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date: 22 August 2017

Andrew Johnson and the Legacy of the Civil War

Summary and Keywords

Perhaps no other American leader has experienced so precipitous a fall from grace as Andrew Johnson, seventeenth president of the United States (1865–1869). During the Civil War, Johnson was the preeminent symbol of Southern Unionism—and thus, the ideal running mate for Abraham Lincoln in the 1864 election, on the Union Party ticket. Four years later, as president, he was widely viewed as a traitor to his political allies and even to the Union, and barely escaped impeachment. In modern scholarship, the image persists of Johnson as politically inept, and willfully self-destructive—driven by visceral emotions, particularly by implacable racism, and lacking in Lincoln’s skill for reading and molding public opinion. But such an image fails to capture fully the scope of his political influence. As President, Johnson staked claims that shaped the course of Reconstruction—that emancipation signified nothing but freedom; that the immediate aftermath of the Civil War was a golden moment of reconciliation, which Radicals squandered by pushing for black suffrage; that the Congressional program of Reconstruction inaugurated a period of so-called “black rule,” during which former Confederates were victimized and disfranchised. Such propaganda was designed to deem the Republican experiment in black citizenship a failure before it even began. Johnson’s term offers an example as striking as any in U.S. history of the power of presidents to set the terms of political debates—and of the power of their words to do lasting harm.

Keywords: Abraham Lincoln, Andrew Johnson, black rule, Civil War, Confederate, impeachment, Reconstruction, slavery, Southern Unionism, Union Party, Ten Percent Plan, Tenure of Office Act

Andrew Johnson has the distinction of being one of our worst presidents and also one of the most puzzling. Perhaps no other American leader has experienced so precipitous a fall from grace. During the Civil War, Johnson was the preeminent symbol of Southern Unionism—and thus, the ideal running mate for Abraham Lincoln in the 1864 election, on the Union Party ticket. As a campaign broadside put it,

Look at the conduct and record of Andrew Johnson. When the rebellion began he was a member of the Senate of the United States, from the State of Tennessee. . . . He was of humble origin . . . But he was honest, upright, industrious, and devoted heart and soul to the welfare of his country. He took ground openly, boldly and defiantly against the whole scheme of secession, and . . . denounced the leading conspirators engaged in it, as traitors to their country, and deserving the penalty which such crimes merit. From that day to this the Government has had no more resolute, staunch and determined supporter than ANDREW JOHNSON, of Tennessee.1

Andrew Johnson and the Legacy of the Civil WarClick to view larger

Figure 1. Andrew Johnson, Loyalist: The 1864 Union Party Ticket. Library of Congress, LC-DIG-ppmsca-19255.

Four years later, in the midst of Johnson’s 1868 impeachment trial, the Radical Republican Senator Charles Sumner said this of the embattled president,

Andrew Johnson is the impersonation of tyrannical Slave Power. In him it lives again. He is the lineal ancestor of John C. Calhoun and Jefferson Davis. And he gathers about him the same supporters . . . It is the old troop of slavery . . . ready as of old for violence . . . With the President at their head, they are now entrenched in their executive Mansion . . . The enormity of his conduct is aggravated by his barefaced treachery. He once declared himself the Moses of the colored race. Behold him now the Pharoah.2

Historians have struggled to explain this turnabout. In modern scholarship, the image persists of Johnson as politically inept, and willfully self-destructive—driven by visceral emotions, particularly by implacable racism, and lacking in Lincoln’s skill for reading and molding public opinion. But such an image fails to fully capture the nature of Johnson’s ideology or the scope of his political influence—and the tragic power of his words.3 As president, Johnson developed and promulgated three ideas that shaped the course of Reconstruction and that would have a long-life span in American politics: the idea that emancipation signified nothing but freedom—it ended slavery but did not confer citizenship rights on the “freedpeople”; the idea that the immediate aftermath of the Civil War was a golden moment of reconciliation, a moment that Radical Republicans squandered by pushing for black suffrage; and the idea that the Congressional program of Reconstruction inaugurated a period of so-called “black rule,” during which former Confederates were victimized and disfranchised. In a sense, such rhetoric reached back into the past: Johnson tapped a longstanding anti-abolition discourse that associated the prospect of social equality with disunion and race war. But Johnson also looked to the future. His arguments were preemptive, designed to deem the Republican experiment in black citizenship a failure before it even began. Johnson believed that he represented the will of the masses of whites, both Northern and Southern, and his words found echo among supporters who sustained him in this belief. Indeed, his words were so potent that Republicans made the president’s speech crimes a centerpiece of their impeachment campaign. In short, Johnson’s words, no less than Lincoln’s, constitute an enduring legacy of the Civil War.

Johnson’s Rise

Johnson took office in April of 1865, amidst a welter of conflicting expectations. His remarkable life story was well known to Americans and had made him a hero to Northerners and a villain to Confederates. Like Lincoln, Johnson rose to prominence from the humblest of roots. Johnson was born in a log cabin in North Carolina to a family of little means; he lost his father at a young age and was put to work as a tailor’s apprentice; he fled from service and settled in Greenville, Tennessee, where he painstakingly worked his way into economic security and political influence, and forged a self-image and reputation as a champion of the common man, in the mold of his political idol, Andrew Jackson. When the war began, Johnson was in his first term as a United States Senator, representing the Democratic Party, and he took a courageous stand against secession, declaring it an “odious, diabolical, nefarious, hell-born, and hell-bound doctrine.” He paid a high price for this apostasy—his family was driven into exile, his property confiscated, and Johnson himself hung in effigy and roundly cursed in his home state. Johnson’s Unionism was rooted in the class resentments of nonslaveholding yeomen against elite planters, and in the cultural differences between the mountainous, “upcountry” regions of the South (such as Johnson’s own East Tennessee) and lowcountry plantation districts. It was rooted too in a constitutional argument that the founders intended the Union to be perpetual. Secession was synonymous, in Johnson’s view, with lawlessness. “A Government without the power to enforce its laws,” he declared in 1861, “is no Government at all.”4

Johnson put this principle into action as military governor of Tennessee. Lincoln placed him in charge there in March of 1862, after battlefield victories had secured Union control over the western and middle sections of the state. Johnson “ruled with a heavy hand,” as his biographer Hans Trefousse has put it: he had conspicuous critics of the Lincoln administration, including clergymen, arrested and imprisoned; imposed punitive taxes on wealthy planters; and seized and closed anti-Union newspapers. The Republican administration’s plan was for Tennessee to be welcomed back into the Union under loyal leadership, according to the dictates of Lincoln’s so-called “Ten Percent Plan” for wartime Reconstruction, which he had promulgated in his December 1863 Proclamation of Amnesty and Pardon. It laid out the steps for the readmission of errant states to the Union, stipulating that, when 10 percent of those who had voted in the 1860 election in a given state took an oath of allegiance to the Union, that vanguard could elect delegates to a new constitutional convention, write a new constitution (which must recognize emancipation), and send representatives to Congress. Lincoln’s aim with the Ten Percent Plan, as the historian Richard Carwardine has explained, was “to offer generous terms as a bait to waverers to give up the rebellion.”5

