Cambridge Encyclopedia » Cambridge Encyclopedia Vol. 5

Andrew Johnson - Early life, Early political career, Presidency 1865-1869, Post-Presidency, Trivia, Bibliography

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US statesman and 17th president (1865–9), born in Raleigh, North Carolina, USA. Poor, self-educated but ambitious, he moved to Tennessee (1826) to pursue the tailor's trade. He saved enough money and soon entered politics, becoming an advocate of labour and popular democracy against the claims of birth and wealth. Beginning as an alderman, he worked his way up to represent Tennessee in the US House of Representatives (Democrat, 1843–53), and became governor (1853–7), then US senator (1857–62). Although he had defended slavery, he refused to accept secession, and his courageous stand led Lincoln to appoint him military governor of Tennessee and then to select him as vice-president for the 1864 election. His presence undoubtedly helped the beleaguered Lincoln to be re-elected. Becoming president on Lincoln's assassination (1865), he attempted to pursue the conciliatory reconstruction policies Lincoln had envisioned, but was increasingly thwarted by Radical Republican desires for revenge. The conflict finally led to an 1868 congressional impeachment of Johnson, but he survived by one vote. He left office embittered and in disgrace, but later found a measure of exoneration, and regained his Senate seat five months before his death.

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