Andrew Johnson

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Andrew Johnson
Andrew Johnson photo portrait head and shoulders, c1870-1880-Edit1.jpg
Full Name: Andrew Johnson
Alias: The Tennessee Tailor

The Last Jacksonian

Origin: Raleigh, North Carolina, United States
Occupation: President of the United States (1865 - 1869)
Vice President of the United States (March 4, 1865 – April 15, 1865)
U.S. Senator from Tennessee (1857 - 1862, 1875)
Governor of Tennessee (1853 - 1857, 1862 - 1865)
Goals: Make the United States a white-only country (failed)
Remain in office by any means necessary (failed)
Crimes: Xenophobia
Abuse of Power
Hate speech
Anti-Native American Sentiment
War crimes
Type of Villain: Xenophobic President

This is a country for white men, and by God, as long as I am President, it shall be a government for white men.
~ Andrew Johnson

Andrew Johnson (December 29th, 1808 - July 31st, 1875) was the 17th President of the United States. He was the Vice President to Abraham Lincoln and assumed the presidency when Lincoln was assassinated. Johnson was probably the most racist president the U.S. has ever had. He was to become one of the most unpopular and one of the worst presidents in American history. Due to his stubbornness, he was the first president ever to officially be impeached by the House of Representatives in 1868, but the Senate failed to convict him by one vote.

Early life

Andrew Johnson was born in a log cabin in North Carolina on December 29, 1808. He did not have a strong formal education, but he did have a trade. He was apprenticed as a tailor in 1822 and was the first president to not enter a career in law or the military. Four years later he opened his own business in Tennessee (he was not yet 18 and was still illiterate). Eventually, he taught himself how to read.

In 1827, he married to Eliza McCardle, who helped Johnson to read and write. By 1834, he was an alderman and then a mayor of Greeneville, Tennessee. Johnson then followed many careers in politics as a Democrat. By 1861, Johnson was the only southern senator who did not defect to the Confederate States of America when the American Civil War broke out. A year later, he appointed as the military governor of Tennessee.

In 1864, the Republicans were looking to broaden their base against the Democrats. So Abraham Lincoln eliminated his current vice president, Hannibal Hamlin, and Andrew Johnson was made the vice president.


Nobody ever wanted Andrew Johnson to become president. The Republicans simply wanted him as the vice president so Lincoln would win the 1864 election. Depending on if you agreed or disagreed with him, you would call him stubborn or principled. Johnson was a close-minded person who never listened to other people and never really cared what other people thought either. This gave him few friends in life and politics.

For a role model, Andrew Johnson looked to a former president from his home state with a similar name, Andrew Jackson. He and Johnson both believed that the union had to be preserved. It could actually be argued that Johnson was the last Jacksonian politician. Like Jackson, Johnson believed he represented the common man, but that could only be really seen to the common white man. He believed that the former slaves should have truly just returned to the plantation and leave the political world to whites. Johnson's attitude toward blacks, or “niggers” as he termed them in private conversation, was resolutely negative.

As Vice-President during Lincoln’s reign, Johnson had a strong disliking for the aristocracy whom he thought were there by the labor of the poor such as his own family. “Glassy-eyed and smelling of whiskey, he reminded Congress, the Supreme Court, the Cabinet, and pretty much everyone within hearing distance that they owed their positions to “plebeians” such as himself, then kissed the Bible and staggered away”. In response, the New York Times said “To think that one frail life stands between this insolent, clownish creature and the presidency! May God bless and spare Abraham Lincoln!”

He was targeted by one of John Wilkes Booth's henchmen, George Atzerodt, on the night of Lincoln's assassination. At 10:15 pm on April 14, 1865, the same time when Booth shot Lincoln at Ford's Theater and Lewis Powell nearly attacking Secretary of State William Seward at his mansion, Atzerodt did not have the courage to shoot Johnson at the Kirkwood Hotel. Instead of killing the vice president, he just got drunk and ran away into his cousin's home, where he was arrested for participating in the conspiracy to kill Lincoln and revive the Confederacy. Atzerodt was later sentenced to be hanged on July 7, 1865, along with Lewis Powell, David Herold, and Mary Surratt.

Several hours after Lincoln's death on April 15, 1865, Johnson took his presidential oath whilst completely drunk. As Reconstruction began, it seemed like there would be a standoff in Congress between the Johnson Administration and the radical Republicans. Both groups had their own solutions to Reconstruction. Then, Congress left on vacation, leaving Johnson alone. While it is expected for the president to enjoy a break from politics, Johnson instead made his own plan for Reconstruction. Nobody knows what Lincoln would have done, but Johnson's plan gave amnesty for former Confederates (indirectly leading to the formation of the Ku Klux Klan) and for the southern states to reconcile with the North. As for the former slaves, they got no protection from Johnson's plan and were not given rights or the right to vote.