Johnson had in mind a somewhat different plan. Determined that only consistently loyal men, rather than duplicitous rebels or erstwhile Unionists, would shape Tennessee’s political future, Johnson required that anyone who sought to vote would have to take an additional oath—they would have not only to swear allegiance to the Union, but also to vouchsafe that they rejoiced in the victories of the Federal army and that they abjured any peace negotiations with the Confederacy.6 Johnson charted his own course on the question of wartime emancipation, too. Although he owned a handful of slaves and had supported the Democratic Party’s proslavery agenda before the war, Johnson gradually came to support emancipation as a war measure—a means to punish the Confederate elite and rob them of resources. Fearing that emancipation by federal edict would alienate Tennessee’s slaveholding Unionists, Johnson urged that the state be exempted from the Emancipation Proclamation, so he could promote the issue from the inside: in August of 1863, Johnson freed his own slaves, seeking to set an example for his fellow Tennesseans. In the year that followed, he delivered a series of speeches in which he called slavery a “cancer upon the body politic,” and he appealed to Tennesseans to pass a state constitutional amendment abolishing the institution, assuring them that blacks would be productive under the “stimulus of wages and kind treatment.” Johnson developed, in this period, a heroic self-image. In the fall of 1864, he told a crowd of African Americans in Nashville, part of a torchlight procession in his honor, “I will indeed be your Moses, and lead you through the Red Sea of war and bondage, to a fairer future of liberty and peace.”7

Lincoln not only abided Johnson’s assertiveness but rewarded it, choosing him as a vice presidential candidate in 1864, to represent the fusion of War Democrats with Republicans into a “Union” party. Radical Republicans had their doubts about the Tennessean; the irascible Pennsylvania Congressman Thaddeus Stevens said of Johnson’s nomination that Lincoln should have been able to find a running mate “without going down to one of those damned rebel provinces to pick one up.” But they found promise in Johnson’s seemingly implacable hatred of the Slave Power, and satisfaction in the Union ticket’s landslide victory. Once elected, Johnson stumbled out the gate; his erratic behavior at the inaugural ceremony gave rise to widespread rumors that he was drunk. But he soon found his footing, and he gave evidence of his tough-mindedness when he proclaimed in a speech in Washington, DC on April 3, 1865, after the fall of Richmond and Petersburg, that “treason must be made odious and traitors must be punished and impoverished.”8

Lee’s surrender at Appomattox on April 9, 1865 was a sweet moment of vindication for Lincoln and for his conviction that magnanimity—embodied in Grant’s lenient surrender terms—was the best means to effect Southern repentance and national reunion. But the moment was fleeting: just five days after the Federal army’s triumph, an assassin’s bullet took Lincoln’s life. Northerners saw the assassination as a base bid to rob the Union of the victory that its commander-in-chief, with Grant’s army as his instrument, had just won: to turn back the clock and to plunge the country once again into hatred, bloodshed, and chaos. How could Northerners mete out justice to the guilty without being drawn into the vortex of vengeance? In a call and response that played out in public forums across the Union, some Northerners cried out for stern retribution against the South for Booth’s deed, while others answered that Lincoln’s spirit of magnanimity must prevail.9

Presidential Reconstruction

Johnson formulated his plan for securing the fragile peace and restoring the shattered Union in a power vacuum: Congress was out of session when he took office in April of 1865 and not due to reconvene until December 1865. At first the new president seemed to make good on his promise to deal sternly with traitors. On May 1, he issued a document consigning the eight people arrested as conspirators in the Lincoln assassination to trial by a military commission rather than a civil court; at the end of June he would approve the sentences handed down by that commission, including the executions of four of those convicted. On May 2, 1865, Johnson put a bounty of $100,000 on Jefferson Davis’s head, and when Union soldiers captured the fugitive Confederate president in Georgia on May 10, Johnson had him imprisoned, at Fort Monroe in Virginia, to await an uncertain fate.10

Andrew Johnson and the Legacy of the Civil WarClick to view larger

Figure 2. Andrew Johnson as President. Library of Congress, LC-USZ62-11142.

Johnson seemed to change course when, on May 29, he formally proclaimed his reconstruction policy. His Amnesty Proclamation required Confederates to take an oath of allegiance to the United States government, as the condition for the restoration of their individual political and property rights. There were fourteen categories of exemptions to this rule; high-ranking Confederate civil and military officials and members of the antebellum elite would have to apply directly to the president for their pardons. As his biographer Paul Bergeron has noted, Johnson believed that his Amnesty Proclamation represented a “proper middle ground between universal forgiveness and universal punishment.” But in practice, the new president soon abdicated that middle ground. He proved susceptible to the entreaties of his former foes and granted them pardons gladly, issuing at least fifteen thousand to individual rebels over the course of his time in office.11

At the same moment he inaugurated his amnesty policy, Johnson also laid out the procedure by which the errant rebel states would be readmitted to the Union. His test case was North Carolina. On May 29, he appointed William W. Holden, the wartime critic of the Davis administration who had led his state’s “Peace Party,” as provisional governor. Holden was given the authority to fill a raft of appointive offices and to hold elections for a state convention. That convention would, in turn, meet and take the required steps for readmission: it would overturn the state’s secession ordinance; endorse abolition and the 13th Amendment; and repudiate the Confederate debt. Johnson’s key stipulation was that the electorate of North Carolina would consist of those who had taken the oath of allegiance and who had also been eligible to vote in 1861, under the state’s prewar constitution. Johnson’s North Carolina proclamation was thus a rejection of the proposal advanced by Radical Republicans in Congress, such as Charles Sumner and Thaddeus Stevens, that the Federal government should insist on black suffrage as a precondition for the readmission of Southern states to the Union. The North Carolina plan was to be the blueprint for the reestablishment of state governments across the South.12

Johnson and the Radicals represented two different understandings of Lincoln’s legacy and theories of governance. The president believed that he upheld Lincoln’s doctrines: that secession had been the work of a minority of whites; that the Southern states had never legally left the Union; and that they should swiftly be restored to it. Indeed Johnson preferred the word “restoration” to the word “reconstruction.” Radicals such as Stevens, by contrast, believed Lincoln’s legacy was a “new birth of freedom,” and that the surrender was a victory for the principle of human equality and the prospect of black citizenship. They saw the Confederate states as “conquered provinces” that had surrendered their sovereignty—reverted to the status of territories, in effect—and should be rebuilt, reconstructed, from the ground up; some Radicals favored the confiscation and redistribution of Southern plantations to furnish land to the freedpeople. At issue was not whether the federal government could set the terms on which the states would return, but which part of the federal government could do so. Johnson believed that the power to dictate terms to the South lay with the executive branch. Radicals believed that power lay in Congress. Moderate Republicans, who dominated Congress, were caught in between: they believed that Lincoln’s legacy was one of restraint and forbearance—of “malice towards none”—and that the purpose of Lincoln’s war and of his peace was to bring errant southern brethren back into the fold. Moderates rejected the conquered provinces theory and the specter of confiscation, and were ambivalent about black suffrage. But they agreed with Radicals that Congress had the authority—under its Constitutional mandate to guarantee a republican form of government to each state—to direct reconstruction. Much would depend on which way the moderates leaned.13

