Andrew Johnson

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Johnson, Andrew,

1808–75, 17th President of the United States (1865–69), b. Raleigh, N.C.

Early Life

His father died when Johnson was 3, and at 14 he was apprenticed to a tailor. In 1826 the family moved to E Tennessee, and Andrew soon had his own tailor shop at Greeneville. A man of no formal schooling but of great perseverance and strength of character, he was greatly aided by his wife, Eliza McCardle, whom he married in 1827; she taught him to write and improved his reading and spelling. He prospered at his trade, and the tailor shop became the favored meeting place of other artisans, laborers, and small farmers interested in discussing public affairs. The best debater in the community, Johnson became the leader of his group in opposition to the slaveholding aristocracy.

Political Career

From 1830 onward Johnson was almost continuously in public office, being alderman (1828–30) and mayor (1830–33) of Greeneville, state representative (1835–37, 1839–41), state senator (1841–43), Congressman (1843–53), governor of Tennessee (1853–57), and U.S. Senator (1857–62). As U.S. Representative and Senator, Johnson was principally interested in securing legislation to make land in the West available to homesteaders. He voted with other Southern legislators on questions concerning slavery, but after Tennessee seceded (June 8, 1861), he remained in the Senate, the only Southerner there. He vigorously supported Abraham Lincoln's administration, and in Mar., 1862, the President appointed him military governor of Tennessee with the rank of brigadier general of volunteers. His ability in filling this difficult position and the fact that he was a Southerner and a war Democrat made him an ideal choice as running mate to Lincoln on the successful Union ticket in 1864.


On Apr. 15, 1865, following Lincoln's assassination, Johnson took the oath of office as President. His ReconstructionReconstruction,
1865–77, in U.S. history, the period of readjustment following the Civil War. At the end of the Civil War, the defeated South was a ruined land. The physical destruction wrought by the invading Union forces was enormous, and the old social and economic
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 program (and he insisted that Reconstruction was an executive, not a legislative, function) was based on the theory that the Southern states had never been out of the Union. He therefore restored civil government in the ex-Confederate states as soon as it was feasible. Because he was not prepared to grant equal civil rights to blacks (and tolerated injustices and violence inflicted on them by Southern whites) and because he did not press for the wholesale disqualification for office of Confederate leaders, he was roundly denounced by the radical Republicans who, led by Thaddeus StevensStevens, Thaddeus,
1792–1868, U.S. Representative from Pennsylvania (1849–53, 1859–68), b. Danville, Vt. He taught in an academy at York, Pa., studied law, and was admitted to the bar in Maryland.
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, set out to undo Johnson's work on the convening of the 39th Congress in Dec., 1865.

In Apr., 1866, Congress passed the Civil Rights Act over Johnson's veto, and his political power began to decline sharply. The remainder of his administration saw one humiliation after another. His "swing around the circle" in the congressional elections of 1866 was unsuccessful. Baited by mobs organized by the radicals and slandered by the press, he struck out at his enemies in such harsh terms that he did his own cause much harm. On Mar. 2, 1867, the radicals passed over his veto the First Reconstruction Act and the Tenure of Office ActTenure of Office Act,
in U.S. history, measure passed on Mar. 2, 1867, by Congress over the veto of President Andrew Johnson; it forbade the President to remove any federal officeholder appointed by and with the advice and consent of the Senate without the further approval of
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When Johnson insisted upon his intention to force out of office his Secretary of War, Edwin M. StantonStanton, Edwin McMasters,
1814–69, American statesman, b. Steubenville, Ohio. He was admitted to the Ohio bar in 1836 and began to practice law in Cadiz. As his reputation grew, he moved first to Steubenville (1839), then to Pittsburgh (1847), and finally to Washington, D.
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, whom he rightly suspected of conspiring with the congressional leaders, the radical Republicans sought to remove the President. Their first attempt failed (Dec., 1867), but on Feb. 24, 1868, the House passed a resolution of impeachment against him even before it adopted (Mar. 2–3) 11 articles detailing the reasons for it. Most important of the charges, which were purely political, was that he had violated the Tenure of Office Act in the Stanton affair. On Mar. 5 the Senate, with Chief Justice Salmon P. Chase presiding, was organized as a court to hear the charges. The President himself did not appear. In spite of the terrific pressure brought to bear on several Senators, the court narrowly failed to convict; the vote, on the 11th article (May 16) and on the second and third articles (May 26), was 35 to 19, one short of the constitutional two thirds required for removal.

