Childhood & Early Life
Andrew was born into the poor household of Jacob Johnson, a constable and Mary McDonough, a laundrywoman. His father died when Andrew was three, leaving the family to the care of Mary, who supported her children by doing laundry.
Later, she married Turner Doughtry, who helped Mary take care of her children. William, the eldest of all the children was sent to work as an apprentice under a tailor and when Andrew was 10, he joined his brother.
However, the duo was unhappy with work and ran away; disregarding the fact they were legally bound to the firm. Andrew worked in North Carolina for some time, before going to South Carolina and finally he returned to his hometown Raleigh, hoping to get back his old job.
His old firm did not take him back and he toured to Tennessee where after some initial hitches he worked as a tailor before his mother called him back to Raleigh. Later, the family shifted to Greeneville, Tennessee and he established a tailoring business.
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Johnson turned his attention to politics, advocating the cause of the working class people. In 1829, in the municipal elections of Greenville, he was elected as a representative.
In 1831, when the Tennessee government passed a new legislation to disenfranchise the African-Americans, he supported the move, thereby earning the government’s favor.
Eventually, he was elected the mayor of Greeneville on January 4, 1834. He supported the constitution which did not allow disfranchising the African-Americans. He also wanted to reevaluate the real estate tax rates and improve the infrastructure in Tennessee.
In 1835, he successfully set his foot in the Tennessee state legislature, where, he supported the Democratic principles of president, Andrew Jackson.
He was elected to the United States Congress, as a Democrat from Tennessee and in the House of Representatives he became a part of a new Democratic majority. In due course, he was elected the governor of Tennessee 1853.
In 1857, he after he was elected a senator, he advocated the Homestead Act according to which the poor were eligible to grants in the form of land from the government.
However, in 1860, when Abraham Lincoln won the national elections, Tennessee withdrew from the National Union Party (Republican Party). Johnson also detached himself from Tennessee, thus, becoming the only remaining senator from the seceded state.
In March 1862, Lincoln appointed him the military governor of Tennessee, which was going through a great deal of turmoil, owing to Civil War which in Tennessee, was led by Nathan Bedford Forrest, a lieutenant general in the Confederate Army. Forrest’s army raided the cities and towns in around the state, making it difficult for Johnson to administer.
President Lincoln, who was impressed with Johnson, especially after displaying his administrative abilities in Tennessee made him vice-president in 1864, during his bid for re-election which he eventually won.
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When Abraham Lincoln, was shot on April 14, 1865, Johnson was sworn in as the new president on April 15.
On 1st May, 1865, he gave orders to form a nine-man military commission which would try the assassins of Lincoln. Eventually, the conspirators were charged and executed.
In 1866, Johnson, who was had never liked the idea of the African-Americans being given suffrage and treated equally, vetoed the proposals of Freeman's Bureau, which tried to improve the standard of living of the African-Americans.
The same year he also vetoed the Civil Rights Bill intended to protect the free African-Americans. However, his veto was overruled by the senate.
His increasingly visible hostility towards the African-Americans drew a lot of criticisms from the radicals. Some even claimed that he was involved in the conspiracy of assassinating Lincoln.
On 2nd March, 1867, the first Reconstruction Acts was passed which allowed the free male slaves to vote. As usual, he vetoed, nevertheless the bill was passed.
By this time, the Radical Republicans were already angered by the president’s conservative white-centric views and in November, 1867, the Judiciary Committee voted for his trial.
His trial began on 30th March, 1868, making him the first United States president to be impeached.
He retired in March 1869 and later, the same year made an unsuccessful run for the senate.
He stood for reelection for a seat in the senate on January 20, 1875 to which he was elected and sworn in on March 5.