Andrew Johnson! Andrew Johnson was the 17th President of the United States, serving from 1865 to 1869. Johnson became president as he was vice president at the time of the assassination of Abraham Lincoln.

Andrew Johnson was the first American president to be impeached. Andrew was the only Southern senator to remain loyal to the Union. When Abraham Lincoln got murdered Johnson took a moderate approach to restoring the South to the Union, and clashed with the Republicans. In 1868, he was impeached by congress.

To save the Union.

Johnson, who grew up poor and never attended school, was apprenticed to a tailor by his early teens. Johnson married Eliza McCardle (1810-1876), the daughter of a shoemaker. The couple had five children. Eliza Johnson helped her husband improve his rudimentary reading and writing skills, and tutored him in math. Over time, Andrew Johnson became prosperous enough to buy property and acquire several African-American slaves, who worked in his home. Johnson tried, with mixed success, to re-establish federal authority in Tennessee.

Johnson himself escaped death, because the assassin Booth’s original plot had also targeted the vice president and U.S. Secretary of State William Seward (1801-1872). Seward was attacked but survived, while Johnson’s assigned assailant, George Azterodt (1835-1865), lost his nerve at the last minute and did not go after Johnson. Johnson granted amnesty to most former Confederates and allowed the rebel states to elect new governments. Governments, which often included ex-Confederate officials, soon enacted black codes, measures designed to control and repress the recently freed slave population.

Johnson vetoed the Freedmen’s Bureau bill and the Civil Rights bill, legislation aimed at protecting blacks. That same year, when Congress passed the 14th Amendment granting citizenship to blacks, the president urged Southern states not to ratify it (the amendment nevertheless was ratified in July 1868). The House of Representatives voted to impeach Johnson. Among the 11 charges, he was accused of violating the Tenure of Office Act by suspending Secretary of War Edwin Stanton (1814-1869), who opposed Johnson’s Reconstruction policies. He persisted and won election to the Senate in 1875. Johnson was the only ex-president to accomplish this feat; however, his Senate tenure was brief. He died at age 66 on July 31, 1875, after suffering a stroke while visiting family in Carter County, Tennessee.

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Krista Gibson

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