The Seventeenth President of the United States of America and Vice-President to Abraham Lincoln
Series on Presidential Slavery
Andrew Johnson was the 17th president of the United States, serving from 1865 to 1869. He assumed the presidency as he was vice president at the time of the assassination of Abraham Lincoln. Johnson was a Democrat who ran with Lincoln on the National Union ticket, coming to office as the Civil War concluded. He favored quick restoration of the seceded states to the Union without protection for the former slaves. This led to conflict with the Republican-dominated Congress, culminating in his impeachment by the House of Representatives in 1868. He was acquitted in the Senate by one vote
Johnson was born in poverty in Raleigh, North Carolina and never attended school. He was apprenticed as a tailor and worked in several frontier towns before settling in Greeneville, Tennessee. He served as alderman and mayor there before being elected to the Tennessee House of Representatives in 1835. After brief service in the Tennessee Senate, Johnson was elected to the House of Representatives in 1843, where he served five two-year terms. He became governor of Tennessee for four years, and was elected by the legislature to the Senate in 1857.
In 1842, Andrew Johnson was a Tennessee State Senator when he bought his first slave. A Bill of Sale reveals that Andrew Johnson paid $541.00 for Sam, a youth “about thirteen years of age.” On January 3, 1843, Johnson paid $500.00 to purchase Sam’s half-sister, Dolly. She was “about nineteen.” Fourteen years later, on May 6, 1857, Johnson paid $1015.00 for Henry, another youth “about thirteen years of age.” With chilling insensitivity, all were warranted to be “sound, healthy, sensible, and a slave for life.” Henry would later accompany the Johnson family to the White House.
In late July 1875, he suffered a stroke, but refused medical treatment until the next day, when he did not improve and two doctors were sent for from Elizabethton. He suffered another stroke on the evening of July 30, and died early the following morning at the age of 66.
Johnson is among those commonly mentioned as the worst presidents in U.S. history. The maintenance of white supremacy. His boost to Southern conservatives by undermining Reconstruction was his legacy to the nation, one that would trouble the country for generations to come.
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