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Just Read: "Impeached: the Story of President Andrew Johnson - Civil War Books - Civil War Entertainment: Books, Movies, Music & Art - Civil War Interactive Discussion Board
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 Posted: Mon Jul 5th, 2010 11:58 am
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Barlow
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I would strongly suggest "Impeached.  The Trial of President Andrew Johnson and the Fight for Lincoln's Legacy"  by David O. Stewart.

It goes without saying that Andrew Johnson started off bad.  At Lincoln's Second Inaugeration, Johnson was very drunk and his speech incoherant.  Things went downhill from there.  Lincoln must have never considered his death in office just to pick this guy.  Worst VP since Spiro Agnew.  The book is a little short on good facts of how Johnson survived the assassination and what he was going when My American Cousin concluded, but I did not know that Johnson was the closest thing to a Confederate and tried to dismantle all that was won by the North's win in the Civil War.  Definitely a racist and ended up pardoning many rebel leaders.

This is a facinating book on the impeachment trial, why Johnson was impeached and how he escaped conviction by 1 vote!  I would strongly recommend it as an introduction to Reconstruction.  There arent enought books on Reconstruction.  Grant's role is interesting too.  Thad Stevens and Ben Butler are the major "playas" and Johnson's dream team defense is worth noting.

The author is an expert on impeachment and gives a good historical background to the what the framers meant.  I give it 5 stars



 Posted: Mon Jul 5th, 2010 03:50 pm
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Texas Defender
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Barlow-

  Andrew Johnson survived the Lincoln assassination plot because the man assigned to kill him, George Atzerodt, apparently got drunk and failed to carry out his assigned task. On the night Lincoln was shot , Andrew Johnson was asleep in his room at the Kirkwood House Hotel. He was awakened by Leonard J. Farwell and told that Lincoln had been shot.

http://www.mrlincolnswhitehouse.org/inside.asp?ID=186&subjectID=4

  Calling Johnson: "The closest thing to a Confederate" is pretty ridiculous. He was the only southern US senator who remained loyal to the Union. He was then made military governor of Tennessee. He certainly wasn't kind to those there who actually became Confederates. He was put on the ticket by Lincoln who hoped that that would improve his chances of being re-elected.

  You state that Andrew Johnson was a racist, and by 21st century standards, he was. But so were the vast majority of white men of that era, including Abraham Lincoln. Lincoln never regarded the black man as his equal. For his part, Johnson freed his own personal slaves in 1863, and after that, unlike most white men, he favored giving the black man the vote.

  As for Johnson's approach to Reconstruction, I believe that it was closer to what Lincoln intended than the approach of the radical republicans was. Lincoln stated that it was his intention to: "Let 'em up easy." I have no doubt that had he lived, Lincoln would have clashed with the radicals in his party. They would have had a much more difficult time trying to oppose Lincoln, a popular president, than Johnson, an unpopular one. Note in the link above the statement by the radicals Wade and Davis that Lincoln was too kind to punish the: " damned rebels."

  Andrew Johnson was impeached because he opposed the draconian measures favored by the radical republicans. He did not share their desire to expand federal power and demand that black suffrage be written into state constitutions before states could be readmitted into the Union. The radicals also passed laws (over Johnson's veto) that infringed upon the powers of the president. An example of these laws was the Tenure of Office Act.

  The Tenure of Office Act forced the president to keep federal workers (Most notably Edwin Stanton) in office even if he wished to fire them. Thus, the Congress passed a law that did not allow the president to even fire a member of his own cabinet if he wished to.(Unless the Senate approved). When Johnson proceeded to try to fire Mr. Stanton anyway, the Congress responded by writing articles of impreachment. The Tenure of Office Act was clearly unconstitutional and eventually the Supreme Court ruled that it was. (See Myers v. United States (1926)).

  I have not read the work of David O. Stewart, so I cannot comment on it. But I cannot believe that the Founding Fathers meant for the Legislative branch to infringe on the powers of the Executive.