When Congress returns, Johnson announces that Reconstruction is over and the news is shocking to the Republicans. With a grand majority in Congress, the Republicans started making their own Reconstruction measures. This included the first Civil Rights Act for blacks and even Native Americans. Johnson vetoed it. Congress then tried to extend the Freedmen's Bureau, an organization made during the Lincoln Administration to aid blacks in entering American society. Johnson vetoed it too. That would be the entire relationship between Congress and the president. Congress would pass something and Johnson would always veto it. In fact, Johnson vetoed so many times, that he beat the record at the time held by a president for vetoes. The president that Johnson beat? None other than his hero Andrew Jackson (Jackson vetoed 12 times during his presidency and Johnson vetoed 29 times). However, in the midterms, the Republicans gained so far a majority in Congress, that they could overrule the president.  The new relationship between Congress and the president was Congress passes, Johnson vetoes, Congress overrules. Their record of overturning Johnson 15 times still stands. Not only did Congress help the former slaves, they severely weakened Johnson's power. They even passed a bill called the Tenure of Office Act, in which Johnson was not allowed to fire Cabinet members without the agreement from Congress. It was a trap and Johnson took the bait. He fired Secretary of War Edwin Stanton, violating the Tenure of Office Act, and the Republicans immediately called for an impeachment.

In a sense, Johnson destroyed his own presidency, legacy, and reputation by not compromising with his opponents, which became apparent that he had his own selfish desires for the Constitution. In February 1868, the House of Representatives voted to impeach President Johnson with 126 to 47 votes, making him the first president to be impeached. A vote in the Senate would decide the fate of Johnson's presidency. If 2/3 of the Senate voted to convict him, the Johnson presidency would be over. Tickets were sold as if it were the Olympics today. Washington D.C.'s high society got all dressed up as well as members of the military and diplomats from foreign nations to watch the impeachment. In the end, Johnson retained the presidency by a single vote. By that time, the 1868 election had begun, but because of his stubbornness, Johnson would not be nominated for the Democratic nomination. He refuse to attend President Ulysses S. Grant’s inauguration and finally ended his presidency in disgrace.


In the end, it was clear that he was no Lincoln. Andrew Johnson would die on July 31, 1875, a few months after being elected to the very place he was nearly convicted in the Senate. He was the first and only president ever to do so. By giving making Congress the dominant branch during his presidency, that body of government would remain dominant and thus a series of weak presidents would follow.  


  • Some conspiracy theorists believe that Johnson was involved in Lincoln's assassination; Approximately seven hours before shooting President Lincoln, John Wilkes Booth dropped by the Washington hotel which was Vice-President Andrew Johnson's residence. Upon learning from the desk clerk that neither Johnson nor his private secretary, William A. Browning, was in the hotel, Booth wrote the following note: "Don't wish to disturb you Are you at home? J. Wilkes Booth." Browning testified before the military court that he found the note in his box later that afternoon. Did Johnson and Booth know each other? In the 1997 publication "Right or Wrong, God Judge Me" The Writings of John Wilkes Booth edited by John Rhodehamel and Louise Taper it is stated on p. 146 that Booth had previously met Johnson in Nashville in February 1864. At the time Booth was appearing in the newly opened Wood's Theatre. Also, author Hamilton Howard in Civil War Echoes (1907) made the claim that while Johnson was military governor of Tennessee, he and Booth kept a couple of sisters as mistresses and oftentimes were seen in each other's company.  Lincoln had essentially ignored Johnson after Johnson's embarrassing behavior on Inauguration Day. Mary Todd Lincoln felt Johnson was involved in her husband's assassination. On March 15th, 1866; she wrote to her friend, Sally Orne: "that, that miserable inebriate Johnson, had cognizance of my husband's death Why, was that card of Booth's, found in his box, some acquaintance certainly existed I have been deeply impressed, with the harrowing thought, that he, had an understanding with the conspirators & they knew their man. As sure, as you & I live, Johnson, had some hand, in all this." Some members of Congress also thought Johnson was involved and a special Assassination Committee was established to investigate any evidence linking Johnson to Lincoln's death. Nothing suspicious was ever found by the committee, yet a belief by some Americans that Johnson was somehow involved with Booth continued for many years. 
  • He is the first of only three presidents in United States history to be impeached, with the next two presidents being Bill Clinton in 1998 and Donald Trump in 2019 and again in 2021, while John Tyler and Richard Nixon only faced similar impeachment charges without officially getting impeached.
  • He was the first vice president to become president by the assassination of his predecessor, which was Abraham Lincoln.
  • Similar to Lyndon B. Johnson, Andrew was the first Johnson to become president after the previous president's assassination.
  • He was the last president to skip his successor’s inauguration until Woodrow Wilson, who was disabled by a stroke and was too sick to attend Warren G. Harding’s inauguration.
  • He was the only president to serve in the Senate after his presidency ended.
  • Last Democratic president until Grover Cleveland.