10 Things You Should Know About Andrew Johnson

U.S. President Andrew Johnson

Andrew Johnson facts

Quick Facts about Andrew Johnson

Born – December 29, 1808, Raleigh, North Carolina

Death – July 31, 1875, Elizabethton, Tennessee

Parents – Jacob Johnson and Mary (“Polly”) McDonough

Spouse – Eliza McCardle Johnson (married in 1827)

Children – Martha, Charles, Mary, Robert, and Andrew Jr.

Political Party – Democratic Party

U.S. Vice President – March 4, 1865 – April 15, 1865

U.S. President – 17th president of the United State (April 15, 1865 – March 4, 1869)

Predecessor – Abraham Lincoln

SuccessorUlysses S. Grant

Commonly dubbed as the man who struggled to fill the large boots left behind by Abraham Lincoln, President Andrew Johnson was in power from April 1865 to March 1869.

He holds the unpopular honor of being the first White House holder to suffer impeachment proceedings. What else do you know about Andrew Johnson? The article below contains the top 10 things you should know about America’s 17th President Andrew Johnson:

He had no formal education

Andrew Johnson’s childhood was definitely one full of challenges. At just the age of three, Johnson lost his father. Owing to this, and many more other factors, Andrew Johnson was unable to enrol in any school throughout his childhood. Wanting to make something out of his life, he took to tutoring himself, reading every material that he could lay his hand on. In spite of the tough conditions life threw at him, he went on to become a very successful tailor in Greeneville, Tennessee.

He came from an extremely humble beginning

Andrew Johnson facts | President Andrew Johnson’s childhood home, located at the Mordecai Historic Park in Raleigh, North Carolina

Born in Raleigh, North Carolina, Andrew Johnson grew up in an economically disadvantaged family. Both his parents were illiterate. To make matters worse, his father died of a heart attack when Johnson was just a toddler. Poverty blanketed the Johnsons for a very a long time. In order to lighten the burden on the family, his mother Polly Johnson remarried.

For Andrew Johnson to rise all the way up to the highest office of the land speaks volumes of his character and hard work.

Andrew Johnson spent two years as an indentured servant

Indentured servitude was pretty much common in the 1800s, especially among the have-nots. In Andrew Johnson’s case, his indentured trade occurred in a tailoring shop. Johnson, 10, and his brother, William, were sent away after his mother remarried. After two grueling years of servitude, Johnson and his brother made a break for freedom. Interestingly, it was a crime back then for an apprentice/indentured servant to leave his/her post. And in spite of his master’s (James Selby) 10-dollar reward on their capture, the two brothers were never apprehended.

He got married to a 16-year-old named Eliza McCardle

Eliza McCardle Johnson

Andrew Johnson facts | US First Lady Eliza McCardle Johnson – wife of President Andrew Johnson

After fleeing his master’s tailoring shop in Raliegh, Johnson moved to Tennessee. It was during time that he caught the attention of a 16-year-old girl called Eliza McCardle. Johnson, 18, went on to marry Eliza in 1827. The couple’s marriage lasted for a whopping 50 years, bringing forth five children in the process.

He was in his early 20s when he got elected a mayor

Andrew Johnson first public office came when he served as the alderman in Greeneville. After that, the 22-year-old Andrew Johnson was elected mayor. He stayed on as mayor for four solid years.

Boosted by the experiences gained, he contested and won a seat in the Tennessee House of Representatives in 1835.

Johnson was an extremely successful tailor and businessman

Historians state that Eliza had a huge impact on Johnson’s early life. She even helped him improve his mathematics and writing skills. This was evident during the first decade of their marriage, where Johnson’s tailoring business grew tremendously. The future president of America also made some amount of fortune in the real estate business.

He was the only Southerner to serve in the U.S. Senate during the American Civil War

Between 1843 and 1853, Johnson served in the U.S. House. He followed this up with a two two-year term as governor of Tennessee (1853-1857). Then in 1857, he secured a seat in the U.S. Senate. This was around the same time were the issue of slavery had reached epic proportions. Andrew Johnson did indeed lend his support to the Fugitive Slave Act – an act which compelled the North to return runaway slaves back to their masters in the South.

In spite of his support to his native South, Andrew Johnson chose to remain in the Senate, supporting efforts to keep the Union together. He was the only southern Senator to do this after the South seceded in droves from the Union in 1861.

MORE: 10 Most Famous People of the American Civil War

Andrew Johnson backed efforts to preserve the Union

About a year into the Civil War, Andrew Johnson was appointed to the position of Military Governor of Tennessee by President Abraham Lincoln. For turning his back on the South, his properties and holdings were seized by the Confederates.  Regardless, he continued to fight for the Union’s aspirations and goals. He even attained the rank of Brigadier General in the Union’s army.

In a bid to lend a reconciliatory hand to the South, Lincoln picked Johnson as his running mate in 1864.

He was on the hit list of the conspirators who killed Lincoln

U.S. President Andrew Johnson

A n 1860 election campaign poster for the Lincoln and Johnson ticket by Currier and Ives

Upon the assassination of President Lincoln in April, 1865, Andrew Johnson was catapulted to the office of the presidency. It was later revealed that the John Wilkes Booth-led team of conspirators who killed Lincoln intended killing Johnson as well. George Atzerodt, the man to take out Johnson, had some sort of cold feet and decided not to go ahead with the assassination.

He was nicknamed “The Veto President”

With the Civil War over, the South were committed to a set of Reconstruction exercises. The radical Republicans in the country wanted harsher punitive measures imposed on the South. However, Johnson vehemently refused doing so. Johnson stuck to Lincoln’s directive for the Reconstruction era; he chose to implement less harsh Reconstruction programs in the South.

As a result of the path he took, he constantly had to battle with Congress, which was by then dominated by radical Republicans. Johnson went ahead to veto virtually all the acts passed by Congress, including the Civil Rights Act of 1866.

Owing to his frequent usage of presidential veto, he was nicknamed “The Veto President”.

Andrew Johnson was the first U.S. President to be impeached

Had it not been for a single vote in the U.S. Senate, President Andrew Johnson would have gotten the sack. Regardless of his narrow escape, his reputation is somewhat tarnished by the fact that he was the first U.S. president to suffer impeachment proceedings by Congress.

The genesis of Johnson’s impeachment came about after he violated the Tenure of Office Act of 1867. The act forbade the president from removing cabinet members from office. Johnson tried to show Congress who was boss by firing his Secretary of War, Edwin Stanton, in 1868. Stanton was replaced with Civil War hero General Ulysses S. Grant (later 18th U.S. President).

The House was completely livid and went ahead to approve impeachment proceedings against Johnson. When the case reached the floor of the Senate, Johnson was able to avoid his own sack because of Senator Edmund G. Ross’ vote.

Read More: Complete list of U.S. Presidents that have faced impeachment proceedings


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