Andrew Johnson Biography

Andrew Johnson was the seventeenth President of the United States. Born: Raleigh, N.C., Dec. 29, 1808. Worked as a tailor in Greeneville, Tenn. Served in the House of Representatives from 1843 to 54. Governor of Tennessee from 1853 to 57. Senator from 1857 to 62. Became Lincoln's running mate in 1864. Johnson succeeded to the presidency after Lincoln's death. Died: Near Carter Station, Tenn., July 31, 1875.

Andrew Johnson Biography:
Andrew Johnson (December 29, 1808-July 31, 1875) was the seventeenth President of the United States (1865-69), succeeding to the Presidency upon the assassination of Abraham Lincoln. He was one of only two U.S. Presidents to be impeached. At the time of the secession of the Southern states, Johnson was a U.S. Senator from Greeneville in eastern Tennessee. As a Unionist, he was the only southern Senator not to quit his post upon secession. He became the most prominent War Democrat from the South and supported the military policies of US President Abraham Lincoln during the American Civil War of 1861-1865. In 1862 Lincoln appointed Johnson military governor of occupied Tennessee. Johnson was nominated for the Vice President slot in 1864 on the National Union Party ticket. He and Lincoln were elected in November 1864. Johnson succeeded to the Presidency upon Lincoln's assassination on April 15, 1865. As president he took charge of Presidential Reconstruction the first phase of Reconstruction which lasted until the Radical Republicans gained control of Congress in the 1866 elections. His conciliatory policies towards the South, his hurry to reincorporate the former Confederates back into the union, and his vetoes of civil rights bills embroiled him in a bitter dispute with some Republicans. The Radicals in the House of Representatives impeached him in 1868 while charging him with violating the Tenure of Office Act, a law enacted by Congress in March 1867 over Johnson's veto, but he was acquitted by a single vote in the Senate. He is the most recent President to represent a party other than the Republican or Democratic parties, having represented both the Democrats and the National Union Party. He is consistently ranked by historians as being among the worst U.S. presidents.

Reconstruction of Johnson's boyhood home in North Carolina, located at the Andrew Johnson National Historic Site in Greeneville, Tennessee. Johnson was born on December 29, 1808, in Raleigh, North Carolina, to Jacob Johnson and Mary McDonough. Jacob died when Andrew was around three years old, leaving his family in poverty. Johnson's mother then took in work spinning and weaving to support her family and later remarried. She bound Andrew as an apprentice tailor when he was 14 or 10. In the 1820s, he worked as a tailor in Laurens, South Carolina. Johnson never attended any type of school and taught himself how to read and spell. At age 16 or 17 Johnson broke his apprenticeship and ran away with his brother to Greeneville, Tennessee, where he found work as a tailor. At the age of 18, Johnson married Eliza McCardle in 1827. Between 1828 and 1852, the couple had five children: Martha (1828), Charles (1830), Mary (1832), Robert (1834), and Andrew Jr. (1852). Eliza taught Johnson arithmetic and also tutored him to improve his literacy and writing skills.

Johnson participated in debates at the local academy at Greeneville, Tennessee and later organized a workingman's party that elected him as alderman in 1829. He served in this position until he was elected mayor in 1833. In 1835 he was elected to the Tennessee House of Representatives where, after serving a single term, he was defeated for re-election. Johnson was attracted to Andrew Jackson's states' rights Democratic Party. He became a spokesman for the more numerous yeomen farmers and mountaineers against the wealthier, but fewer, planter elite families that had held political control both in the state and nationally. In 1839 Johnson was elected to the Tennessee Senate, where he served two consecutive two-year terms. In 1843 he became the first Democrat to win election as the U.S. Representative from Tennessee's 1st congressional district. Among his activities for the common man's interests as a member of the House of Representatives and the Senate, Johnson advocated 'a free farm for the poor' bill where farms would be given to landless farmers. Johnson was a U.S. Representative for five terms until 1853, when he was elected governor of Tennessee.

Johnson was elected governor of Tennessee, serving from 1853 to 1857. He was then elected as a Democrat to the United States Senate, serving from October 8, 1857 to March 4, 1862. He was chairman of the Committee to Audit and Control the Contingent Expense (Thirty-sixth Congress). Before Tennessee voted on secession, Johnson who lived in Unionist east Tennessee toured the state speaking in opposition to the act, which he said was unconstitutional. Johnson was an aggressive stump speaker and often responded to hecklers, even those in the Senate. At the time of secession of the Confederacy, Johnson was the only Senator from the seceded states to continue participation in Congress. Lincoln appointed Johnson military governor of occupied Tennessee in March 1862 with the rank of brigadier general.

As a leading War Democrat and pro-Union southerner, Johnson was an ideal candidate for the Republicans in 1864 as they enlarged their base to include War Democrats. They changed the party name to the National Union Party to reflect this expansion. During the election Johnson replaced Hannibal Hamlin as Lincoln's running mate. He was elected Vice President of the United States and was inaugurated March 4, 1865. At the ceremony, Johnson, who had been drinking to offset the pain of typhoid fever (as he explained later), gave a rambling speech and appeared intoxicated to many.

On April 14, 1865, Abraham Lincoln was shot and mortally wounded by John Wilkes Booth, a Confederate sympathizer, while the President was attending a play at Ford's Theater. Booth's plan was to destroy the administration by ordering conspirators to assassinate Johnson and Secretary of State William H. Seward that same night. Seward narrowly survived his wounds, while Johnson escaped attack as his would-be assassin, George Atzerodt, failed to go through with the plan.