Although the problems of Reconstruction dominated Johnson's administration, there were important achievements in foreign relations, notably the purchase (1867) of Alaska, negotiated by Secretary of State William H. SewardSeward, William Henry,
1801–72, American statesman, b. Florida, Orange co., N.Y. Early Career

A graduate (1820) of Union College, he was admitted to the bar in 1822 and established himself as a lawyer in Auburn, N.Y., which he made his lifelong home.
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. Johnson's name figured in the balloting at the Democratic convention of 1868, but he did not actively seek the nomination. In 1875, on his third attempt to resume public office, he was returned to the Senate from Tennessee, but died a few months after taking his seat.


See L. P. Graf and R. W. Haskins, ed., The Papers of Andrew Johnson (16 vol., 1967–2000); biographies by R. W. Winston (1928, repr. 1969), H. L. Trefousse (1997), and A. Gordon-Reed (2011); D. M. Dewitt, The Impeachment and Trial of Andrew Johnson (1903, repr. 1967); H. K. Beale, The Critical Year (1930, new introd. 1958); M. Lomask, Andrew Johnson: President on Trial (1960, repr. 1973); E. L. McKitrick, Andrew Johnson and Reconstruction (1960) and Andrew Johnson, A Profile (1969, repr. 1972); M. L. Benedict, The Impeachment and Trial of Andrew Johnson (1973); H. L. Trefousse, Impeachment of a President (1975, repr. 1999); A. Castel, The Presidency of Andrew Johnson (1979); B. Wineapple, The Impeachers (2019).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia™ Copyright © 2013, Columbia University Press. Licensed from Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Johnson, Andrew


Born Dec. 29, 1808, in Raleigh, N.C., died July 31, 1875, in Carter’s Station, Tenn. US statesman.

Johnson joined the Democratic Party in the late 1830’s. In 1861 he opposed the formation of the slaveholding Confederacy in the Southern states. During the Civil War (1861-65) he was appointed military governor of Tennessee (1862). In March and April 1865 he was vice-president of the USA, and after the assassination of President Lincoln, Johnson served as president (1865-68). The program he proposed for the reconstruction of the South in fact restored all the power in the Southern states to the plantation owners.

The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.

Johnson, Andrew

(1808–75) seventeenth U.S. president; born in Raleigh, N.C. Poor, self-educated but ambitious, he moved to Tennessee in 1826 to pursue the tailor's trade. He saved enough money and soon entered politics, becoming an advocate of labor and popular democracy against the claims of birth and wealth. Beginning as an alderman, he worked his way up to represent Tennessee in the U.S. House of Representatives (Dem.; 1843–53), and became governor (1853–57), then U.S. senator (1857–62). Although he had defended slavery, he refused to accept secession; his courageous stand led Lincoln to appoint him military governor of Tennessee and then to select him as vice-president for the 1864 election; his presence on the ticket undoubtedly helped the beleaguered Lincoln get reelected. Becoming president on Lincoln's assassination in 1865, Johnson attempted to pursue the conciliatory reconstruction policies Lincoln had envisioned but Johnson was increasingly thwarted by Radical Republican desires for revenge. The conflict finally led to an 1868 congressional impeachment of Johnson, but he survived by one vote. He left office embittered and in disgrace, but later found a measure of exoneration, and, five months before his death, regained his Senate seat.
The Cambridge Dictionary of American Biography, by John S. Bowman. Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1995. Reproduced with permission.
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