Johnson’s May 29 proclamations initiated a period of “self-reconstruction” in the South, during which provisional governors appointed thousands of former rebels to political office and in which the new Southern state governments proscribed the rights of the freedpeople, to push them into a state of subordination as close as possible to slavery. Retooling the old “slave codes,” the new Black Codes, which took shape by the end of 1865, were designed to extract the labor power of African Americans and to enforce white supremacy. As they required freedpeople to carry papers proving that they were gainfully employed and passes permitting them to travel, lest they be arrested for vagrancy, the Black Codes compelled African Americans to sign annual labor contracts with white employers, who were typically their former masters. The codes made it a crime to act “insolent” to whites; permitted white judges to seize and apprentice out to whites any black children whose families who did not meet white approval; levied regressive and punitive taxes on black property; and increased the penalties for crimes such as larceny and trespassing. This regime of surveillance and regulation was enforced by an all-white police and judicial system—and by white patrollers, “often composed of Confederate veterans still wearing their grey uniforms.”14

Historians have offered a variety of explanations as to why Johnson so quickly abandoned his tough talk against the “Slave Power Conspiracy” and settled into a policy of appeasement. They have cited Johnson’s deep-seated racism, his pleasure in having the haughty planter class come before him on bended knee, his Jacksonian belief in the supremacy of the executive branch and attendant suspicion of Congress, his Southerner’s commitment to states rights, and his desire to build a new electoral constituency, composed of centrist Democrats and Republicans, for a presidential bid in 1868. There was a strong ideological connection between these factors. Johnson’s animus against the planter “aristocracy” was real, as was his support for the abolition of slavery. Paradoxically, his racism linked these two positions. Johnson believed that the greatest achievement of the war was “emancipating the white man,” by which he meant not only disenthralling the nonslaveholding yeomen from the dominance of the planter class, but also breaking the back of an unholy alliance—between Southern white elites and their black slaves—that had kept the white farmer down. As he put it to a delegation of Charlestonians in June of 1865, revealing the depths of his resentments, “the negro in South Carolina that belonged to a man who owned from one to five hundred slaves, thought himself better than the white man who owned none. He felt himself the white man’s superior.” If African American men were granted the vote, Johnson continued, planters could control their votes, and the middling white man would continue to be marginalized. As president, Johnson briefly paid lip service to the possibility that some educated blacks might merit the franchise, within the constraints of literacy and property requirements. But such empty rhetoric collapsed under the weight of Johnson’s racism and his conviction that only the states, and not the Federal government, could confer the vote.15

In other words, Johnson believed in the right of African Americans to be free from slavery and to work for wages for white employers, but he did not believe them fit to exercise full citizenship rights. In his eyes, there was no contradiction here, for Johnson, no less than the Confederate elite, was steeped in a white supremacist ideology historians have labeled “paternalism”: it held that blacks were the childlike wards of their benign white custodians, and that whites extended them care and protection in exchange for their submission. Paternalism rested on a series of invidious and insidious assumptions. One of these was the idea that if African Americans demanded rights and power, they forfeited white protection, and entered an arena of “survival of the fittest” sort of competition for supremacy. Another was that blacks were dangerously susceptible to political manipulation by designing whites—abolitionists and Radical Republicans, in particular—who sought to foment black discontent and even vengeance and race war as a means to gain power. Johnson believed his program of restoration was a bulwark against these dystopian scenarios. His vision was of a South in which the old planter elite would share power with their natural allies, the white yeomen, and in which blacks, though nominally free, would be relegated to second-class, peasant status. For such a vision to come to pass, he reckoned, the Southern states must be able to govern their own affairs, with minimal interference from the federal government.16

Some Americans, particularly those from Johnson’s social milieu, could clearly see this political vision at work in his early pronouncements and acts as president. For example, a Tennessee associate of Johnson’s, John W. Gorham of Clarksville, wrote President Johnson approvingly on June 3, 1865 invoking their shared commitment to preserving “a white Mans Government in America.” “The People of this Country was frightened when they first learned that you was the President,” he noted, “but those of us that knew you best and had bin your life long Political Friends assured them that you would not adopt the Radical but the Constitutional Polacy.” This constituent assured Johnson: “the White People will sustain you.”17

But to many others, Johnson’s intentions were ambiguous; it was not yet clear, in the late spring of 1865, whose interests he might still be persuaded to serve. Thus, his voluminous correspondence contains wide range of conflicting appeals from across the political spectrum. Committees of African American leaders in North Carolina, Virginia, Kentucky, and South Carolina petitioned Johnson for the suffrage. They invoked their natural rights and their contributions to the Northern victory. “We cannot understand the justice of denying the elective franchise to men who have been fighting for the country, while it is freely given to men who have just returned from four years fighting against it,” stated a North Carolina petition. As the summer of 1865 unfolded, such petitions increasingly invoked the new assaults on their fragile freedom: “unrepentant rebels,” explained a committee of Richmond blacks, had reimposed the “old negro laws” on free blacks, wantonly arresting and harassing innocent citizens. A smattering of white Southern Unionists wrote Johnson with their own appeals for black suffrage, and these were grounded in political expediency. If loyal black Unionists were not enfranchised, warned a Tennessee Unionist in May, “rebels will re-elect rebels.”18

And that is exactly what came to pass. Southern recalcitrance was manifest in the all-white electorate’s choice of leaders to represent it at the state and federal levels. Under Johnson’s reconstruction plan, state governments were handed over to former Confederates. Scores of former Confederate officials, including the vice president, six cabinet officers, four generals, and fifty-eight members of the Confederate Congress were elected to serve in the Thirty-Ninth Congress, which would convene in December of 1865; some of them had not yet been pardoned. This set the stage for a showdown with Congress. The Republican majority in Congress refused to seat these representatives and to recognize the restored governments; it formed a Joint Committee on Reconstruction to assess the impact of Johnson’s policies in the South.19

The Civil Rights Bill

The reports of racial proscription that Congress received from the South prompted moderate Republican Senator Lyman Trumbull, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, to propose, in early 1866, two bills to secure basic rights and protections for Southern blacks. One would extend the life of the Freedmen’s Bureau, the federally agency created to oversee the transition of former slaves to freedom. The other was a civil rights bill that would invalidate the “Black Codes” and nullify the Supreme Court’s controversial Dred Scott decision of 1857, which had denied the possibility of citizenship for blacks. The civil rights bill guaranteed the right of national citizens, defined as those born in the United States, to make contracts, bring lawsuits, hold property, and claim the “full and equal benefit” of the laws protecting persons and property. Although the bill did not broach the subject of black suffrage, it was nonetheless revolutionary: “no longer could states enact laws such as the Black Codes declaring certain actions crimes for black persons but not white.”20

Republican champions of the Civil Rights Bill argued that the Union victory in the war had brought on a “golden moment,” as Radical Republican Senator Henry Wilson put it, and that Johnson had squandered it. In May of 1865, Wilson declared, the rebels “were prostrate at the feet of the nation, completely conquered and subjugated”; they “could then have been molded at the nation’s will.” If only Johnson had seized that golden moment and granted the freedmen the ballot and civil rights, “sectional controversies would have perished forever, the representatives of the rebellious States would ere have filled these vacant chairs, and the heavens would be raining their choicest blessings upon the nation for a deed so wise and so just.” Now the moment had passed. “The poor freedmen” were “trembling with apprehension, everywhere subject to indignity, insult, outrage, and murder.”21

