17 - Andrew Johnson
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Andrew Johnson. Plebeian and Patriot by Robert W. Winston
Andrew Johnson:A Biography
Impeached: The Trial of President Andrew Johnson by David O Stewart
Johnson was drunk at his inauguration for Vice President.(His doctor had prescribed him some alcoholic medicine.)
He was the only president elected to U.S. Senate after his presidential term.
Andrew Johnson was a self-educated tailor. He is the only President who made his own clothes as well as his cabinet's.
He didn't make an inaugural address.
His wife was only 16 years old when they were married.
He was the first president to be visited by a queen. Queen Emma of the Sandwich Islands came to America on August 14, 1866.
Johnson was buried beneath a willow he had planted himself with a shoot taken from a tree at Napolean's tomb. His head was rested on a copy of the Constitution.
Judge Robert W. Winston had a long career as a lawyer and a jurist before he was convinced that authorship would enable him to reveal the little-understood Andrew Johnson to the reading public. I am glad he did and that he did it so well.
Abraham Lincoln wanted Johnson on the ticket saying that "...we will sweep the Border States and save the Union". That's an interesting statement all by itself.
In reading this book, I discovered a busy, hard-working, honest, good person. The travails portrayed in popular history of the reconstruction and his impeachment seem to me to be more about the deviltry of legislators than about holes in Andy Johnson's character. As with John Quincy Adams, there is much to admire in a man who goes back into the legislature that derided him in order to try to make a difference. Adams was elected to Congress after his presidency and Johnson was elected to the Senate. I think that makes them two of the best, certainly two of the most interesting and admirable. They stuck to their guns and rode it out.
The times were a bit more messy for Andrew Johnson though and Reconstruction issues got in the way of much else that needed a President's attention. Working in the times of Maximilian's Mexico and the Alaska purchase must have been wracking all by themselves and the chapter on the execution of the Lincoln assassination conspirators is very revealing of the political times.
It will be well worth your effort to find this book and read it for this challenge.
Andrew Johnson is one of the more intriguing characters in US history - at least for me. He was a Democrat, albeit a Unionist Democrat, that served as Vice President under Republican Abraham Lincoln. He professed to be concerned for black freedmen to the point of even referring to himself as their "Moses", yet repeated expressed white supremacist views and implemented Reconstruction policies seemingly without regard for the effect on freedmen in the South. He's the first US president to be impeached, with precident-setting results for executive-legislative relations ever since. My hope with Hans Trefousse's Andrew Johnson: A Biography - the first full biography of Johnson I've read - was to better understand this complex man, especially where he impacted post-Civil War events.
Johnson is presented here as the classic self-made man - humble beginnings, self assurance and hard work leading to material success, the desire to excel in politics to validate his success. He presented himself as a populist and Jacksonian Democrat his whole political career, and in fact on many occasions was able to translate that persona into real support from the people, at least some segments of the populace. Yet the same determination that led to his success turned into sheer pig-headedness when the country needed the president and Congress to put the nation back together again after the Civil War. While more than one factor was in play, it's clear that without some compromise, the southern states were given latitude to put a de facto slave culture back in place.
Trefousse's work is a functional biography - it presents the man and attempts to understand him - but it was a bit of a long slog. Frankly, the first half of the book was rather dry and throughout the whole book, I never felt I really got Andrew Johnson in the way other authors have made other presidents come alive. The second half of the book certainly picked up more interest, with all the drama associated with the conflict between Johnson and those with more radical ideas about how to reconstruct the Union. I suppose part of my reaction to the book came from my dislike of the man presented here and the things he stood for. However inappropriate that might be for historical study, it certainly made it hard for me to connect with the work.
by Hans L. Trefousse
This bio came as a bit of a surprise. I had always pegged Andrew Johnson as a second class president--one of those men who make the Jacksons and the Roosevelts look oh, so good. Instead, Professor Trefousse presents a very successful politician, a self-made man who not only earned his way into the vice-presidency, but made a lasting impression on the country. The problem is, I didn't care much for his contribution.
While this book covers Johnson's entire life, the bulk of it naturally focuses on the Civil War years and his subsequent presidency. His determination and independence were admirable as he stood up for his principles against both secessionists and congress. In a way, I would think that his power struggles with the latter would qualify him as a war-time president. While he didn't win that "war", his actions certainly affected how the reconstruction played out, mostly to the detriment of Southern unionists and the freedmen. As one who finds Johnson's racism contemptible, I wished he hadn't been so determined. But to be fair, his racial views were not unique at that time. Who knows how much, if any, difference there would have been if the White House had been occupied by Lincoln, or by some other man more in tune with the Republican congress than Andrew Johnson?
