Introduction: Andrew Johnson was the 18th President of United States. He is most famous for taking over reins of presidency in the aftermath of tragic assassination of Abraham Lincoln. Johnson was born on December 29, 1808 in a poor family in Raleigh, North Carolina. His father Jacob Johnson was town constable and died of heart attack when Andrew Johnson was only 3 years old.
His mother worked as a laundress and washerwoman to earn bread for the family. Johnson lived a life of poverty and was raised in Raleigh. Early in life he learnt to be a tailor and worked in North and South Carolina. In late 1820s Johnson moved to Greenville, Tennessee, where he setup a successful tailoring business and married Eliza McCardle. His wife tutored him in mathematics and written expression. When his business thrived, Johnson spent more time in reading books and debating.
Political Career: Andrew Johnson started his political career in 1829 by participating in Greenville municipal elections. He ran successfully for Tennessee House of Representatives in 1835. In 1839 he joined Democratic Party and became a vocal advocate of the party. In 1840 he became a presidential elector from Tennessee and was elected to Tennessee Senate in 1841.
In 1843 he was elected as a member of US House of Representatives and served till 1853. He was known as a voice of anti-abolition during his time in US Congress. In 1853 he was pitched as their candidate in gubernatorial elections in Tennessee. He won the race and served as the Governor of Tennessee till 1857. After relinquishing the post of governor, he rejoined US Congress as a Senator.
Military Governorship: When Tennessee seceded from the union, Andrew Johnson decided to stay back in Washington D.C as a senator. He was the only politician from South to remain loyal to Union. President Lincoln rewarded him by appointing him military governor of Tennessee in 1862 after central and western Tennessee was recovered from Confederate control. During this time, Johnson remained very close to Lincoln and was instrumental in convincing Lincoln of exempting Tennessee from the coverage of Emancipation Proclamation in 1863.
Vice Presidency: Lincoln chose Johnson as his running mate in Presidential Elections of 1864. After serving a little over a month as vice president, Johnson had to assume the responsibilities as president after Lincoln’s assassination. A few months after his ascension, the civil war ended with a thumping union victory.
Johnson’s role during the era of reconstruction is criticized by many as overly soft towards rebels. He paid little attention to the welfare of freed slaves and was more concerned about rehabilitation of rebel states and leaders. This created a rift between Johnson and Radical Republicans, who controlled the Congress. He was also accused of ignoring the tragic assassination of Lincoln.
Impeachment: Johnson’s reconstruction policy was in direct conflict with Radicals. He vetoed many Congressional bills and was despised by the Congress. They accused him of abusing his power. After Johnson dismissed his powerful Secretary of War, Edwin Stanton, his relations with Congress worsened. US House of Representatives impeached him in February, 1868. He was however, saved by the Senate that decided against impeaching him with only a one vote difference. He completed his term in 1868. He was the first and one of only two US Presidents ever to be impeached.
Later Life: After his presidency, Johnson returned to Greenville, Tennessee and ran unsuccessfully twice for US Congress. He was elected as a Senator in 1875 but died after a few months on July 31, 1875 after suffering a stroke at his daughter’s farm at Elizabethton, Tennessee.