguration at all. Despite an effort by Seward to prompt a change of mind, he spent the morning of March 4 finishing last-minute business, and then shortly after noon rode from the White House to the home of a friend. 

After leaving the presidency, Johnson remained for some weeks in Washington, then returned to Greeneville for the first time in eight years. He was honored with large public celebrations along the way, especially in Tennessee, where cities hostile to him during the war hung out welcome banners. He had arranged to purchase a large farm near Greeneville to live on after his presidency.  

In 1873 Johnson contracted cholera during an epidemic but recovered; that year he lost about $73,000, when the First National Bank of Washington went under, though he was eventually repaid much of the sum. He began looking towards the next Senate election, to take place in the legislature in early 1875. Johnson began to woo the farmers' Grange movement; with his Jeffersonian leanings, he easily gained their support. He spoke throughout the state in his final campaign tour. Few African-Americans outside the large towns were now able to vote as Reconstruction faded in Tennessee, setting a pattern that would be repeated in the other Southern states; the white domination would last almost a century. In the Tennessee legislative elections in August, the Democrats elected 92 legislators to the Republicans' eight, and Johnson went to Nashville for the legislative session.

When the balloting for the Senate seat began on January 20th, 1875, he led with 30 votes, but did not have the required majority as three former Confederate generals, one former colonel, and a former Democratic congressman split the vote with him. Johnson's opponents tried to agree on a single candidate who might gain majority support and defeat him, but failed, and he was elected on January 26 on the 54th ballot, with a margin of a single vote.

Johnson's comeback garnered national attention, with the St. Louis Republican calling it, "the most magnificent personal triumph which the history of American politics can show". At his swearing-in in the Senate on March 5th, 1875, he was greeted with flowers and sworn in with another former vice president, Hamlin, by that office's current incumbent, Henry Wilson, who as senator had voted for his ouster. Many Republicans ignored Senator Johnson, though some, such as Ohio's John Sherman (who had voted for conviction), shook his hand. Johnson remains the only former president to serve in the Senate. He spoke only once in the short session, on March 22nd lambasting President Grant for his use of federal troops in support of Louisiana's Reconstruction government. The former president asked, "How far off is military despotism?" and concluded his speech, "may God bless this people and God save the Constitution."

Johnson returned home after the special session concluded. In late July, convinced some of his opponents were defaming him in the Ohio gubernatorial race, he decided to travel there to give speeches. He began the trip on July 28, and broke the journey at his daughter Mary's farm near Elizabethton, where his daughter Martha was also staying. That evening he suffered a stroke, but refused medical treatment until the next day, when he did not improve and two doctors were sent for from Elizabethton. He seemed to respond to their ministrations, but suffered another stroke on the evening of July 30th, and died early the following morning at the age of 66. President Grant had the "painful duty" of announcing the death of the only surviving past president. Northern newspapers, in their obituaries, tended to focus on Johnson's loyalty during the war, while Southern ones paid tribute to his actions as president. Johnson's funeral was held on August 3 in Greeneville. He was buried with his body wrapped in an American flag and a copy of the U.S. Constitution placed under his head, according to his wishes. The burial ground was dedicated as the Andrew Johnson National Cemetery in 1906, and with his home and tailor's shop, is part of the Andrew Johnson National Historic Site.



Source: Wikipedia

This work is released under CC 3.0 BY-SA - Creative Commons


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