Andrew Johnson: The Inadequate Replacement after Abraham Lincoln

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Andrew Johnson gives veracity to the aphorism that anyone in America can become President. Born in a small house in the backwoods of North Carolina to practically uneducated parents, Johnson was illiterate until he reached seventeen years of age.1 The only other person to become President with such insufficient formal education was Abraham Lincoln.2 While Lincoln is revered as one of the greatest presidents of the United States, his replacement, Johnson, is classified as one of the most substandard. At the start of the Civil War, Johnson was in his first term as a Tennessee senator. Although he aligned with the proslavery and states’ rights faction of the Democratic Party, he ardently disputed appeals made by other Southerners to secede the Union over the matter of slavery.3 Following Tennessee’s secession from the Union, Johnson withdrew from his home state, making him the only senator of the South to maintain his seat in the Senate.4 Southerners considered Johnson a traitor and, consequently, seized his belongings and forced his family out of the state. Northerners, on the other hand, appreciated Johnson’s position, making him a sudden idol. Lincoln knew that he needed Johnson—a man who supported emancipation as a war measure—to secure his reelection in 1864, which was ultimately a successful strategy.5 Unfortunately, President Lincoln was assassinated by John Wilkes Booth shortly after the conclusion of the Civil War in 1865. Had Booth’s plan gone as he intended, Johnson also would have been murdered; alternatively, he succeeded Lincoln as President.6 While any change in White House leadership influences the country, the transferal from Lincoln to Johnson had the most significant impact. President Andrew Johnson was an adverse ... ... middle of paper ... ..., July 6, 1867, sec. Editorial. (accessed May 18, 2014). Cimbala, Paul (Editor); Miller, Randall M. (Editor). Great Task Remaining Before Us: Reconstruction as America's Continuing Civil War. Bronx, NY: Fordham University Press, 2010. ebrary collections. (accessed May 18, 2014). Slap, Andrew. Doom of Reconstruction: The Liberal Republicans in the Civil War Era. Bronx, NY: Fordham University Press, 2006. ebrary collections. (accessed May 18, 2014). Zoellner, Robert H. "Negro Colonization: The Climate of Opinion Surrounding Lincoln, 1860-1865," Mid-America, XLII (July, 1960), pp. 131-50. Ebrary collections. (accessed May 18, 2014).

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