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Andrew Johnson: The Inadequate Replacement After Abraham Lincoln

1107 words - 5 pages

Andrew Johnson gives veracity to the aphorism that anyone in America can become President. Born in a small house in the backwoods of North Carolina to practically uneducated parents, Johnson was illiterate until he reached seventeen years of age.1 The only other person to become President with such insufficient formal education was Abraham Lincoln.2 While Lincoln is revered as one of the greatest presidents of the United States, his replacement, Johnson, is classified as one of the most substandard. At the start of the Civil War, Johnson was in his first term as a Tennessee senator. Although he aligned with the proslavery and states’ rights faction of the Democratic Party, he ardently disputed appeals made by other Southerners to secede the Union over the matter of slavery.3 Following Tennessee’s secession from the Union, Johnson withdrew from his home state, making him the only senator of the South to maintain his seat in the Senate.4
Southerners considered Johnson a traitor and, consequently, seized his belongings and forced his family out of the state. Northerners, on the other hand, appreciated Johnson’s position, making him a sudden idol. Lincoln knew that he needed Johnson—a man who supported emancipation as a war measure—to secure his reelection in 1864, which was ultimately a successful strategy.5 Unfortunately, President Lincoln was assassinated by John Wilkes Booth shortly after the conclusion of the Civil War in 1865. Had Booth’s plan gone as he intended, Johnson also would have been murdered; alternatively, he succeeded Lincoln as President.6 While any change in White House leadership influences the country, the transferal from Lincoln to Johnson had the most significant impact. President Andrew Johnson was an adverse influence on American Reconstruction as a consequence of his racist viewpoints, his flagrant ineptitude in office, and his prodigious miscalculation of municipal support for his course of actions.
In a bizarre idiosyncrasy, the racist southerner Johnson was entrusted with the restoration of the vanquished South, consisting of the extension of suffrage and civil rights to black southerners. It immediately became apparent that Johnson would obstruct attempts to compel southern states to warrant complete equality for black people, and the platform was established for a conflict against congressional republicans, who saw black suffrage as essential to their foundation of power in the South (cite). In the course of the first eight months of his term, Johnson exploited the congressional recess by advancing his own plans for Reconstruction (cite). These plans comprised of permitting the South to establish “black codes,” which effectively preserved slavery under a different name. When Congress reconvened, republicans moved to inhibit Johnson. In 1866, members of Congress approved the Freedman’s Bureau Bill, which granted protection of civil liberties and supplied housing facilities for former slaves; the Civil Rights Act, which...

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