Opponents of the Civil Rights bill, who included some conservative Republicans as well as Democrats, countered such arguments with their own invocation of a golden moment. In their view, Johnson’s clemency had made it possible for the nation to sow the seeds of goodwill that Grant and Lee had planted at Appomattox. Pennsylvania Senator Edgar Cowan told his colleagues that Southerners were firmly back in the national fold. If the United States were threatened by a foreign government, “nine out of every ten” Southerners, he claimed, would “stand by the flag.” The bill’s critics also resorted to race-baiting tactics, drawing up dystopian scenarios in which its passage would lead to race war, race competition, and race mixing. According to Andrew Jackson Rogers, a New Jersey Democrat, “if you pass this bill, you will allow the negroes of this country to compete for the high office of President of the United States”—no “civilized” country on earth gave rights to such “barbarians.” In the eyes of Democrats, it was Republican agitation, rather than Johnson’s clemency, that threatened to dispel the golden moment of victory and reunion.22

Emboldened by the sense that he was successfully building a constituency among Northern Democrats as well as among former rebels, and convinced that the Radicals were the traitors who now threatened the peace, Johnson vetoed the Civil Rights act on March 27, 1866. His veto message claimed that Congress had no authority to legislate on the South until the Southern representatives were seated and that the bill discriminated against whites: “the distinction of race and color is by the bill made to operate in favor of the colored against the white race.” Johnson’s veto message raised the specter of social equality, asking rhetorically whether the bill would not open the way to the repeal of state measures prohibiting interracial marriage.23

Johnson and his allies retooled antebellum arguments against emancipation and used them to hold the line against black citizenship. These arguments played on cross-cutting fears: the fear of an implacable hatred between the races and the fear of mutual attraction; the fear that blacks were too base to function as freemen and the fear that they would be formidable competitors in the economic and political realms; the fear that Radicals would oppress white Southerners and the fear that they might coopt them.

Johnson’s veto, along with his quashing of the bill to extend the Freedmen’s Bureau, obviated the hope of any cooperation between President Johnson and Congress. The two branches of government were now at war. Republicans declared Johnson to be a traitor to the party and to the Union—in a reference to treacherous antiwar Democrats, they call him a Copperhead, and they accused him, too, of being prone to “alcoholic rowdyism.” On April 6, the Senate overrode the president’s veto, thirty-three to fifteen; three days later, on April 9, 1866, the House cast the two-thirds votes needed to uphold the bill. This was the “first time in American history,” Eric Foner explains, that “Congress enacted a major piece of legislation over a President’s veto.” As a safeguard against the possible repeal or judicial review of the act, Congress formulated the 14th Amendment to the Constitution in April of 1866—guaranteeing the freedpeople the equal protection of the law and due process—and required Southern states to accept it as a condition of their return to the Union; the amendment passed in Congress in June of 1866.24

Meanwhile, tragic events in Memphis, Tennessee dramatized the need to offer additional protections for black citizenship. On May 1, 1866, a white mob, led by city policemen, began a wave of attacks against African Americans in South Memphis. The violence would stretch out over three terror-filled days. The precipitating incident was a clash between recently discharged black Union soldiers and white policemen at a festive gathering of African Americans on South Street. In the midst of false rumors that the black troops were staging an “uprising,” white civilians poured into South Memphis, setting fire to shanties, schools, and churches, pillaging stores and residences, sexually assaulting black women, and murdering at least forty-six freedpeople. The context for the mob violence was white fear and resentment at the prospect of “social equality” between the races—a prospect, so Southern whites charged, heralded in the passage of the Civil Rights bill.25 Radical Republicans shot back that Johnson and his policies, by emboldening ex-Confederates, were responsible for the Memphis affair and for an equally tragic race riot in New Orleans.

In the midst of these events, African American leaders, arguing that blacks needed the protection of the ballot, also invoked the golden moment lost. They highlighted exactly how fear-mongering white rhetoric had dispelled the promise of the Union’s victory. After Lee’s surrender, an editorial in the Christian Recorder explained, the South had been ready to “accept the situation” and even to consider black citizenship. But Johnson and his conciliators had spread the “false and absurd charge,” a charge whites had “so frequently sought to establish,” that blacks were “turbulent and insurrectionary.” It had worked: the whites of the South, the editorial lamented, now stood united in opposition to the “elevation of the colored people.”26

Both the Republican and Johnsonian images of a golden moment of tranquility at the war’s end were fantasies: there never was such a moment, as Lee’s surrender was immediately politicized and mired in controversy. The ubiquity of the golden moment image, across the political spectrum, signals that Americans were, in the early days of Reconstruction, still grappling with the fundamental questions of victory and defeat: debating who belonged in the victor’s circle and what sort of mandate they had won. Each side—that of Johnson and that of his detractors—professed to seek “a settlement that would stick, assuring that there would be no new war, no new wounds,” to quote the historian Mark Summers. And each side claimed that only it could secure such a lasting peace.27

Swing Round the Circle

Johnson fought back against his Republican foes, issuing a proclamation on August 20, 1866, declaring that “peace, order, tranquility, and civil authority” had been restored to the United States. The implication was that the time for martial law and military occupation had passed, and that the army’s legal authority and physical presence in the South could be reduced. The ensuing months saw a precipitous decline in the number of federal troops stationed in the former Confederacy, and, concomitantly, rising levels of vigilante violence against blacks. Moreover, Johnson embarked, in August of 1866, on his “Swing Round the Circle”—the ill-fated goodwill tour of Northern cities that he undertook in order to drum up support for his agenda of restoration. This was an open bid to influence the looming 1866 congressional elections, and it went terribly awry. Provoked by hecklers, Johnson repeatedly lashed out at the crowds that gathered to hear him, hissing that he was as prepared to “fight traitors at the North” as he had been to fight Southern traitors. Northern traitors were, in his eyes, men such as Thaddeus Stevens and Charles Sumner—and all those who supported black civil rights. Here again Johnson echoed prewar discourse: self-styled moderates had long blamed sectional strife on extremists—on Southern secessionists and North radical abolitionists alike. In Johnson’s view, there was no inconsistency in opposing both secession and radical Republicanism—for both were disunionist. Having worked to discredit Southern extremists, Johnson now focused on discrediting Northern ones; having cast blacks as the pawns of the planters, he now cast them as the pawns of the Radicals. Indeed when Frederick Douglass and a delegation of African American leaders visited the White House in early 1866, to plead on behalf of black suffrage in the District of Columbia, Johnson dismissed them as the “tools” of Sumner and Stevens, trying to “trap him” into believing they could be trusted.28

What most angered Republicans who read the press reports of Johnson’s public speeches was that he brazenly and directly accused the “Radical Congress” of inciting black violence in the South and of trying to “poison the minds of the American people” against him. Interwoven with his sputtering accusations was a red thread of personal betrayal: Johnson felt himself spurned by the moderate Republicans. “Who had run greater risks or made greater sacrifices than himself?” Johnson again and again asked, rhetorically, alluding to his near martyrdom as the foremost Southern champion of the Union. Johnson believed that his wartime sacrifices should have secured him a deep wellspring of trust and deference from mainstream Northerners. In other words, his behavior was driven not only by ideology but also by a profound sense of having been cheated of that which was rightfully his. Johnson’s intemperate speechifying during the “swing” cost his allies votes, as he alienated many moderate Republicans and Democrats alike; in the fall of 1866, anti-Johnson Republicans swept both houses of Congress and now had the power, in the form of two-thirds control of both houses, to override the president’s vetoes at will. 29

