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Johnson, Reverdy,1796–1876, American lawyer and statesman, b. Annapolis, Md. Admitted to the bar in 1816, he served in the Maryland legislature (1821–28) and the U.S. Senate (1845–49) and was attorney general under President Taylor. Johnson won a reputation as one of the ablest constitutional lawyers of the period. His constitutional argument as counsel for the defense in the Dred Scott CaseDred Scott Case,
argued before the U.S. Supreme Court in 1856–57. It involved the then bitterly contested issue of the status of slavery in the federal territories. In 1834, Dred Scott, a black slave, personal servant to Dr. John Emerson, a U.S.
..... Click the link for more information. is known to have greatly influenced the Supreme Court, particularly Chief Justice Roger Taney. A Whig and then a conservative Democrat, Johnson was sympathetic with the South but was absolutely opposed to secession and used his influence to keep Maryland in the Union. He played an important role in the unsuccessful defense of Mary E. SurrattSurratt, Mary Eugenia
, 1820–65, alleged conspirator in the assassination of Abraham Lincoln, hanged on July 7, 1865. A widow (her maiden name was Jenkins) who had moved from Surrattsville (now Clinton), Md., to Washington, D.C.
..... Click the link for more information. , alleged accomplice of John Wilkes Booth. In his second term in the U.S. Senate (1863–68), he supported President Andrew Johnson's Reconstruction program, and his opposition to the impeachment of Johnson influenced other senators in voting for the President's acquittal. In 1868 he was appointed minister to Great Britain, where he negotiated the Johnson-Clarendon Treaty to settle the Alabama claimsAlabama claims,
claims made by the U.S. government against Great Britain for the damage inflicted on Northern merchant ships during the American Civil War by the Alabama
..... Click the link for more information. ; the treaty was rejected by the U.S. Senate largely for party reasons, and Johnson was recalled in 1869.
See biography by B. C. Steiner (1914, repr. 1970).