 Andrew Johnson did indeed escape conviction by a single vote. I believe that if he had been removed by your radical: "Playas," that it would have been an unmitigated disaster for the United States of America. (Benjamin Wade would have become president). It would have fanned the embers of rebellion in the south. The federal government might have had to occupy the south for a generation or more, deepening the wounds caused by the war. That would certainly have impeded the advance of America to becoming a major power in the world.

 

Last edited on Mon Jul 5th, 2010 08:08 pm by Texas Defender



 Posted: Tue Jul 6th, 2010 03:38 pm
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Barlow
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I would ask that you revisit your views on their being little to distinguish Lincoln and Johnson after reading this book.

These traits of Andrew Johnson were never part of Lincoln or his plan for reconstruction:

1.  Having Confederate leaders and generals act as governors of their respective states.

2.  Total Disenfranchisement of the freemen, use of the KKK to kill and intimidate new voters

3.  Rescission of the 13th Amendment and veto of the 14th Amendment

4.  Recall of Generals Howard, Hancock, Sickles and Sheridan from their posts as temporary maintainers of peace in the South.

    I believe the reviews on Amazon and Author Stewart's views that Johnson was in many ways the antithesis of Lincoln are true.  Racist is even too kind a word.  He was not just opposed to the Radicals, he was far right of many Democrats.  He wanted to go back to 1859, even after 600,000 deaths and 4 years of battle.  He may have been not only the worst President, but the worst possible leader at that time.  Vengeful, truculent, corrupt.  He finally accomplished his true mission on 1/1/68 when he issued mass pardons for Davis, and everyone else connected to the confederacy.  He might have liked Edwin Ruffin as a running mate, had not Grant won the nomination and Ruffin not committed suicide.

    He made his primary mistate in not challenging the Act in question before a favorable Supreme Court, rather than merely violating it.  Finally, as the author points out, $300,000 was raised and spent in bribe money to secure aquittal.  We should be thankful that his term lasted so short.

What I referred to in my desire to see more about his actions immediately after Ford's theatre are questions about those moments in time in the days following the assassination, his ascension to the presidency, his feelings on efforts to capture Booth, etc.  I know that Stanton took the primary role in post Ford's theatre events, but there is a paucity of information on Johnson's role during those fateful days. 

After reading this book, I was wondering why Lincoln had chosen him in the first place, and if there were other Tennessee or Maryland leaders who could have accomplished what Lincoln was trying to do in the naming of his running mate.



 Posted: Tue Jul 6th, 2010 09:10 pm
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Texas Defender
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Barlow-

  We disagee about whether Abraham Lincoln's policies regarding Reconstruction were closer to those of Andrew Johnson or those of the radical republicans. The first statement that must be made is that we will never know how Mr. Lincoln would have executed his policies after 1865. But we know something about the policies that he had in mind.

  On December 8, 1863, Abraham Lincoln issued his Proclamation of Amnesty and Reconstruction.

Proclamation of Amnesty and Reconstruction, December 8, 1863

  Basically, it said first that a general amnesty would be granted to all who would take an oath of loyalty to the US and would obey all federal laws pertaining to slavery. Second, it temporarily excluded prominent CSA government officials and military officers. Third, it said that when 10% of the number of voters who participated in the 1860 election in a given state had taken the loyalty oath, that the state could form a new government and elect representatives to Congress.

  In short, Abraham Lincoln's terms for bringing the Union back together were quite lenient. Even during the war, he had offered appeals to the economic interests of the Confederates to end the war. For example, as late as 1865, he toyed with the idea of compensation for slaveholders. He also considered offering to take over the war debt of the CSA. These measures were opposed by his advisors. In addition, he did not generally favor congressional laws of confiscation. In these and other ways, his views differed from those of many in the Congress.

