Profile of Andrew Johnson
Andrew Johnson became the 17th president of the United States after the 1865 assassination of Abraham Lincoln. Johnson was an unlikely man for the job: he had been a poor tailor in Tennessee before he entered politics. A fast learner with a flair for oratory, he worked his way up through Tennessee politics to the U.S. Senate. During the Civil War he was the only Southern Democrat to support Lincoln, and that helped him be chosen for the vice-presidency in the elections of 1864. Lincoln was shot by John Wilkes Booth on 14 April 1865 and died the next day, making Johnson president after just six weeks as vice-president. As chief executive he clashed with Radical Republicans, who held a majority in the U.S. Congress, and had little support from postwar Southern legislators. Congress passed the Tenure of Office Act in 1867, restricting presidential powers, and when Johnson defied them, he was impeached in 1868. A few months later the Senate acquitted him by one vote. It was on Johnson's watch, in 1867, that the United States bought Alaska from Russia for $7 million. Johnson did not run for reelection, and was followed as president by the popular Civil War general Ulysses S. Grant. Johnson was reelected to the U.S. Senate in 1875, four months before his death, becoming the only ex-president to serve in the Senate.
Andrew Johnson married Eliza McCardle in 1827; he was 18 and she 16 at the time of their wedding. They had five children: Martha (1828-1901), Charles (1830-1863), Mary (1832-1883), Robert (1834-1869), and much later, Andrew Jr. (1852-1879)… The purchase of Alaska is often called “Seward’s Folly,” after William Seward, the Secretary of State who promoted the deal. Gold was discovered in Alaska in the 1890s, making Johnson and Seward look like geniuses.
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