Andrew Johnson, the 17th President of the United States, was born on December 29, 1808, in Raleigh, North Carolina. Growing up in poverty with no formal schooling, Johnson taught himself to read and write. At a young age, his mother apprenticed him to a local tailor. After several years of work, Johnson ran away from his apprenticeship, dodging the rewards his employer put up for his return. Johnson later moved his family West to Greenville, Tennessee, where he established a prosperous tailoring business.
Johnson’s interest in politics, coupled with his strong oratory skills, led him to seek and win several elected positions. He gained the support of working class and rural voters with his common-man approach, and quickly rose to serve in the Tennessee state government. In 1843, Johnson was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives, serving five terms. In 1853, Johnson was elected to his first of two terms as Governor of Tennessee. As governor, Johnson supported investments in education and holding state fairs to benefit farmers and craftsmen. In 1857, Johnson was elected to the U.S. Senate, and was the only member from seceded states to remain in the chamber. As his Senate term came to an end in 1862, President Lincoln appointed him as Military Governor of Tennessee.
In the Presidential Election of 1864, Johnson, a Southern Democrat, was selected as Lincoln’s running mate under the banner of the National Union Party. Johnson’s inclusion on the presidential ticket sent the message about hope for union within the country. The Lincoln-Johnson ticket prevailed, and Johnson was sworn in as Vice President on March 4, 1865. A little more than a month later, on April 15, 1865, Johnson was thrust into office after Lincoln’s assassination.
After taking office, Johnson began implementing his plan for reconstruction. He insisted on more stringent terms of surrender for the confederacy and offered rewards for the capture of confederate leaders. Johnson offered amnesty to all white southerners who took an oath of allegiance, and required Southern leaders and men of wealth to obtain a special Presidential pardon. Johnson appointed Provisional Governors in the Southern states, tasking them with overseeing the implementation of his plans for reconstruction, until newly elected governments were in place.
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