Congressional Reconstruction

Now Congress was able to enact its own program. The Reconstruction Acts of March 1867 divided the former Confederate states into five military districts and placed each under the purview of a commanding general and martial law. This military commander would supervise the registration of voters—including African American men and excluding some unpardoned rebels—to elect delegates to state conventions that would draft new constitutions and set up new governments; these governments were required to uphold the Fourteenth Amendment and guarantee black male suffrage. Only after it had met these conditions could a state be readmitted to the Union. Anticipating Johnson’s opposition, Congress also took measures at this moment in March of 1867 to constrain him: it passed the Tenure of Office Act, which made it illegal for Johnson to dismiss a cabinet officer without the Senate’s approval; this was a bid to protect men such as Secretary of War Edwin Stanton, who supported Congress’s program.30

The Reconstruction Acts inaugurated an unprecedented experiment in interracial democracy in the former Confederate states, as the newly enfranchised freedmen formed a governing coalition with white Southern Unionists and Northern Republican transplants to the South. Modern historians have emphasized that the key to understanding Congressional Reconstruction is to recognize the extent of its transformations of Southern life without overstating them. The Congressional program enfranchised approximately one million African Americans and gave them a voice, for the first time, in Southern politics. For the first time, African Americans held public office, at the municipal, county, state and federal levels. The Republican coalition implemented measures to modernize the South, providing education and social services for black and white citizens alike. These were remarkable and even revolutionary changes. And yet some things did not change. Whites continued to dominate Southern politics: the numerically dominant element in the Republican coalition was white Southerners, some of whom were “consistent” Unionists but many of whom were not. A small number of whites genuinely supported interracial democracy; many others embraced the goal of economic recovery and modernization but were unenthusiastic about social change. Ex-Confederates largely retained the right to vote. While commanding officers had the power to disfranchise recalcitrant rebels, only roughly 15 percent of former Confederates were ever disfranchised, and then only temporarily; black politicians often argued against the disfranchisement of Confederates, in an effort to uphold the principle of universal manhood suffrage. At the constitutional conventions and in state legislatures, blacks were underrepresented: they held fewer offices than their percentage of the electorate. Even at the height of Congressional Reconstruction, African Americans held roughly only 15–20 percent of elective offices in the South.31

These were the facts of Reconstruction, but they were facts Andrew Johnson would prove unwilling to countenance or acknowledge. Indeed he sought to preempt Radical Reconstruction by associating it with vengeance, subjugation, and disunion. His veto of the First Reconstruction Act labeled the Congressional program an exercise in “absolute despotism” aimed at “Africanizing the Southern part of our territory”; it would subject whites, he predicted, to the “most abject and degrading slavery.” “The negroes,” he opined, reprising his argument that blacks would be pawns of Radicals, “have not asked for the privilege of voting—the vast majority of them have no idea what it means.” His veto of the Second Reconstruction Act invoked the golden moment lost: “if the policy of reconciliation . . . had received the support of Congress,” Johnson insisted, “then over all the vast and fruitful regions of the South peace and its blessings would have prevailed.” Instead, because of Radical intransigence, “millions” of whites would be “deprived of rights guaranteed by the Constitution.”32

Impeachment

As Johnson dug in his heels, the House Judiciary Committee began to explore the possibility of his impeachment. The Constitution stipulated that the grounds for impeachment were “high crimes and misdemeanors,” but it remained unclear just what that meant. Did the phrase refer to general malfeasance in office, or was it necessary to prove that the president had broken a criminal statute? In early 1867, a minority in the House tried to bring impeachment forward, asking the Judiciary Committee to investigate Johnson’s official conduct; the Judiciary Committee concluded in June that there was no evidence of high crimes and misdemeanor. But then Johnson turned aggressive: in August, he began to remove from office men who were zealously carrying out the Congressional program, including Union war hero Philip Sheridan, commander of the Louisiana-Texas district, and Secretary of War Stanton himself. Johnson had requested Stanton’s resignation, and when he refused to tender it, the president suspended the Secretary of War and named Ulysses S. Grant as his interim replacement. In the fall of 1867, the House Judiciary Committee recommended impeachment on the grounds of “usurpation of power,” only to have it voted down in the House.33

Johnson was unrepentant. His Third Annual Message to Congress, delivered in December 1867, again hammered at the themes of the golden moment lost, and of “black rule.” Johnson began by harkening back to the early days of his Presidency. In his view, the Southern states showed every sign, in the spring of 1865, of having learned their lessons: “restoration in the first moment of peace was believed to be as easy and certain as it was indispensable.” What had gone wrong? Congress had intervened. Johnson spelled out what he took to be the consequences of Congress’s usurpation of power. He staked the claim that the “political privileges” blacks enjoyed had been “torn from white men”; the enfranchisement of blacks portended their control of the region. This was a travesty, Johnson continued, for blacks had “less capacity for government than any other race of people.” There was no possibility of interracial democracy—only of a zero-sum game of supremacy of one race over the other. “If the inferior obtains the ascendancy over the other,” he warned, “it will govern with reference only to its own interests—for it will recognize no common interest—and create such a tyranny as this continent has never yet witnessed.” In an interview he gave with the newspaper the Cincinnati Commercial, later that December, Johnson claimed that there was no inconsistency in his political philosophy. Recalling the 1864 Nashville speech, in which he had told blacks that he would be their Moses, he noted that he had not at that moment “advocated negro supremacy.” “Because I wanted the negroes to be free and enjoy their rights,” he explained, “it does not follow that I want them to be the ruling class in eleven Southern states.”34

In weaving the myth of “black rule,” Johnson was again repurposing old arguments, ones that had been a key part of the electoral playbook of the antebellum Democrats and secessionists: defenders of slavery, in order to foster solidarity in their own ranks, had dramatically exaggerated the power of abolitionists. In the postwar, post-emancipation context, such tactics reflected a profound sense of loss among Southerners; for whites who had been the ruling race, a world of black freedom and voting seemed a world turned upside down. But the tactics were also knowing and cynical, marshalling fear and prejudice in order to thwart the Republican effort to remake the South.

Johnson’s rhetoric resonated among many whites in the North as well as the South. His politically influential allies joined him in the work of preemptively declaring Radical Reconstruction a failure and travesty; for example, his advisor Francis Blair Sr. wrote Johnson in February of 1867, a month before the Reconstruction Acts passed, that the Radicals were intent on “sacrificing . . . our white to the black race” and that Johnson must stand firm in defense of the Constitution. Johnson also found affirmation of his views in his voluminous correspondence from constituents. In a typical such letter, a Northern Democrat named Moses Bates wrote Johnson that, “the friends of conservatism must organize if they would resist that Radical disunion, which purposes the overthrow of these Sovereign States.” Southern and Northern correspondents alike raised the specter of the “Africanization” of the South and of a Radical Republican “reign of terror” and praised Johnson for his “fearless and patriotic defense of . . . white men.” Johnson concluded that Democratic party gains in the fall elections of 1867 (particularly in Pennsylvania, Ohio, New York, and California) vindicated his opposition to Congress, and this conclusion was repeated back to him. Alluding to the “late vindication of your policy,” William Jewett wrote to Johnson in November that the president’s message and mandate were clear: “the people in sustaining you, have plainly said—the negro, as a result of the war, shall only be free”—not equal. 35

