Andrew JohnsonAndrew Johnson was born on December 29, 1808, in Raleigh, NorthCarolina, the youngest of two sons. His father, Jacob Johnson, was a porterwho died in 1811 after saving a man from drowning. His mother, MaryMcDonough Johnson supported the family by spinning and weaving cloth intheir Raleigh cottage.
At the age of 14, Johnson was apprenticed to a tailor. In 1843 Johnson was elected to the U. S. House of Representitives andone for following elections to retain his seat until 1853.
While in the U. S. House, Johnson supported President Polk and his handling of the Texas andOregon settlements and the Mexican War. Although hailing from aSouthern state, Johnson was a staunch supporter of the Constitution overState’s Rights, a position which conflicted with many Southern legislators. Turning his sights back to state politics, Johnson won the 1853 Tennesseeelection and re election in 1855. Johnson’s star continued to rise, and histerm as governor of Tennessee provided such benefits to the state as a publicschool system and a state library.Order now
On the eve of the Civil War in 1857,Johnson was elected to the U. S. Senate. The final act leading to the Civil War occurred during Johnson’sservice in the Senate. Johnson was a Southerner and supported the FugitiveSlave Law and defended slavery.
He also supported Abraham Lincoln’s chiefopponent in the 1860 presidential election, Stephen Douglas. However, healso spoke sternly against both secessionists and abolitionists as dangerousto the existence of the Union and the Constitution. By the 1860 presidentialelection, several Southern states had already formed a confederacy. Abraham Lincoln won the November election winning forty percent of thevotes cast, and in the following April South Carolina batteries bombardedFort Sumter in Charleston Harbor beginning the Civil War. Andrew Johnsonwarned that the dissolution of the Union would produce many minorcountries ruled by various forms of government. In spite of Johnson’s strongsupport of the Constitution and the Union, Tennessee seceded from theUnited States.
Johnson rejected the Confederacy and was the only Southernsenator to remain in the U. S. Senate after secession. Johnson’s support of theUnion won acclaim in the North and infamy in the South.
Eastern Tennesseepossessed strong pro-Union factions, but pro-Confederacy forces from thecentral and western parts of the state secured the state for the South. Whenwar erupted Tennessee was an early battlefield. Union victories in the stateplaced large parts of the state in federal control, and occupied areas wereadministered by appointed military governors. In 1862 President Lincolnappointed Andrew Johnson as military governor of Tennessee.
Johnson ruledwith a firm hand silencing sources of anti-Union sentiment. Johnson held themilitary governorship of Tennessee until 1864. Preparing for the presidentialelection, foreseeing an imminent end to the war, and preparing for are-unification of the nation, President Lincoln urged the Republican Party’sleadership to drop his previous vice-president, Hannibal Hamlin, an ardentabolitionist from Maine, in favor of Johnson, a Southerner and a Democrat. President Lincoln defeated General George McClellan in the 1864 election,and Johnson became vice-president of the United States of America. Johnson took the oath of office in March 1865.
The following monthPresident Lincoln went to Ford’s Theater in Washington for an evening ofentertainment and was assassinated by John Wilkes Booth. Booth was partof a larger conspiracy to assassinate key members of the government. Andrew Johnson was a target of the conspiring assassins, but the assassincharged with killing the vice-president lost heart and did not attempt theassassination. Johnson became president on April 15, 1865. Johnsonmirrored Lincoln’s views on a benevolent period of reconciliation with theSouth after the Civil War. However, there was a strong faction withinJohnson’s inherited cabinet and within the Northern states that favored apolicy of harsh retribution for the rebellious states.
This radical factionwithin the Republican Party overrode Johnson’s plan for reconstruction andsought to destroy the political elements within the South which had beenvery influential before the war. These actions caused resentment in the Southand local opposition to federal legislation. Johnson vetoed many of the harshmeasures passed by Congress, but half of these vetoes were overturned bymajority vote. On July 31, 1875, in Carter’s Station, Tennessee Johnson died.