  The radical republicans were not satisfied with Lincoln's relatively conciliatory views. In 1861, Benjamin Wade wrote that Lincoln's views on slavery:" Could only come from one born of white trash and educated in a slave state." In response to Lincoln's Reconstruction policy, Wade along with Henry Davis wrote the Wade-Davis bill, which would have required 50% of white males in a state to sign the: "Ironclad Oath." It also required black male suffrage and appointment of military governors approved by the Senate.

  When Abraham Lincoln pocket vetoed the bill, the enraged radicals wrote the Wade-Davis Manifesto. It accused Lincoln of thwarting the will of the Congress and exercising: "Dictatorial usurpation." Clearly, the radicals weren't satisfied with Lincoln's ideas about Reconstruction. For his part, Mr. Lincoln did not consider that the Congress had any authority in the matter of slavery in the states.

  Initially, the radical republicans were pleased when Andrew Johnson became president. Johnson had opposed secession and energetically carried out his duties as military governor of Tennessee, promising to: "Punish traitors." But while he would punish individuals, he didn't believe that states ever surrendered their right to govern their own affairs. Johnson believed that Reconstruction meant having the states resume their full rights as soon as possible.

  Johnson did impose conditions, such as the complete abolition of slavery. At the end of the war, the main disagreement with the radicals was over making black suffrage a requirement that bound the states.

  On May 29, 1865, Andrew Johnson issued a proclamation of amnesty and pardon to participants in the war who took a loyalty oath to the Union and its laws, including those relating to emancipation. This amnesty was denied to certain southerners who were required to apply individually for pardons. Thus, Johnson advanced  two provisions of Abraham Lincoln's 1863 plan.

  So what were the Reconstruction plans of the radical republicans? Some saw the end of the war as a golden opportunity to expand the power of the federal government. They saw the government of the future as some kind of a benevolent national authority ensuring equality of civil and political rights to all.  That was a different world view from that of Andrew Johnson, who considered the powers of the states relative to the federal government to be unchanged.


  To some like Thaddeus Stevens, the southern states had given up their previous constitutional standing, and deserved to be ruled as conquered provinces. Charles Sumner came up with the concept of: "State suicide," saying that the southern states had reverted to the status of territories. To the radicals, once less than universally popular positions like opposing the expansion of slavery and emancipation of slaves had in the end prevailed. They were now ready to move forward regardless of white southern opposition and Andrew Johnson's lack of enthusiasm for placing the rights of blacks above the authority of states to decide such matters as black suffrage.

  Thus, the stage was set for conflict. We can argue on and on about how Andrew Johnson conducted himself during Reconstruction. You can say that he was inconsistent in  maintaining that the federal government could impose emancipation on the states, but not black suffrage. We can argue about the EXECUTION as opposed to the POLICY, but we have no way to compare that to what Mr. Lincoln might have done. In his case, we have only the policy.

  You stated that Andrew Johnson wanted to: "Go back to 1859." I can argue that except for the issue of slavery, Abraham Lincoln wanted to go back to 1859 as soon as possible. At the Hampton Roads peace conference in February of 1865, the Confederate representatives asked Lincoln what his terms were to end the bloodshed. His one word response was: "Union !"

Meeting at Hampton Roads (Lincoln/Confederates)

  At the present time in  history, most historians do not have a high regard for Andrew Johnson. I, myself, do not find him to be particularly admirable. He seems to have been a generally irascible fellow who didn't always act in his own best interests. But I do not see him as a dastardly villain as you do.

  Your statement that if Andrew Johnson ran for president, that he might choose the Fire Eater Edmund (NOT: "Edwin") Ruffin as his running mate is particularly absurd. Johnson held the view that no state had the right to secede from the Union. He spent a good deal of time as a military governor opposing the rebellion that Ruffin wished to succeed.

  The radical republicans firmly controlled the Legislative branch of the government. They could not completely control the Executive branch, so they sought to limit its powers by unconstitutional means. In the end, I'm glad that Andrew Johnson, with all his faults, completed Lincoln's term as president, instead of someone like Benjamin Wade.


Last edited on Wed Jul 7th, 2010 11:24 am by Texas Defender



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