The morning after Lincoln's assassination, Johnson was sworn in as President of the United States on April 15, 1865 by Lincoln's newly appointed Chief Justice Salmon P. Chase. Johnson was the first Vice President to succeed to the U.S. Presidency upon the assassination of a President and the third vice president to become a president. Johnson had an ambiguous party status. He attempted to build a party of loyalists under the National Union label, but he did not identify with the two main parties while President though he did try for the Democratic nomination in 1868.

Northern anger over the assassination of Lincoln and the immense human cost of the war led to demands for harsh policies. Vice President Andrew Johnson had taken a hard line and spoke of hanging rebel Confederates. In practice, Johnson was not at all harsh toward the Confederate leaders. He allowed the Southern states to hold elections in 1865, resulting in prominent ex-Confederates being elected to the U.S. Congress; however, Congress did not seat them. Congress and Johnson argued in an increasingly public way about Reconstruction and the manner in which the Southern secessionist states would be readmitted to the Union. Johnson favored a very quick restoration, similar to the plan of leniency that Lincoln advocated before his death.

There were two attempts to remove President Andrew Johnson from office. The first occurred in the fall of 1867. On November 21, 1867, the House Judiciary committee produced a bill of impeachment that consisted of a vast collection of complaints against him. After a furious debate, a formal vote was held in the House of Representatives on December 5, 1867, which failed 108-57.

Johnson notified Congress that he had removed Edwin Stanton as Secretary of War and was replacing him in the interim with Adjutant-General Lorenzo Thomas. Johnson had wanted to replace Stanton with former General Ulysses S. Grant, who refused to accept the position. This violated the Tenure of Office Act, a law enacted by Congress in March 1867 over Johnson's veto, specifically designed to protect Stanton. The Senate and House entered into debate. Thomas attempted to move into the war office, for which Stanton had Thomas arrested. Three days after Stanton's removal, the House impeached Johnson for intentionally violating the Tenure of Office Act. On March 5, 1868, a court of impeachment was constituted in the Senate to hear charges against the President. William M. Evarts served as his counsel. Eleven articles were set out in the resolution, and the trial before the Senate lasted almost three months. Johnson's defense was based on a clause in the Tenure of Office Act stating that the then-current secretaries would hold their posts throughout the term of the President who appointed them. Since Lincoln had appointed Stanton, it was claimed, the applicability of the act had already run its course.

There were three votes in the Senate: one on May 16 for the 11th article of impeachment, which included many of the charges contained in the other articles, and two on May 26 for the second and third articles, after which the trial adjourned. On all three occasions, thirty-five Senators voted "guilty" and nineteen "not guilty." As the Constitution requires a two-thirds majority for conviction in impeachment trials, Johnson was acquitted; the 35-19 vote was one less than the majority required. A single changed vote for guilty would have convicted and removed Johnson from office. Seven Republican senators were disturbed by how the proceedings had been manipulated in order to give a one-sided presentation of the evidence. Senators William Pitt Fessenden, Joseph S. Fowler, James W. Grimes, John B. Henderson, Lyman Trumbull, Peter G. Van Winkle, and Edmund G. Ross of Kansas, who provided the decisive vote, defied their party and public opinion and voted against conviction. Had Johnson been successfully removed from office, he would have been replaced with Radical Republican Benjamin Wade, making the presidency and Congress somewhat uniform in ideology, although in many ways Wade was more "radical" than the Republicans in Congress. This would have established a precedent that a President could be removed not for "high crimes and misdemeanors," but for purely political differences.

One of Johnson's last significant acts was granting unconditional amnesty to all Confederates on Christmas Day, December 25, 1868. This was after the election of U.S. Grant to succeed him, but before Grant took office in March 1869. Earlier amnesties requiring signed oaths and excluding certain classes of people were issued both by Lincoln and by Johnson.

Johnson forced the French out of Mexico by sending a combat army to the border and issuing an ultimatum. The French withdrew in 1867, and the government they supported quickly collapsed. Secretary of State Seward negotiated the purchase of Alaska from Russia on April 9, 1867 for $7.2 million. Critics sneered at "Seward's Folly" and "Seward's Icebox" and "Icebergia." Seward also negotiated to purchase the Danish West Indies, but the Senate refused to approve the purchase in 1867 (it eventually happened in 1917). The Senate likewise rejected Seward's arrangement with the United Kingdom to arbitrate the Alabama Claims. The U.S. experienced tense relations with the United Kingdom and its colonial government in Canada in the aftermath of the war.

Johnson was an unsuccessful candidate for election to the United States Senate from Tennessee in 1868 and to the House of Representatives in 1872. However, in 1874 the Tennessee legislature did elect him to the U.S. Senate. Johnson served from March 4, 1875, until his death from a stroke near Elizabethton, Tennessee, on July 31 that same year. In his first speech since returning to the Senate, which was also his last, Johnson spoke about political turmoil in Louisiana. His passion aroused a standing ovation from many of his fellow senators who had once voted to remove him from the presidency. Interment was in the Andrew Johnson National Cemetery, Greeneville, Tennessee, where he was buried with a copy of the Constitution. Andrew Johnson National Cemetery is now part of the Andrew Johnson National Historic Site.

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