All-in-all, Professor Trefousse has written a informative and readable book. Y'all should check it out.
Impeached by David O. Stewart is a more specialized book about the impeachment proceedings and how they came about. The author clearly despises Johnson for his racial views, and so that bias colors the book some. But he probes deeper into the possibility that bribery got Johnson acquitted, something which Castel only briefly touches upon, and he examines the personalities of the Republican opposition as well. An entertaining account, although at times, it is a bit speculative for a historical piece.
My touchstones no longer work. Supposedly something to do with IE9.
Gordon-Reed's short bio on Andrew Johnson must be quite different than the Trefousse work although she cites his book through out the text. She paints him as the wrong man at the wrong time. She makes the case that his policies led to all the racial problems of the last 150 years.
Author: David O. Stewart
Dates Read: March 5 - March 18
Number of pages: 343
Until President Clinton came along President Andrew Johnson had the dubious honor of being the only US President who went through an impeachment trial. Others may have come close, but these two stand alone in that aspect.
President Johnson was in a difficult position after the assassination of Lincoln - he was a Democrat that had been elected VP on a Republican ticket. He had been chosen to help solidify the voters in the election of 1864 for the areas that may have had southern sympathies but remained in the Union.
Johnson was trying to have the Reconstruction governments in the South based on Lincoln's plans per se - generosity of spirit - reduced animosity between that "conquered" and the victorious. But the Northerners in the Congress wanted their "pound of flesh" and wanted to increase their power over the southern states.
The abolition of slavery removed the 3/5 counting of slaves for representation purposes and adjusted the negro counts to full. This would entitle the southern states to 28 additional representatives in the Congress plus 28 more electoral votes. Efforts were made to adjust this "outrage" by introducing a law that denied the southern states the right to include the counts of the blacks for representation if the blacks were denied the right to vote.
The method of Reconstruction was a point of dissention between Johnson and the Congress. During his administration Johnson used his veto power 29 times and was overridden 15 times. At this time the Congress was trying various ways to curtail the Executive power.
There were actually three different attempts at impeachment. First try at impeachment, Congressmen tried the facts that Johnson was wrong when he restored Southern railroads and when he removed men from office citing usurpation of Congressional powers. This attempt was abandoned by the Committee Chairman Wilson when he said "Political unfitness and incapacity must be tried at the ballot box, not in the high court of impeachment." The second attempt was also deemed to be a political rather than legal issue and was again abandoned.
However, Thaddeus Stevens, the driving force behind impeachment, resolved to cut Presidential powers. For example, Stevens proposed to give Grant complete control over the Reconstruction efforts in the South - something Grant didn't want. He also tried to limit the Supreme Court influence by introducing a bill requiring 3/4 approval of the Court before a law could be declared unconstitutional.
In early 1867 the Congress enacted the Tenure of Office Act which denied the president the power to remove from office anyone appointed by a past president, without the approval of the Senate during the next full session of Congress. This legislation would be the main blockade for Johnson. This struggle between Johnson and Stanton gave Stevens what he needed.
All 11 articles of impeachment were related to the ongoing struggle between Johnson and Secretary of War Stanton. Johnson wanted to remove him from office but the Tenure of Office act which allowed only the Congress to remove a high level official from his office and also that should anyone try to violate this law, they would be guilty of a "high misdemeanor". A High Misdemeanor was one of the provisions of the constitution for removal from office of the President.
Johnson was defended by Benjamin Curtis, a former Supreme Court Justice. At the beginning of Johnson's defense, Curtis dissected the Tenure of Office Act and analyzed how it could be interpreted in several different ways explaining how Johnson acted as he did. A senator from Maine praised Curtis by saying "Judge Curtis gave us the law and we followed it."
As the trial progressed, it blatantly appeared more a political dogfight that a legal battle. At times the Senate allowed certain types of evidence admitted, and then would reverse themselves again later. Because of the handling of the procedures, few had any idea of what the outcome would be.
When the time came for the vote, Senators who could barely walk or talk, suffering from strokes and other illnesses, still managed to appear in the Senate to cast their vote. By one vote, Johnson was acquitted. There was speculation that some of the votes had been purchased but no clear evidence was ever brought forward. The senators that voted for his acquitted were treated badly by their parties but in the end Johnson survived the trial.
60 years later the Tenure of Office Act was declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court headed by former President William Howard Taft now Chief Justice. How ironic that the law that brought Johnson to the brink of removal from office wasn't even Constitutional.
I thought this book would be very dry and hard to get through, but it read more like a novel than historical fact. The writing was clear and concise and the information was presented so that the reader could understand the fight between Johnson and Congress. Now I really understand what the impeachment proceedings were about. I'm definitely glad I read this one.