Seventeenth President of the United States. b. 1808 d. 1875.
Andrew Johnson was born in Raleign, North Carolina. In his youth, he was apprenticed to a tailor, ran away and set up his own tailor shop in Greeneville, Tennessee. Somehow that drove him to seek a political career. This may have been caused by Jacksonian Democrats coming into his shop to have buttons sewn on and pants hemmed.
He was elected to both the Senate and governorship of Tennessee. There he actively promoted populist measures such as homestead bills. While a Tennessee senator in 1860-1861 he became famous as the only senator from a seceeding state to remain loyal to the Union. In 1862, president Abraham Lincoln appointed him military governor of Tennessee.
In 1864, Andrew Johnson was elected vice president after Lincoln added him to the ticket in an effort to gain a more favorable look from southerners and Democrats. After Lincoln's assasination, Andrew Johnson became president, setting off a chain reaction of explosive proportions.
Johnson supported a lenient Reconstruction policy and embracing seceeding states as if they had never left the Union. He was a strong supporter of states' rights and held the positions that the black man was inferior to the white. He granted amnesty to all but a few ex-Confederates. He appointed provisional governors throughout the south who were given the directive to establish loyal governments backed by white voters. Those provisional governments actively passed the Black Codes, which effectively returned freedmen to conditions almost identical to slavery.
After Congress refused to accept new members elected by the provisional governments of the south, a fissure began to open and expand between Johnson and the rest of the government. His opposition to the Freedmen's Bureau, civil rights bills and the Fourteenth Amendment threw the government into chaos. He then toured the country, launching angry attacks against the government's policies on Reconstruction and promoting the creation of a new conservative policy that would turn things full circle to what they had been before the war.
Congress then declared war on Johnson. It enacted the Tenure of Office Act, which gave Lincoln's appointees the protection of the Senate if Johnson attempted to dismiss and replace them. It passed measures to restrict Johnson's authority as commander in chief. After Secretary of War Edwin Stanton made public his opposition to Johnson's policies, Johnson attempted to replace him. This set off the House of Representatives efforts to impeach Johnson after the Senate ordered Stanton be reinstated. In the impeachment trial, the House was unable to attain the two-thirds majority required for impeachment and Johnson was acquitted in the Senate by a single vote.
Johnson would serve for less than a year after being elected to the Senate in 1875. He would die during his term. Many historians give the dubious honor of the failure of Reconstruction and the remaking of the South to Johnson's presidency. Johnson did all he could as president to keep the South "a white man's country" and some would say his success in that arena carried on to this day.