The Authentic History Center Your current position is:
home > 1865-1897 > reconstruction > johnson
The Andrew Johnson Administration: 1865-1869
curve
The Andrew Johnson Administration (Democrat-Union, 1865-1869; became president following Lincoln's Assassination)
Andrew Johnson was chosen to be Abraham Lincoln's running mate for the President's reelection bid in 1864 for political reasons. Johnson, a Southerner, belonged to the Democratic-Union Party, and was the only senator from a seceding state to remain in congress. Lincoln reasoned that putting Johnson on the ticket would broaden his political base by attracting border-state Unionists and northern Democrats. It was never intended that Johnson would ever become President. Less than a month after Lincoln's second inauguration, however, the bullet fired by presidential assassin John Wilkes Booth put Johnson in the oval office. Johnson had some prejudices that quickly put him at odds with leading congressional Republicans. Though he had eventually accepted Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation while still military governor of Tennessee in 1863, he did so only as a necessary war measure. In reality, Johnson held strict racist views and believed in the intellectual superiority of Whites over Blacks. Johnson also had a reverence for the Constitution and believed in a strict interpretation of the document.
Andrew Johnson
Andrew Johnson
Issue: Reconstruction
When Johnson was sworn in , the war was over, but the enormous task of Reconstruction loomed before him. Congress was not scheduled to convene until December 1865, which gave Johnson eight months to pursue his own Reconstruction policies. Johnson believed that the Confederate states had never technically left the Union, and he wanted their immediate restoration to the Union. He also wanted to maintain White supremacy in the South. He issued several proclamations, elections were held in the South, and by the time Congress convened in December, many of the Southern state governments were made up of former Confederates (including Confederate President Jefferson Davis) who refused to repeal their succession ordinances or abolish slavery. Instead, they had passed "black codes"; state and local laws that kept freed blacks in a state of virtual slavery.
Thomas Nast cartoon, "Pardon--Franchise," August 5, 1865
Thomas Nast cartoon, "Pardon--Franchise," August 5, 1865 (2 views)
Andersonville cartoon
The Contrast of Suffering : Andersonville & Fortress Monroe, Harper's Weekly, June 30, 1866
by Thomas Nast
The Republicans in the new Congress who would control the forthcoming Reconstruction legislation were divided into two groups. The larger group were the moderates, who believed in some form of military occupation of the South, but not in land confiscation. The second group were the Radical Republicans. Led by Thaddeus Stevens, the Radicals opposed such accommodation. Their agenda included civil rights for blacks and a much harsher treatment of the South.

The Radicals set the tone of the new congress by having the House clerk pass over the names of all Southerners during the first roll call. Johnson might have controlled the minority Radical Republicans by working with the majority moderate Republicans, but he missed his opportunity. When the moderates worked to write reasonable civil rights legislation, including the Freedman's Bureau, Johnson vetoed the bills. He also opposed the 14th Amendment on the grounds that the Constitution should not be changed without representation from the Southern States. His strict views on race and the Constitution wouldn't allow him to compromise.In addition to the moderates and the radicals, there were also conservative Republicans. During the midterm elections in 1866, Johnson sought to win over these conservatives. He made a series of speeches in the West in which he blamed the Radicals for a race riot in New Orleans.
Thaddeus Stevens
Thaddeus Stevens
This backfired, and the election results saw the Radicals gain seats. As a result of Johnson's beliefs and actions, power shifted to the Radicals, who quickly took control of Reconstruction. The new Congress convened immediately so that Johnson would not be left alone in Washington for most of a year to again pursue his own agenda. They passed a series of Reconstruction Acts, which entailed the following:

* Creation of five military districts in the seceded states (not including Tennessee, which had ratified the 14th Amendment and was readmitted to the Union).

* Required congressional approval for new state constitutions (which were required for Confederate states to rejoin the Union).
* Confederate states gave voting rights to all men

