10 Facts to Know About Andrew Johnson

10 Facts to Know About Andrew Johnson

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Andrew Johnson was born in Raleigh, North Carolina on December 29, 1808. He became president upon the assassination of Abraham Lincoln but only served out the term. He was the first individual to be impeached as president.

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Escaped From Indentured Servitude

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When Andrew Johnson was only three, his father Jacob died. His mother, Mary McDonough Johnson, remarried and later sent him and his brother out as indentured servants to a tailor named James Selby. The brothers ran away from their bond after two years. On June 24, 1824, Selby advertised in a newspaper a reward of $10 for anyone who would return the brothers to him. However, they were never captured.

02of 10

Never Attended School

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Johnson never attended school at all. In fact, he taught himself to read. Once he and his brother escaped from their 'master,' he opened up his own tailoring shop in order to make money. You can see his tailor shop at the Andrew Johnson National Historic Site in Greeneville, Tennessee.

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Married Eliza McCardle

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On May 17, 1827, Johnson married Eliza McCardle, the daughter of a shoemaker. The pair lived in Greeneville, Tennessee. Despite having lost her father as a young girl, Eliza was quite well educated and spent some time helping Johnson increase his reading and writing skills. Together, the two of them had three sons and two daughters.

By the time that Johnson became president, his wife was an invalid, staying in her room all the time. Their daughter Martha served as hostess during formal functions.

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Became a Mayor at the Age of Twenty-Two

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Johnson opened his tailor shop when he was just 19, and by the age of 22, he was elected the mayor of Greeneville, Tennessee. He served as mayor for four years. He was then elected to the Tennessee House of Representatives in 1835. He later became a Tennessee State Senator before being elected to the Congress in 1843.

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Only Southerner to Retain His Seat Upon Secession

Library of Congress

Johnson was the US Representative from Tennessee until he was elected as governor of Tennessee in 1853. He then became a US Senator in 1857. While in Congress, he supported the Fugitive Slave Act and the right to own slaves. However, when states started to secede from the Union in 1861, Johnson was the only southern senator who did not agree. Because of this, he retained his seat. Southerners viewed him as a traitor. Ironically, Johnson saw both secessionists and abolitionists as enemies to the union.

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Military Governor of Tennessee

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In 1862, Abraham Lincoln appointed Johnson to be the military governor of Tennessee. Then in 1864, Lincoln chose him to join the ticket as his vice president. Together they handily beat the Democrats.

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Became President Upon Lincoln's Assassination

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Initially, the conspirators in the assassination of Abraham Lincoln also planned on killing Andrew Johnson. However, George Atzerodt, his supposed assassin, backed out. Johnson was sworn in as president on April 15, 1865.

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Fought Against the Radical Republicans During Reconstruction

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Johnson's plan was to continue with President Lincoln's vision for reconstruction. They both thought it important to show leniency to the south in order to heal the union. However, before Johnson was able to put his plan in motion, the Radical Republicans in Congress prevailed. They put into place acts that were meant to force the South to change its ways and accept its loss such as the Civil Rights Act of 1866. Johnson vetoed this and fifteen other reconstruction bills, all of which were overridden. The thirteenth and fourteenth amendments​ were also passed during this time, freeing the slaves and protecting their civil rights and liberties.

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Seward's Folly Happened While He Was President

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Secretary of State William Seward arranged in 1867 for the United States to purchase Alaska from Russia for $7.2 million. This was called "Seward's Folly" who felt it was just foolish. However, it did pass and would eventually be recognized as anything but foolish for US economic and foreign policy interests.

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First President to Be Impeached

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In 1867, Congress passed the Tenure of Office Act. This denied the president the right to remove his own appointed officials from office. Despite the Act, Johnson removed Edwin Stanton, his Secretary of War, from office in 1868. He put war hero Ulysses S. Grant in his place. Because of this, the House of Representatives voted to impeach him, making him the first president to be impeached. However, because of the vote of Edmund G. Ross kept the Senate from removing him from office.

After his term in office ended, Johnson was not nominated to run again and instead retired to Greeneville, Tennessee.


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