Saturday, May 16, 2009

Andrew Johnson: Impeachably Lame

Did your wife teach you to read that book, eh Andy?
Andrew Johnson was born in North Carolina in 1808. His father died when Andrew was very young, and his mother was forced to WORK as a seamstress or something or rather until she remarried. Little 'Drew had no formal education, and taught himself to read and write. His mother sold him off, by which I mean totally gave him a great opportunity as, an apprentice tailor. At age 17, Johnson ran away from this apprenticeship and worked as a tailor on his own. A year later, he married Eliza McCardle, who helped him along with his education and also taught him math. Andrew and Eliza eventually had five kids. The first four were born at nice two-year intervals, but the youngest one was, like, WAY younger. Little Andrew, Jr. was eighteen years younger than his closest sibling. SURPRISE! So apparently at some point Johnson decided that tailorin' wasn't his business, and he opted for politics. He became a Democrat (because it was the South, duh) and held a number of local offices in Tennessee. He served in the Tennessee State House and Senate, then the U.S. House of Representatives, as the Governor of Tennessee, and then eventually as a U.S. Senator. Evidently there was no one else in the state of Tennessee running for these offices. Either that or he was the best campaigner ever. Wikipedia gives me no evidence of such things, however; thus, it must not be true. While doing all that legislating business, Johnson would advocate for farmers and shit and try to get the government to not screw them over too much. I have a feeling not much else was going on in antebellum Tennessee besides farming of various sorts. So yeah, there was that whole, like, Civil War thing that was about to happen, and Johnson was an anti-secessionist. He was pretty states' rights-y, but was the only Senator from a Confederate state to continue to serve his term in the U.S. Senate. Which I'm not really sure is legal, considering that technically Tennessee had chosen to withdraw from the Union and you'd think that would/should prevent it from having congressional representation. But whatevs, they let him hang around. So, he became a War Democrat (as in, he was in favor of the Union's side of the war). Dear St. Abraham appointed Johnson as some sort of military governor of Tennessee in 1862, which apparently entailed trying to shoo out the Confederate forces and whatnot. He may or may not have voluntarily freed his own slaves in the summer of 1863. Generosity that knows no bounds, people. Anyway, apparently Abey McLincolnlogs had gotten bored with his super-sober first-term VP Hannibal Hamlin, and decided it best to recruit Johnson on for the 1864 wartime reelection campaign. Now, of course, Lincoln was a Republican, and Johnson a Democrat, but his Southernality and whatnot would be an asset to the ticket, so they made up some sort of "National Union Party" and won! Back in those days, as discussed in this incredibly well-informed and -written post, the Vice President was sworn in in front of the Senate. Some people claim that at the time of the inauguration, Andrew Johnson had "typhoid fever" and was drinking to numb the pain or something. WHATEVER, he was totes drunk and that is awesome and I bet it was the best speech evah. Don't deny your hedonistic ways, Andrew. Johnson was supposed to be assassinated along with President Lincoln, but the guys who were supposed to do Johnson, Grant, and some other folks in never followed through. So he became the POTUS in Lincoln's place after his death (Lincoln's, duh--though Zombie/Ghost President Johnson would have been pretty sweet and just what the war-torn nation would have needed). There was this thing called "Reconstruction" going on in the South because the Union Army had pretty much "destructed" everything down there. Also some nice luggage-carrying Northerners had moved down to Dixie to take over the governments and give black people rights. However, Johnson was like, "Hey, let's get on with it, this reunion of the nation thing" and totally tried to rush Reconstruction along when it's obvs that what America really needed was a nice, healthy Truth and Reconciliation Commission, but since it would eventually be black people's idea, they probably wouldn't have done it anyway. But so Johnson vetoed one of the first civil rights bills. Again with the boundless generosity!
Oh, that Freedmen's Bureau! But seriously, it's not like former slaves needed federal protection or whatever, anyway.
A.John was in a bit of a spot since he'd been elected by a nonexistent party. The Republicans didn't like him because he wasn't one, and since they were in power while the South still wasn't allowed to vote for shit, they didn't really allow him to do anything much. The Democrats didn't like him because he was supposed to be one but was totes a traitor to the South and went out with Lincoln and how do you think that made them feel when they saw those two together? What I'm saying is, is that he didn't have a lot of political support in Congress, or anywhere else for that matter. He was more lenient on the South than many (Republicans) wanted him to be and he ended up helping screw over freedman quite a bit. Some shit went down with conflicts about Reconstruction and whatnot, and Congress tried to remove him from office not once, but twice. The second vote, in the Senate, succeeded in impeaching the President but didn't have quite enough votes to remove him from office. So it was like one of those fun "nonbinding" resolutions they're always passing in Congress, like to declare something National Potato Week or to posthumously honor the victims of the Great Titanic-Iceberg Atlantic Showdown of 1912 that just make people feel better and really do nothing else. Anyway, Johnson hung in there, but ultimately couldn't get the Democratic nomination for reelection. Some other guy got it and lost to our drunkest bearded president: U. S. Grant. As a lame duck, Johnson granted Confederate amnesty on Christmas Day of 1868. He's like St. Nicholas or something, people, I swear. After leaving office, he tried to run for the Senate and House a couple times. Eventually he won a Tennessee Senate seat and served for a few months before he died from a stroke in 1875. Many people rank Andrew Johnson high on the list of worst presidents. This is probably fairly accurate.

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