Ranked #43: Johnson got impeached with 11 articles against him. He broke many things Lincoln fixed. His tenure got so bad that his owm cabinet, Congress and even the military ignored the directives he requested.
Summary: Andrew Johnson was simple, direct and was known to speak bluntly to people. He always identified himself as an underdog and preferred to associate with old friends because he did not care very much for Washington DC society. In fact, he was very kind and generous to old friends, especially those who were down on their luck. He grew up poor and was taught to read by his wife when he was an adult. He was a dishwasher and a tailor before going into politics. He was stubborn and hard to work with.
Bio: He did well on the stump, as he spoke clearly and strongly. He carried himself with great dignity and was always polite. He dressed himself skillfully and was often seen wearing black. He was 5’ 10” tall and well-proportioned, although he had a huge head and deep chest. His face featured a large forehead and bushy eyebrows. His health was generally good, although he suffered from kidney stones as President. He liked the circus and minstrel shows and was fond of playing checkers and tending to his vegetable garden.
It wasn’t easy being Andrew Johnson for all sorts of reasons. For one, he was a Southerner during the time of succession, but at the same time he felt strongly about keeping the Union together. This took guts back in the 1860s, and was not lost on Abraham Lincoln, who assigned him military governor of Tennessee in 1862. Before that, he was a five-time Tennessee Congressman, a Tennessee Governor, and finally a US Senator from Tennessee. So, when the 1864 election came about, Lincoln thought it would look good to have Johnson on the ticket, since he was from Tennessee; if for no other reason, to show unity between the north and the south.
Johnson went down in history for giving a rambling, incoherent inaugural speech during the kickoff to Lincoln’s second term and it happened to be in front of Lincoln, Congress and Washington dignitaries. It was so bad that the speech finally just meandered to a halt, whereupon he left the podium. Johnson was believed to be drunk at this time, although Lincoln would later deny it. Johnson made sure to keep a low profile in Washington after that speech, but that would all change for him on April 15, 1865, when Lincoln was murdered.
he plot to kill Lincoln also included taking Johnson out. At the time, Vice President Johnson was staying at the Kirkwood House hotel. The man that John Wilkes Booth assigned to kill Johnson lost his nerve and decided to instead go to the bar at the Kirkwood, get drunk and eventually roam the streets of Washington.
Once Johnson took power, the Republicans were pleased, feeling that he was going to carry on where Lincoln left off regarding the reconstruction of the South as a non-slavery region of the US. This feeling of pleasure was soon replaced by regret once it was clear Johnson had no intention of doing this. He felt that it was up to the states to decide for themselves the question of slavery. This not only countered what all the bloodshed had been about for the last 5 years, but it extremely pissed off Republicans in Congress, who set out to impeach Johnson (which they came within one vote of accomplishing). Johnson’s presidency was doomed.
After the 1868 election, which Johnson had absolutely no chance of winning, he decided to return to Tennessee. As I stated, it wasn’t easy being Andrew Johnson. The return trip in and of itself took guts for a Southerner who had supported the cause of the Union during the Civil War. Once his train reached Virginia, it took some handy pistol work on his part to fight an angry mob off of his car. However, as he continued, another angry Virginian mob pulled him from his train and literally beat the living daylights out of him. They would have hanged him had it not been for a moment of clarity, when the mob decided that they should let somebody from the state of Tennessee have the honors. From that moment on, Johnson would always carry a pistol with him when he gave speeches.
Johnson would once again be elected into the US Senate in 1875. It would not be for long, as he suffered a stroke and died shortly thereafter, on July 31, 1875. Johnson will go down as the only President (or anybody else) who was buried with his head resting on a copy of the US Constitution.
Pros: Worked his way up from poverty.
Cons: Was a turbo racist. Attempted to veto the Civil Rights Act of 1866. Anti-abolitionst. Alienated the people and Congress. Mishandled reconstruction. Had a record number of vetos overrode by Congress, (15).
Born: December 29, 1808, Raleigh, North Carolina
Died: July 31, 1875 (aged 66) Carter's Station, Tennessee
Term: April 15, 1865 to March 3, 1869 (Assumed term)