The Impeachment of Andrew Johnson
»Johnson's Background

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News Article
Harper's Weekly, May 13, 1865, page 289

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Andrew Johnson, the seventeenth President of the United States, was born in Raleigh, North Carolina, December 29, 1808. His father died while he was yet scarcely advanced beyond infancy, and the family was thus left in extreme poverty. At ten years of age Andrew was apprenticed to a tailor.

May 13, 1865, page 289 (cover)
Andrew Johnson

HarpWeek Commentary:
From a column on "Our surviving ex-Presidents": December 4, 1869, page 775.

"Greenville, Tennessee, November 7, 1818. This is to certify that it is my desire that my son Andrew Johnson is bound an apprentice to James J. Selby to learn the Taylor’s Trade, and that he is to serve him faithfully until he is 21 years old. Andrew Johnson was born in the year 1808, December 29." "Mary Daughtry, by Turner Daughtry."

October 14, 1865, page 641 (cover)
Andrew Johnson’s tailor-shop

Here a casual circumstance gave direction to his whole after-life. Among his master’s customers was an eccentric gentleman who habitually visited the shop and read aloud from books or newspapers to the journeymen. The boy soon learned to read from this gentleman, and after the long day’s work was over he regularly devoted two or three hours to study. Upon the expiration of his term of apprenticeship he was seventeen. He then left Raleigh, and pursued his trade for two years at Laurens Court House, South Carolina. Thence he returned to Raleigh, and very soon after moved westward with his mother to Tennessee, and at Greenville again appears as a tailor. Here he married, and his choice of a partner proved exceedingly fortunate for his future prospects. He knew now how to read. But his wife taught him writing and arithmetic.

It was in 1829 that Mr. Johnson held his first office – that of Alderman. He was elected Mayor in 1830, and served in that capacity three years. In 1835 he was sent to the State Legislature. His politics were those of the party then known as Democratic. His first speech was against a measure for internal improvement. In 1841 he was elected to the State Senate, and two years afterward representative in Congress. In regard to the admission of Texas into the Union, the Mexican war, the Tariff of 1846, and the Homestead Bill, Mr. Johnson took very strong Democratic ground. In 1851 he was chosen Governor of Tennessee, to which office he was re-elected in 1855. In 1857 he was elected to the United States Senate for the full term, which ended in 1863.

Mr. Johnson’s record during the revolutionary period out of which we are now passing at first may be said to have fluctuated in certain respects, but it was never for a moment doubtful as to the necessity of the Union. In a speech of his delivered December 19, 1860, while he was defiant against the threat of Southern States to force the Border States into the Confederacy, he also gave some ambiguous utterances as to the insult which would be offered to any State by the threat of coercion from the North. But in that speech his argument against secession was very strong as affecting Southern interests. He predicted that disunion must destroy slavery; that a hostile or even alien government upon the border of the slaveholding States would be the natural haven of rest to the hunted slave. He said that if one division was allowed others would follow; "and," said he, "rather than see this Union divided into thirty-three petty governments, with a little prince in one, a potentate in another, a little aristocracy in a third, a little democracy in a fourth, and a republic somewhere else – a citizen not being permitted to pass from one State to another without a passport or a commission from his government – with quarreling and warring among the petty powers, which would result in anarchy – I would rather see this government to-day – I proclaim it here in my place – converted into a consolidated government."

In a speech made March 2, 1861, he said: "Show me those who make war on the Government and fire on its vessels, and I will show you a traitor. If I were President of the United States I would have all such arrested, and, if convicted, by the Eternal God I would have them hung!"

On the 4th of March 1862, after the capture of Nashville by the National forces, Mr. Johnson was appointed by the President Military Governor of Tennessee, with the rank of Brigadier-General. The acceptance of this position necessitated, of course, the resignation of his situation in the Senate. As Military Governor Mr. Johnson was both just and firm. If he exacted a very rigorous test-oath from the disloyal, it was because he was convinced that, in justice, all government must be in the interest of loyal men. If he exacted from rich secessionists large sums of money for the support of the poor citizens who had been impoverished by the rebellion, it was because those men were responsible for the poverty which was thus alleviated.

As to Mr. Johnson’s future policy, his explicit statements leave us no room for doubt. Against responsible, conscious traitors the law must take its course as against other criminals. They must not only be punished, but impoverished. The problem of restoration is one for loyal men to solve. Except in the abolition of slavery, the States are to retain the character which belonged to them before the war. We are pledged, according to the requirements of the Constitution, to secure to these States a republican form of government. In reply to the question, What constitutes a State? Mr. Johnson answers, "Its loyal citizens." It is into the hands of these that the work of reconstruction be committed.

Mr. Johnson comes into power through a most melancholy occurrence, but he has entered upon the duties of his office with a dignity and firmness that elicits at the same time the confidence of the American people. May God spare his life and guide his steps!

April 29, 1865, page 260
Assassination of Lincoln

There are points in the policy of reconstruction that have hitherto been little discussed, but which must very soon assume important phases. The emancipation of four millions of slaves, it is thought, will but partially effect the work of political regeneration in the South. If the reports which reach us have any truth, it is certain that there is a large class in the South whose prejudice against the sentiments held at the North is as strong as ever before. There are men and women there who will teach their children to hate the name of Northern men. There are politicians of this class who will strive again for power, which they will wield as unscrupulously as they have ever done. A barrier against the possibility of such an exercise of power must be set at the very first, or we shall have no tranquil peace for many years. The only remedy is to not simply free but also to enfranchise the negroes. Give the negroes a vote and they will most certainly be courted by both parties at the South. It may be objected that they will thus become merely the tools of politicians. But it must be remembered that freedom will excite new activities in these black men. They will have leaders of their own; they will have sentiments of their own; and the policy which they will most naturally adopt will be that which will bring them into alliance with the poor loyal whites of the South. Besides, their memories of the past oppression of which they have been the victims, their memory of the part which colored soldiers have played in the war for the Union – all these will bind them to a purely Democratic policy.

Articles relating to Johnson's Background:
Andrew Johnson (small bio)

June 25, 1864, page 402

The Union Nominations
June 25, 1864, page 402

President Andrew Johnson
May 13, 1865, page 289

The President and the Secretary of State
May 20, 1865, page 306

Andrew Johnson
September 15, 1866, page 583

Andrew Johnson
September 15, 1866, page 584

The Vice-Presidency
September 14, 1867, page 578

The Vice-Presidency
December 7, 1867, page 770


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