In short, Johnson’s words mattered—and that is why Republicans assailed Johnson for abusing the powers of the bully pulpit. The formal provocation for impeachment came in February 1868, when Johnson, having failed to get Senate approval for the dismissal of Stanton, ordered him removed nonetheless, and named—again without Senate approval—his successor, General Lorenzo Thomas; these actions brought a long simmering feud between Johnson and U.S. Grant to a boiling point, as Grant sided with Stanton. Johnson had now, Republicans believed, openly and clearly violated the Tenure of Office Act. On February 24, 1868, the House voted to impeach the president, by a vote of 126 to 47. It then drew up eleven Articles of Impeachment, specifying the charges laid at the president’s table. Most of the charges concerned the alleged violations of the Tenure of Office Act and of a second Congressional measure, the Command of Army Act, that had instructed Johnson to issue military orders through the General of the Army—U.S. Grant—and that protected Grant, too, from removal without Senate consent. The most revealing article of impeachment was Article Ten, which condemned Johnson for his speech-making: for the “intemperate, inflammatory and scandalous harangues, and therein utter loud threats and bitter menaces” that Johnson had offered up on his “swing round the circle.” In these speeches, Article Ten charged, Johnson “did attempt to bring into disgrace, ridicule, hatred, contempt and reproach, the Congress of the United States.”36

Andrew Johnson and the Legacy of the Civil WarClick to view larger

Figure 3. The Spectacle of Impeachment: The Senate Trial of 1868. Library of Congress, LC-USZ62-84930.

The ensuing Senate impeachment trial, which began on March 30, 1868, and lasted until May 26, was primarily a debate over the constitutionality of the Tenure of Office Act and over whether Johnson’s violation of it rose to the level of high crimes and misdemeanors. Johnson was ably represented by his defense counsel, led by Benjamin Curtis, a former Supreme Court justice known best for his dissenting opinion in the Dred Scott case, and by Attorney General Henry Stanbery. These men stayed focused on “narrow legal issues,” arguing that the Tenure of Office Act was an unconstitutional abridgment of the powers of the president; that it did not cover Stanton, who had been a Lincoln appointee; that Stanton had refused to step down and therefore hadn’t technically been removed; and that Johnson had dismissed Stanton hoping precisely to test the legality of the Act.37 The passage of time would vindicate Johnson’s position: the Tenure of Office Act was repealed by Congress in 1887 and declared invalid by the Supreme Court in 1926.

But what of Article Ten? According to its author, Ben Butler, the most fervent of the House impeachment managers, the debates in the Senate pitted the principle of “decency of speech” against that of “freedom of speech.” In his opening argument before the Senate, Butler charged Johnson not only with slandering Congress, but also with bringing the office of president into disgrace. Johnson’s speeches in Cleveland and St. Louis during the 1866 swing, in which he had exchanged jibes and barbs with the crowd, had befit a “common brawler, or a common scold,” but not a president. Johnson had lacked that “gravity of deportment” required of his office. Butler held up as a particularly “revolting exhibition” Johnson’s September 1866 speech in St. Louis, in which Johnson had responded to charges that he was a traitor, a Judas to the cause of Union. The president had cried out, “If I have played the Judas who has been my Christ . . .? Was it Thad. Stevens? Was it Wendell Phillips? Was it Charles Sumner? They are the men that stop and compare themselves with the Savior, and everybody that differs with them in opinion, and tries to stay and arrest their diabolical and nefarious policy is to be denounced as a Judas. Well, let me say to you, if you will stand by me, . . . I will kick them out. I will kick them out just as fast as I can.” In Butler’s view, these denunciations were not mere buffoonery—they were blasphemy. They were not “mere expressions of opinion”: they were a power play, a bid to undermine the legislative branch so that Johnson could impose despotism. But more still was at stake. For the impeachers, Johnson’s words and comportment made a mockery of the Union war effort and of the North’s victory. Butler and the impeachers believed that the Union army’s triumph had won the Republican Party, and the North, the right to occupy the moral high ground—victory had vindicated the principle of majority rule and the Lincoln administration’s conduct of the war. Johnson, in their eyes, had relinquished the moral high ground, and abased the sacred cause of Union.38

Johnson countered these charges with a technical argument—namely that the transcripts Republicans quoted were not accurate. He answered with a constitutional argument—that as an American citizen he had the right to exercise freedom of speech. And he answered by repeating the accusations he had made in those controversial speeches, albeit in more temperate language. His addresses to the people, he insisted, had had a single purpose: to show that the policies adopted by Congress “did not tend to peace and harmony and union, but, on the contrary, to disunion and the permanent disruption of the States.” To the considerable dismay of his defense counsel, Johnson insisted on giving a series of newspaper interviews while the trial was unfolding. In a March 8 interview with the Democratic paper the New York World, Johnson defended both the content and style of his speeches. “Is telling the truth to the people in a public address a ‘high misdemeanor’?” he asked his interviewer. “I have advised Congress directly, and many times, of the president’s opinion of its unwise, unconstitutional, and disastrous legislation. If I have advised the people of it in terms not exactly befitting a state document, it has been because the more pointedly the truth is told, the quicker the masses of people apprehend it.” Johnson was trumpeting his populist credentials and his ear for the vernacular. He was not giving an inch.39

In the end, of course, Johnson escaped impeachment, by the narrowest of margins—namely one vote. The Senate tally of 35 for impeachment and 19 against was just shy of the necessary two-thirds majority. Historians have advanced a tangle of explanations for the failure of impeachment: that Johnson’s defense counsel out-argued the House managers, who overplayed their hand in vilifying the president; that Republicans did not want to see the radical Ben Wade, president pro tem of the Senate, assume the presidency; that Johnson had appeased moderate Republicans by naming a man acceptable to them, General John Schofield, as Stanton’s replacement; that the Senators feared impeachment was a humiliating spectacle and bad precedent for the country; that everyone knew Johnson was a powerless lame duck, and that the hero of Appomattox, U.S. Grant, was waiting in the wings to lead the Republicans in 1868; that Johnson’s backers had bribed some wavering Republicans into voting against the president’s ouster.40

Legacy

Ironically, Johnson and his defenders claimed that the final impeachment vote represented a moral victory. Republicans argued that the trial had thoroughly discredited the president; this view has been echoed by modern historians, who have described Johnson after the impeachment battle as a “cipher without influence on public policy.” But to fully assess Johnson’s legacy we must confront the fact that he felt utterly vindicated by the Senate vote. In March 1869, Johnson delivered a “Farewell Address” to the nation as he left office, in which he launched his most scathing and scurrilous attack on Radical Republicans, enumerating their “catalog of crimes,” portraying them as “pretended patriots” who sought “by every means, to keep open and exposed to the poisonous breath of party passion the terrible wounds of four-years’ war.” As for his own public career, Johnson felt secure in his own blamelessness. “No responsibility for wars that have been waged or blood that has been shed rests upon me,” he declared. He ended the Farewell Address with a stark expression of defiance: “I have nothing to regret.”41

Johnson’s tenure was coming to an end but his ideas persisted. His very arguments against Congressional Reconstruction were featured in the Democratic Party’s presidential campaign of 1868, which cast the Democrat Horatio Seymour as the champion of white men and the Republican U.S. Grant as the symbol of “black rule”; Seymour lost to Grant, but captured 47 percent of the popular vote.42 Johnson’s words would live on in the propaganda of the so-called “redeemers,” who fomented vigilante violence to bring down Congressional Reconstruction—men like John Brown Gordon, the former Confederate general turned Klansman, who accused Radicals of having betrayed the peace. They would live on in the cult of the Lost Cause, which romanticized the prewar South and trumpeted Confederate blamelessness and suffering. Johnson himself would ride the tide of redemption nearly back into power, winning a Senate seat in January of 1875, only to suffer a stroke that took his life that July. One school of thought among historians holds that Johnson’s legacy was to undermine the office of the presidency: “His political ineptitude enabled congressional activists to succeed in imposing restraint upon the chief executive, thus giving to Congress the power to set national policy for the next thirty-five years.”43 But a focus on Johnson’s rhetoric yields a different conclusion. Johnson’s term offers as striking an example as we have in U.S. history of the power of presidents to set the terms of political debates—and of the power of their words to do lasting harm.

