Failure of Democracy

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Failure of Democracy

According to David Herbert Donald in the article Why They Impeached Andrew Johnson, “Rarely has democratic government so completely failed as during the Reconstruction decade.” As voiced by Lincoln in his Gettysburg Address, the nation is a “government of the people, by the people, and for the people.” However, during the period of reconstruction, the government was far from this philosophy. Public opinion was all but ignored, and all matters were decided by either President or Congress. Southern voice in government policy was essentially nonexistent, and the former states were compelled by military rule to accept northern laws.

Lincoln understood that in a democratic nation, the will of the public was very important, and he strove to act in accordance with their opinions. However, with the death of Lincoln, came a temporary end to these democratic principles. Andrew Johnson’s fundamental flaw was his inability to associate with the public and make decisions that were countenanced by a majority of the population. He was overly concerned with a swift integration of the former Confederacy into the Union. He acted spontaneously and irrationally without regard for other’s beliefs. “Johnson placed his own judgment over that of the overwhelming majority of northern voters, and this was a great error morally and tactically” (Garraty 421).

Another mistake of Johnson was his alienation of the Republicans, the dominant party at the time. He consistently failed to cooperate with party leaders and agree on mutual resolutions to urgent problems that necessitated action. Johnsonian Reconstruction avoided the most controversial topic at the time – black rights. Nearly all Republicans, ranging from moder...

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...uction era, democracy in the United States was completely unsuccessful, and most of the reason for this failure can be attributed to Andrew Johnson. A democratic government is meant to be indirectly run by the people, thus it is essential for their views to be considered. However, Johnson completely disregarded their opinions, and strove in vain to accomplish his own objectives. By doing this he alienated potential allies and his entire plan for reconstruction was disastrous. “Andrew John’s greatest weakness was his insensitivity to public opinion. In contrast to Lincoln, who said, ‘Public opinion in this country is everything,’ Johnson made a career of battling the popular will” (Donald 4). Johnson’s lack of political sagacity, his inability to cooperate with others, and his indifference to the will of the majority ultimately led to the downfall of democracy.
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