* All states must ratify the 14th Amendment. Johnson vetoed each of the acts, but the new congress had the votes to override his vetoes. There was now a stalemate between congress and the President. The Radicals soon came to the conclusion that Reconstruction was impossible while Johnson remained in the White House. Having displayed his stubbornness numerous times through his presidential vetoes, the Radicals set a trap for him. Most of the cabinet members who had been chosen by Lincoln had resigned over their differences with the new president. Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton, however, had stayed on, mainly to be a thorn in the side of Johnson. Congress set a trap for Johnson by passing the Tenure of Office Act, which said that the President much seek approval of Congress to fire any person in a position who hiring had been approved by Congress. Eventually, Johnson fired Stanton in open defiance of Congress, who then impeached the President for having broken the law.
Johnson kicks Blacks out of the Freedman's Bureau by his veto, by Thomas Nast, Harper's Weekly, April 14, 1866
Johnson kicks Blacks out of the Freedman's Bureau by his veto, by Thomas Nast, Harper's Weekly, April 14, 1866
Reconstruction Cartoons & Engravings
Vicksburg, Mississippi, Freedman's Bureau School, 1866 woodcut
Vicksburg, Mississippi, Freedman's Bureau School, 1866 woodcut
Anti-Freedman's Bureau Campaign Ad, Pensylvania, 1866
Anti-Freedman's Bureau Campaign Ad, Pennsylvania, 1866
"The Riot in New Orleans," Harper's Weekly, August 25, 1866
"The Riot in New Orleans," Harper's Weekly, August 25, 1866
Reconstruction and How it Works
"Reconstruction and How it Works," Harper's, September 1, 1866
"The Tearful Convention," Harper's Weekly, September 29, 1866
"The Tearful Convention," Harper's Weekly, September 29, 1866
"King Andy," Harper's Weekly, November 3, 1866
"King Andy," Harper's Weekly, November 3, 1866
Reconstruction Dose
"Reconstruction Dose," Leslies, 1867
"The Georgetown Election--The Negro at the Ballot Box," Harper's Weekly, March 16, 1867
"The Georgetown Election--The Negro at the Ballot Box," Harper's Weekly, March 16, 1867
"The First Vote," Harper's Weekly, November 11, 1867
"The First Vote," Harper' Weekly, November 11, 1867
"That Baby Won't Talk at Present," Harper's Weekly, February 15, 1868
"That Baby Won't Talk at Present," Harper's Weekly, February 15, 1868
Harper's Weekly
COMPLETE ISSUE
Harper's Weekly, June 20, 1868
"The Freedman's Bureau," Harper's Weekly, July 25, 1868
"The Freedman's Bureau," Harper's Weekly, July 25, 1868
"Electioneering In The South," Harper's Weekly, July 25, 1868
"Electioneering In The South," Harper's Weekly, July 25, 1868
"One Less Vote," Harper's Weekly, August 8, 1868
"One Less Vote," Harper's Weekly, August 8, 1868
Ku Klux Klan warning to Northern carpetbaggers, printed in the Tuscaloosa Independent Monitor, September 1, 1868
Ku Klux Klan warning to Northern carpetbaggers, Tuscaloosa Independent Monitor, September 1, 1868
"This is a White Man's Government," Harper's Weekly, September 5, 1868
"This is a White Man's Government," Harper's Weekly, September 5, 1868
"The Modern Samson," Harper's Weekly, October 3, 1868
"The Modern Samson," Harper's Weekly, October 3, 1868
     
 
"The Paroquet of the WH__E HO__E," March 21, 1868, Harper's Weekly
"The Paroquet of the WH__E HO__E," March 21, 1868, Harper's Weekly
Issue: Impeachment
A lengthy trial followed in the Senate. Though the evidence against Johnson was clear, politics weighed heavily on the outcome. Johnson worked behind the scenes to make deals with some Senators. Some voted for acquittal because they despised the man who would become president if Johnson were convicted (the ultra radical Benjamin F. Wade of Ohio, who was president pro tempore of the Senate). Others feared that a conviction would undermine the division of power between the three branches of government. There were a series of charges, and the closest Johnson came to conviction on any of them was on the eleventh article. The vote on that charge was 35-19 in favor of conviction, one vote short of the required two-thirds majority.

Johnson's national political career ended shortly after the trial, but he remained extremely popular in his native state of Tennessee, and voters there returned him to the Senate in 1875. He died in office a few months later. Because of Johnson's racist views and their contribution to White supremacy in the South, historians tend to view his administration as a failure.
 
Impeachment Gallery
Johnson's Impeachment Committee
Johnson's Impeachment Committee
Johnson Impeachment Trial Ticket
Johnson Impeachment Trial Ticket
Johnson Impeachment Trial PaintingJohnson Impeachment Trial Painting "Effect of the Vote on the Eleventh Article of Impeachment," Harper's Weekly, May 30, 1868
"Effect of the Vote on the Eleventh Article of Impeachment," Harper's Weekly, May 30, 1868
radio
sound You Are There radio show excerpt from 1947
| top |
Creative Commons License
 
curve
curve
curve

Privacy Policy | Copyright © AuthenticHistory.com | Last modified July 20, 2012