Discussion of the Literature

Eric L. McKitrick’s Andrew Johnson and Reconstruction (1960)LaWanda Cox and John H. Cox, Politics, Principle, and Prejudice, 1865–1866 (1963)Hans L. Trefousse, Andrew Johnson: A Biography (1989)Michael Les Benedict, The Impeachment and Trial of Andrew Johnson (1973)David O. Stewart, Impeached: The Trial of President Andrew Johnson and the Fight for Lincoln’s Legacy (2009)Annette Gordon-Reed, Andrew Johnson (2011)James E. Sefton, Andrew Johnson and the Uses of Constitutional Power (1980)Paul H. Bergeron, Andrew Johnson’s Civil War and Reconstruction (2011)Brooks D. Simpson, The Reconstruction Presidents (1998)Mark Wahlgren Summers, A Dangerous Stir: Fear, Paranoia, and the Making of Reconstruction (2009)John Hope Franklin, Reconstruction After the Civil War (1961)Eric Foner, A Short History of Reconstruction (1990)Michael Perman, Reunion Without Compromise: The South and Reconstruction, 1865–1868 (1973)Mark Wahlgren Summers, The Ordeal of the Reunion: A New History of Reconstruction (2014)George C. Rable, But There Was No Peace: The Role of Violence in the Politics of Reconstruction (1994)Gregory P. Downs, After Appomattox: Military Occupation and the Ends of War (2015)Douglas R. Egerton’s The Wars of Reconstruction: The Brief, Violent History of America’s Most Progressive Era (2014)

Modern scholars are nearly unanimous in assessing Johnson’s presidency as a tragedy, and in focusing on Johnson’s intractable racism as the source of his failure to establish a just peace after the war. Influential studies that emphasize Johnson’s flaws of character, vision, and leadership include ; ; ; ; ; and .44 Recent studies that take the focus off of Johnson’s racism and that train attention on his views of Congress and the Constitution include ; and . For insights into American political culture during Johnson’s era, see ; and .45 For overviews of Reconstruction, see ; ; ; and . On the role of violence in the imposition of Johnsonian “restoration” and in the demise of Congressional Reconstruction, see . On the U.S. Army’s presence in the postwar South, and Johnson’s role in dismantling the occupation, see . On black politics in the era, see .46

Primary Sources

The Papers of Andrew Johnson, vols 1–16, is the best source for published Johnson papers, published by the University of Tennessee. For unpublished Johnson papers, including correspondence, diaries, messages and speeches, courts-martial and amnesty records, financial records, lists, newspaper clippings, printed matter, scrapbooks, photographs, see the Andrew Johnson Papers, 1783–1947 at the Library of Congress; they are available in a 55-reel microfilm edition, which is accessible at many libraries and through interlibrary loan. For the official papers of Johnson during his presidency, see A Compilation of the Messages and Papers of the Presidents. An excellent targeted collection of letters Johnson received on the subject of Reconstruction is Advice after Appomattox: Letters to Andrew Johnson, 1865–1866. A useful bibliography of primary and secondary sources on Johnson, including archival documents, can be found in Andrew Johnson: A Bibliography.47

Links to Digital Materials

For annotated primary sources on Johnson’s clash with Congress, including political cartoons culled from the influential journal Harper’s Weekly, see the website The Impeachment of Andrew Johnson.

For an introduction to Johnson’s presidency, including a short biography and helpful chronology, see the Miller Center's Reference Resource on the American Presidents.

Further Reading

Benedict, Michael Les. The Impeachment and Trial of Andrew Johnson. New York: Norton, 1973.Find this resource:

Bergeron, Paul H.Andrew Johnson’s Civil War and Reconstruction. Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 2011.Find this resource:

Downs, Gregory P.After Appomattox: Military Occupation and the Ends of War. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2015.Find this resource:

Foner, Eric. A Short History of Reconstruction. New York: Harper Perennial, 1990.Find this resource:

Gordon-Reed, Annette. Andrew Johnson. New York: Henry Holt, 2011.Find this resource:

McKitrick, Eric L.Andrew Johnson and Reconstruction. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1960.Find this resource:

Sefton, James E.Andrew Johnson and the Uses of Constitutional Power. Boston: Little, Brown, 1980.Find this resource:

Simpson, Brooks D.The Reconstruction Presidents. Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 1998.Find this resource:

Stewart, David O.Impeached: The Trial of President Andrew Johnson and the Fight for Lincoln’s Legacy. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2009.Find this resource:

Summers, Mark Wahlgren. A Dangerous Stir: Fear, Paranoia, and the Making of Reconstruction. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2009.Find this resource:

Trefousse, Hans L.Andrew Johnson: A Biography. New York: Norton, 1989.Find this resource:

Notes:

(1.) “Who Shall Be Vice-President? Shall He Be a Loyal or Disloyal Man?” Broadside (New York: Library Company of Philadelphia, 1864).

(3.) See for example, Brooks D. Simpson, The Reconstruction Presidents (Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 1998), 76, 87, 110; Mark Wahlgren Summers, A Dangerous Stir: Fear, Paranoia, and the Making of Reconstruction (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2009), 98, 175–176; Annette Gordon-Reed, Andrew Johnson (New York: Henry Holt, 2011), 4–9; and David O. Stewart, Impeached: The Trial of President Andrew Johnson and the Fight for Lincoln’s Legacy (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2009), 125–126, 316–319.

(4.) Life, Speeches and Service of Andrew Johnson. Seventeenth President of the United States (Philadelphia: T. B. Peterson, 1865), 33, 38.

(5.) Hans Trefousse, Andrew Johnson: A Biography. New York: Norton, 1989; and Richard Carwardine, Lincoln: A Life of Purpose and Power (New York: Knopf, 2006), 235–244 (quotation on 240).

(6.) Paul H. Bergeron, Andrew Johnson’s Civil War and Reconstruction (Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 2011), 47–53.

(7.) Bergeron, Andrew Johnson’s Civil War, 35–44 (quote on 44).

(8.) Ibid., 60, 67.

(9.) Elizabeth R. Varon, Appomattox: Victory, Defeat and Freedom at the End of the Civil War (New York: Oxford University Press, 2013), 135–147.

(10.) Bergeron, “Introduction,” to Volume 8, in The Papers of Andrew Johnson, vols 1–16, ed. LeRoy P. Graf, Ralph W. Haskins, and Paul H. Bergeron (Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 1967–2000), xxviii–xxix (hereafter PAJ).

(11.) Bergeron, Andrew Johnson’s Civil War, 75.

(12.) Ibid., 74–76; Brooks D. Simpson, Leroy P. Graf, and John Muldowny, eds., Advice after Appomattox: Letters to Andrew Johnson, 1865–1866 (Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 1987), 39–41.

