Perhaps the most contentious executive to take office upon the death of a president, Andrew Johnson succeeded Abraham Lincoln to become the 17th President. Johnson’s tenure came on the heals of the Civil War and the country was thrust into the period known as Reconstruction.

Prior to becoming vice president, Johnson was a major politician from Tennessee. He served as one of the state’s delegates to the House of Representatives, became governor of the state and ultimately the only Senator from the South to not resign when war broke out. After his home state was occupied by Union troops, Lincoln put him in charge as military governor, helping to implement Reconstruction policies.

Despite being a Democrat, Johnson was nominated for vice president beside Lincoln in an effort to unify the North. Serving a mere month after being elected, Lincoln’s assassination in 1865 thrust him into the role of commander-in-chief.

Instead of following the path of Reconstruction Lincoln had put in place, Johnson went a different direction, paying closer attention to finding the best way to reincorporate the South into the Union rather than the best way to work for the rights of freed men. This caused a major rift between his presidency and the Radical Republicans in the House of Representatives. When he moved to remove the Secretary of War, the Senate moved in for impeachment. During his trial, he was acquitted by a single vote.

Due to these issues and the fact that he refused to toe party line, siding with the National Union Party over the Democrats, he could not run for reelection. Instead, he chose to make a bid for Tennessee Senate again, which too failed. He left office in 1869 and continued to tour the country as an orator, defending the actions of his presidency. Johnson is consistently ranked among the worst presidents in history.

White House: Andrew Johnson

Similar Posts: