Portraits: Andrew Johnson   Leave a comment

Andrew Johnson (1808 – 1875)Andrew Johnson photograph

The 17th President of the United States, 1865 – 1869

AKA: The Tennessee Tailor, and after his inauguration as Vice President where he self-medicated his typhoid with a couple of shots of whiskey, the “drunken tailor.”

From: North Carolina, Tennessee

College: One of 8 Presidents that did not attend college

Married to: Eliza McCardle

Children: Martha, Charles, Mary, Robert, Andrew

Party: National Union Party (the temporary name of the Republican party)

Previous Jobs: Tailor, town alderman, state representative, state senator, US Representative, Governor, Military Governor of Tennessee, US Senator, Vice President

In His Words: “Whenever you hear a man prating about the Constitution, spot him as a traitor.”

“I have lived among negroes, all my life, and I am for this Government with slavery under the Constitution as it is. I am for the Government of my fathers with negroes, I am for it without negroes. Before I would see this Government destroyed, I would send every negro back to Africa, disintegrated and blotted out of space.”

“I have had a son killed, a son-in-law die during the last battle of Nashville, another son has thrown himself away, a second son-in-law is in no better condition, I think I have had sorrow enough without having my bank account examined by a Committee of Congress.”

“The goal to strive for is a poor government but a rich people.”

Not true: Andrew Johnson did not say, “It’s a damn poor mind that can only think of one way to spell a word.”  That quote is from an unknown source, but cannot be traced to our 17th President.

True: Apprenticed to a tailor at the age of 10, Johnson first learned to read from customers that came to the shop.

He and his brother ran away from their master at about the age of 15.  The boys moved to South Carolina, and then settled in Tennessee.

Andrew Johnson did not learn to read until he was 17 years old; his writing and mathematics skills were taught by his wife.

Theodore R. Davis' illustration of President Johnson's impeachment trial in the Senate, published in Harper's Weekly.

Theodore R. Davis’ illustration of President Johnson’s impeachment trial in the Senate, published in Harper’s Weekly.

He freed his slaves in 1863.  He believed the institution of slavery should be destroyed, as it destroyed the Union.  At the same time, he believed all blacks should be returned to Africa.

Johnson was the only southern Senator who did not join the Confederacy. This made him very popular in the north and extremely unpopular in the south.

His oratorical skills won him the governorship of Tennessee.  His reliance on them as President, however, proved to be both divisive and destructive to his administration.

He was the first President to have his veto over-ridden.  Indeed, Congress overturned every veto that he attempted.  Johnson was not a popular man as President!

Johnson was the first President to be impeached.  The primary assertion of the articles of impeachment related to the President not following the Tenure of Office Act, which asserted the President could not fire a cabinet member after they were approved by the Senate.  The Supreme Court over-turned this law … but not until 1926.

Johnson’s impeachment vote for conviction did not pass — by one vote less than the required 2/3 majority.

Generally described as a failed President, Johnson was not expected to ascend to the Presidency when selected by the Republicans as their Vice Presidential nominee to balance the ticket with Abraham Lincoln.

The Official Portrait: Eliphalet Frazer Andrews painted this portrait of Johnson in 1880. He painted many of America’s leaders — most of them posthumously.  His full length portrait of Martha Washington is in the White House collection, as is the portrait Thomas Jefferson. His reverse copy of John Adams portrait by George Healy is now in the collection of the US Senate.

Andrew Johnson, official White House portrait

Andrew Johnson signature

Big Mo
The White House
Andrew Johnson’s Impeachment


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