ANDREW JOHNSON: A BIOGRAPHY
by Hans Trefousse
ISBN 978-0-945707-22-6 $35.00
463 pages including illustrations.
“Andrew Johnson was impeached by the House, but he remained
in office after the roll call for conviction by the Senate fell one vote
short of the necessary two thirds. How and why this happened is the
focal point of most biographies of Johnson, including this one.
Johnson became President at a moment of supreme triumph and
tragedy in American history. Northern victory in the Civil War had
preserved the nation from dismemberment and excised the cancer of slavery.
But overnight the celebrations turned to mourning when John Wilkes Booth
murdered Abraham Lincoln. Without warning or preparations, without
Lincoln's prestige, lacking his predecessor's political genius for employing
flexible means to achieve principled ends, Johnson faced the daunting tasks
of reconstructing a war-torn Union and guiding a slave society in its transition
to freedom. He did so as a Democrat elected by Republicans, a southerner
presiding over a government and nation now dominated by the North, and a
lifelong supporter of slavery at the head of an anti-slavery party.
Johnson proved unequal to the task. His administration was wracked
by three years of escalating conflict with congress which culminated in
impeachment and near conviction...
Johnson was always an outsider battling the establishment,
succeeding against great odds as a champion of the underdog. In ante-bellum
Tennessee he was a Democrat in a Whig state, a spokesman for the common man
against planter domination, a representative of poor and rocky east Tennessee
against the fertile western lowlands. In 1861 he refused to go with
his state into the Confederacy; during the war he ruled a hostile civilian
population as military governor. Johnson was temperamentally incapable
of working within the establishment; during Reconstruction the North and the
Republicans were the establishment. Johnson’s defiance of them was
consistent with his whole career; once again he could fight for the underdog
against the odds. Abraham Lincoln, the preeminent political insider,
must have been turning over in his grave." Distilled from the review
by James M. McPherson, Atlantic Magazine, August, 1989.