-Andrew Johnson (1808-1875), the first president to be impeached, became chief executive upon the assassination of Abraham Lincoln.
-Boyhood. Andrew Johnson was born in Raleigh, North Carolina, on Dec. 29, 1808. His father, Jacob Johnson, worked as a handyman in a tavern. Andrew's mother, Mary McDonough Johnson, was a maid in the tavern.
-Tailor's apprentice. Andrew's mother apprenticed him to a tailor when he was 13 years old. The shop foreman probably taught him to read. Tailors usually employed someone to read to the workers as they sat at their tables stitching clothes. Andrew became familiar with the Constitution, American history, and politics through reading newspapers and a few books.
-Johnson's family. On May 17, 1827, Johnson married Eliza McCardle (Oct. 4, 1810-Jan. 15, 1876), the daughter of a Scottish shoemaker. She taught him to write and to solve simple problems in arithmetic. She also encouraged him to read and to study. The Johnsons had five children.
-Local and state offices. In 1829, the year Jackson became president, Johnson won his first election. He became a Greeneville alderman along with a tanner and a plasterer. In 1834, Johnson became mayor. In 1835, the voters elected him to the Tennessee House of Representatives. There, he opposed a bill for state assistance in the construction of railroads because he feared dishonesty, monopolies, and wasteful spending. But Johnson represented eastern Tennessee, which needed railroads because of its mountainous isolation. His vote contributed to his defeat for reelection in 1837, the first of only two times in his 45-year political career that he ever lost a popular vote.
-U.S. representative. In 1843, Johnson won the first of five terms in the U.S. House of Representatives.
-Governor. Johnson ran successfully for governor of Tennessee in 1853. As governor, he favored laws to provide free public education. He also fought unsuccessfully the use of prison labor to compete with free labor. His courage and speaking skill were valuable in the rough and tumble politics of the day.
-U.S. senator. In 1857, Johnson returned to Washington as a U.S. senator and continued to push for the Homestead Act. It finally passed in 1862, after the Civil War had begun and Southerners had resigned from Congress.
-Military governor of Tennessee. Union armies gained a foothold in western Tennessee early in 1862. Then Lincoln appointed Johnson military governor of the state, an unusual position designed to give Johnson extensive civil and military authority. His main task was to organize the loyal Unionists, assure their protection, hold free elections, and restore federal authority in the state.
-Vice president. Johnson was ideally suited to run as a vice presidential candidate with Lincoln in 1864. He had strongly supported the Union, he was a Southerner, and he was a leading member of the War Democrats. The War Democrats were Democrats who had been loyal to Lincoln throughout the war.
-Lincoln's Assassination. On April 14, only six weeks after the inauguration, Lincoln was assassinated. The next morning, Johnson took the presidential oath of office in his hotel room.
-Plans for Reconstruction. Lincoln had not firmly decided the details of a Reconstruction plan at the time of his death. His wartime plan filled a temporary need but was not adequate for a postwar solution. Lincoln would have expected as a minimum assurances of future loyalty, recognition of the end of slavery, and protection for Southern Unionists and blacks. Widely regarded as a moderate, he could favor restricting rebel leaders without desiring punishment.
-Break with Congress. Many Northerners questioned Johnson's plan, especially after the beginning of 1866. They doubted the fitness of the Southern States for readmission because of reports of violence against blacks and their white supporters, the passing of laws unfair to blacks, and the frequent election of former Confederate leaders. When Congress met in December 1865, it rejected Johnson's plan and would not seat the newly elected Southern congressmen, and some congressmen criticized Johnson's plan.
-Increased tension developed after March 2, 1867, when Congress passed two laws that Johnson considered unconstitutional. One law was the First Reconstruction Act, which put the Southern States under military rule and established strict requirements for their readmission to the Union. This act also disfranchised the rebels whom the proposed 14th Amendment prohibited from holding office. It did this by barring these people from voting to elect delegates to new state constitutional conventions and from serving as convention delegates. The other law was the Tenure of Office Act. It required Senate approval before the president could fire members of his Cabinet and other officials who had been confirmed by the Senate. Johnson vetoed both of these acts, but Congress repassed them.
-Impeachment had long been a goal of the Radicals. On Feb. 24, 1868, the House of Representatives voted 126 to 47 to impeach Johnson. On March 2 and March 3, the House adopted 11 articles of impeachment. The most important articles were the first, which charged that the president had violated the Tenure of Office Act by dismissing Stanton, and the 11th, which claimed that he had conspired against Congress and the Constitution. This charge cited Johnson's claim that Congress did not properly represent all the states.
On May 16, the Senate voted on the 11th article. Because it charged a general intent to obstruct the will of Congress, Johnson's opponents believed it had the best chance of passing. Senator James Grimes of Iowa, stricken with paralysis, came in on a stretcher and voted "not guilty." The roll call vote lasted over an hour, and the outcome was in doubt until the very end. The final tally of 35 "guilty" and 19 "not guilty" acquitted Johnson by one vote. Ten days later, following the Republican National Convention, the Senate voted on the second and third articles, with the same result. The Senate took no further votes, and the trial was over. The verdict ensured that something more serious than political opposition to Congress would be necessary to justify removing a president from office.
-Life in the White House became livelier during Johnson's administration than it had been during the gloomy war years. The household included the Johnson's two surviving sons, Robert and Andrew; their daughters, Mrs. Mary Stover and Mrs. Martha Patterson; Mrs. Patterson's husband, Senator D. T. Patterson of Tennessee; and the president's five grandchildren. The children played and had many parties in the White House.
-The final months of Johnson's administration after the impeachment trial were uneventful. He hoped the Democrats would nominate him for president in 1868. But they chose former Governor Horatio Seymour of New York, who lost to General Ulysses S. Grant.
-Death. During a visit to Tennessee, Johnson suffered a paralytic stroke. He died a few days later, on July 31, 1875. Johnson was buried in Greeneville, wrapped in a U.S. flag and with his well-worn copy of the Constitution under his head.
Sefton, James E."Johnson, Andrew." World Book Advanced. World Book, 2013.