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The history this man leaves is a rare one. His career was remarkable, even in this country; it would have been quite impossible in any other. It presents the spectacle of a man who never went to school a day in his life rising from a humble beginning as a tailor’s apprentice through a long succession of posts of civil responsibility to the highest office in the land, and evincing his continued hold upon the popular heart by a subsequent election to the Senate in the teeth of a bitter personal and political opposition… Obituary in The New York Times

Andrew Johnson was the Joe Biden of his day. A quisling democrat who had served as Lincoln’s Gauleiter in Tennessee he allowed himself to be bullied into the tactics demanded by the radicals for the “reconstruction” of the union. Not that they wanted the broken down drunk either since they rewarded him with impeachment. If you evaluate a manager on who he chooses to succeed him then Lincoln receives an “F” for every action of his presidency from underestimating first the possibility and then the length and scope of his war to his positioning a third-rate political hack but first-rate drunk to succeed him. If, on the other hand, you acknowledge his intent was to destroy the republic and replace it with a nation-state along the lines that would later be favored by Bismark then he must be judged as singularly effective. As for Johnson he is something less than a footnote to the story.

The avenger takes his place : Andrew Johnson and the 45 days that changed the nation Orlando, Fla. : Harcourt, c 2006  Howard Means United States Politics and government 1865-1869, Johnson, Andrew, 1808-1875 Hardcover. 286 p. ; 24 cm. Includes bibliographical references (p. [263]-267) and index. Clean, tight and strong binding with clean dust jacket. No highlighting, underlining or marginalia in text. VG/VG

Andrew Johnson from Library of Congress Collection He erred from limitation of grasp and perception, perhaps, or through sore perplexity in trying times, but never weakly or consciously. He was always headstrong and “sure he was right” even in his errors.

From the moment of Lincoln’s death on April 15, 1865, until Andrew Johnson, his replacement, formally announced postwar plans on May 29, the fate of the country hung in the balance. War had left the Republic strained almost beyond endurance. Johnson’s ascendancy to the presi­dency seemed the killing stroke even to the victorious North. A former slave owner from the border state of Tennessee, Johnson had been drunk at his inauguration as vice presi­dent; he was hated equally by the South and the North. Some Northerners were even convinced he had been part of the conspiracy behind Lincoln’s assassination. Later, he escaped impeachment by a single vote.

As Means reveals in this revisionist, powerfully persuasive, and absorbingly dramatic account of Johnson’s first six weeks in office, the new president faced almost insurmountable odds. Finally he was forced to abandon the better angels that might have led to reconciliation and reunification and destroy the last vestiges of the republic with reconstruction.


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