Andrew Johnson by Annette Gordon-ReedA Pulitzer Prize-winning historian recounts the tale of the unwanted president who ran afoul of Congress over Reconstruction and was nearly removed from office
Andrew Johnson never expected to be president. But just six weeks after becoming Abraham Lincolns vice president, the events at Fords Theatre thrust him into the nations highest office.
Johnson faced a nearly impossible task—to succeed Americas greatest chief executive, to bind the nations wounds after the Civil War, and to work with a Congress controlled by the so-called Radical Republicans. Annette Gordon-Reed, one of Americas leading historians of slavery, shows how ill-suited Johnson was for this daunting task. His vision of reconciliation abandoned the millions of former slaves (for whom he felt undisguised contempt) and antagonized congressional leaders, who tried to limit his powers and eventually impeached him.
The climax of Johnsons presidency was his trial in the Senate and his acquittal by a single vote, which Gordon-Reed recounts with drama and palpable tension. Despite his victory, Johnsons term in office was a crucial missed opportunity; he failed the country at a pivotal moment, leaving America with problems that we are still trying to solve.
President Andrew Johnson Biography
Presidency of Andrew Johnson
He had been Vice President of the United States for only 42 days when he succeeded to the presidency. Johnson took office as the Civil War came to a close , and his presidency was dominated by the aftermath of the war. As president, Johnson attempted to build his own party of Southerners and conservative Northerners, but he was unable to unite his supporters into a new party. Republican Ulysses S. Grant succeeded Johnson as president. Johnson, who was himself from Tennessee , favored quick restoration of the seceded states to the Union.
On February 24, , something extraordinary happened in the U. Now, Johnson faced trial before the U. If convicted, he would be removed from office. He was a Union man, but his roots were in the South. The radicals, who included men like Thaddeus Stevens and Benjamin Butler, wanted to guarantee the rights of the freedmen. One way they tried to do so was by passing the Reconstruction Acts, laws that provided suffrage to freed slaves and prevented former Southern rebels from regaining control of the state governments. Believing the Acts to be wrong and unconstitutional, Johnson repeatedly blocked their enforcement.
The impeachment of Andrew Johnson was initiated on February 24, , when the United States House of Representatives resolved to impeach Andrew Johnson , 17th president of the United States , for " high crimes and misdemeanors ", which were detailed in 11 articles of impeachment. The primary charge against Johnson was violation of the Tenure of Office Act , passed by Congress in March , over his veto.
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During the years immediately following the Civil War, President Andrew Johnson clashed repeatedly with the Republican-controlled Congress over reconstruction of the defeated South. Johnson vetoed legislation that Congress passed to protect the rights of those who had been freed from slavery.
Johnson assumed the presidency as he was vice president of the United States at the time of the assassination of Abraham Lincoln. He favored quick restoration of the seceded states to the Union. His plans did not give protection to the former slaves ; he came into conflict with the Republican -dominated Congress, culminating in his impeachment by the House of Representatives. He was acquitted in the Senate by one vote. Johnson's main accomplishment as president is the Alaska purchase. Johnson was born in poverty in Raleigh, North Carolina , and never attended school. Apprenticed as a tailor, he worked in several frontier towns before settling in Greeneville, Tennessee.
Abraham Lincoln during the closing months of the American Civil War — His lenient Reconstruction policies toward the South embittered the Radical Republicans in Congress and led to his political downfall and to his impeachment , though he was acquitted. For a discussion of the history and nature of the presidency, see presidency of the United States of America. Jacob Johnson, who served as a porter in a local inn, as a sexton in the Presbyterian church, and as town constable, died when Andrew was three years old, leaving his family in poverty. His widow took in work as a spinner and weaver to support her family and later remarried.