(13.) Mark Summers, A Dangerous Stir: Fear, Paranoia, and the Making of Reconstruction (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2009), 74–78.

(14.) Eric Foner, A Short History of Reconstruction (New York: Harper Perennial, 1990), 94–95.

(15.) On Johnson’s motivations, see for example Gordon-Reed, Andrew Johnson, 99–103; and Trefousse, Andrew Johnson: A Biography (New York: Norton, 1989), 228. For his comments to the delegation of Charlestonians, see Interview with South Carolina Delegation, June 24, 1865, PAJ, Vol. 8, 280–285. On Johnson and the suffrage issue, see Bergeron, Andrew Johnson’s Civil War, 91–92.

(16.) On paternalism, see Lacy Ford, Deliver Us from Evil: The Slavery Question in the Old South (New York: Oxford University Press, 2009).

(17.) John W. Gorham to Andrew Johnson, June 3, 1865, in PAJ, Vol. 8, 173–174.

(18.) North Carolina Blacks to Andrew Johnson, May 10, 1865; Delegation Representing the Black People of Kentucky to Andrew Johnson, June 9, 1865; Committee of Richmond Blacks to Andrew Johnson, June 10, 1865; South Carolina Black Citizens to Andrew Johnson, June 29, 1865, in PAJ, Vol. 8, 57–58, 203–204, 211–213, 317–319; and Joseph Noxon to Andrew Johnson, May 27, 1865 in PAJ, Vol. 8, 119.

(19.) John Hope Franklin, Reconstruction After the Civil War (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1961), 43.

(20.) Eric Foner, Forever Free: The Story of Emancipation & Reconstruction (New York: Vintage, 2006), 114–115.

(21.) Appendix to the Congressional Globe, 39th Congress, 1st Session, March 2, 1866, 140–141 (Wilson speech).

(22.) Congressional Globe, 39th Congress, 1st Session, January 30, 1866, 501–502 (Cowan), March 1, 1866, 1122 (Rogers).

(23.) President “Johnson’s Veto of the Civil Rights Act, 1866,” in A Compilation of the Messages and Papers of the Presidents, 17891897, ed. James D. Richardson (Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, 1896–1899), Vol. 6, 405ff.

(24.) The Independent, New York, April 5, 1866; “The Political Situation,” The New Englander and Yale Review, April 1866, 359; and Foner, Short History of Reconstruction (New York: Harper, 1990), 113.

(25.) Hannah Rosen, Terror in the Heart of Freedom: Citizenship, Sexual Violence, and the Meaning of Race in the Postemancipation South (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2009), 61–69.

(26.) Christian Recorder, August 4, 1866.

(27.) Mark Wahlgren Summers, The Ordeal of the Reunion: A New History of Reconstruction (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2014), 3–4.

(28.) Summers, A Dangerous Stir, 100; and Gregory P. Downs, After Appomattox: Military Occupation and the Ends of War (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2015), 150–157. On the equation of extremism with disunion, see Elizabeth R. Varon, Disunion! The Coming of the American Civil War, 1789–1859 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2008).

(29.) Andrew Johnson, The Great Impeachment and Trial of Andrew Johnson: President of the United States (Philadelphia: T. B. Peterson, 1868), 21; and Bergeron, Andrew Johnson’s Civil War, 126–129.

(30.) Franklin, Reconstruction, 71–72.

(31.) Ibid., 101–103, 106.

(32.) “Veto of the First Military Reconstruction Act,” March 2, 1867, PAJ, Vol. 12, 82–94; and “Veto of the Second Military Reconstruction Act,” March 23, 1867, PAJ, Vol. 12, 179.

(33.) Eric L. McKitrick, Andrew Johnson and Reconstruction (New York: Oxford University Press, 1960), 492–499.

(34.) Andrew Johnson, “Third Annual Message,” December 3, 1867; and Andrew Johnson, Interview with Cincinnati Commercial, December 31, 1867, PAJ, Vol. 13, 396.

(35.) McKitrick, Andrew Johnson and Reconstruction, 85; Francis P. Blair, Sr., to Andrew Johnson, February 24, 1867, PAJ, Vol. 12, 59; Moses Bates to Andrew Johnson, January 4, 1868, 436; William C. Jewett to Andrew Johnson, November 3, 1867, 205; James Lyons to Andrew Johnson, October 16, 1867, 175–176; John T. Monroe to Andrew Johnson, September 17, 1867, 77–78; William W. Duffield to Andrew Johnson, September 9, 1867, 46; Robert Tyler to Andrew Johnson, November 29, 1867, 267; and all in PAJ, Vol. 13.

(36.) Johnson, The Great Impeachment and Trial of Andrew Johnson, 21–22.

(37.) James E. Sefton, Andrew Johnson and the Uses of Constitutional Power (Boston: Little, Brown, 1980), 177.

(38.) Johnson, The Great Impeachment and Trial of Andrew Johnson, 22, 92–93

(39.) Ibid., 41; Andrew Johnson, Interview with New York World, March 10, 1868, PAJ, Vol. 13, 637.

(40.) Bergeron, Andrew Johnson’s Civil War and Reconstruction, 204–206; and Stewart, Impeached, 260–278.

(41.) Andrew Johnson, “Farewell Address,” March 4, 1869, PAJ, Vol. 15, 511–515.

(42.) Bergeron, Andrew Johnson’s Civil War and Reconstruction, 205–211; Trefousse, “Andrew Johnson” (quotation); Gordon-Reed, Andrew Johnson, 141; and Simpson, Reconstruction Presidents, 127.

(43.) Varon, Appomattox, 250–251; and Trefousse, “Andrew Johnson.”

(44.) See McKitrick, Andrew Johnson and Reconstruction; LaWanda Cox and John H. Cox, Politics, Principle, and Prejudice, 1865–1866 (New York: Free Press of Glencoe, 1963); Hans L. Trefousse, Andrew Johnson: A Biography (New York: Norton, 1989); Michael Les Benedict, The Impeachment and Trial of Andrew Johnson (New York: Norton, 1973); Stewart, Impeached; and Annette Gordon-Reed, Andrew Johnson.

(45.) For Johnson’s views of Congress and the Constitution, see James E. Sefton, Andrew Johnson and the Uses of Constitutional Power; and Bergeron, Andrew Johnson’s Civil War. For political insights, see Simpson, The Reconstruction Presidents; and Summers, A Dangerous Stir.

(46.) On violence and the demise of Congressional Reconstruction, see George C. Rable, But There Was No Peace: The Role of Violence in the Politics of Reconstruction (Athens, GA: University of Georgia Press, 1994). On the U.S. Army, and the undoing of the occupation, see Gregory P. Downs, After Appomattox; the subject of black politics is treated in Douglas R. Egerton’sThe Wars of Reconstruction: The Brief, Violent History of America’s Most Progressive Era (New York: Bloomsbury, 2014).

(47.) PAJ, Vols. 1–16; official papers are found in Richardson, A Compilation of the Messages and Papers of the Presidents. For a collection on Reconstruction, see Simpson, Graf, and Muldowny, Advice after Appomattox: Letters to Andrew Johnson, 18651866; for archival documents, see Richard B. McCaslin, Andrew Johnson: A Bibliography (Westport, CT: Greenwood, 1992).