The Impeachment of Andrew Johnson
»Johnson's Background

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News Article
Harper's Weekly,   September 15, 1866, page 584

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May 13, 1865, page 289 (cover)
Andrew Johnson (illus. from 9/15/66 issue, page 584)

President Johnson has been sketched by Senator Doolittle as "a man of medium stature, compact and strong built, of dark complexion, and deep-set black eyes. He is of bilious temperament, of strong intellect, indomitable energy, and iron will, in whose character, I should say, the strongest feature of all is that of stern justice, mingled with a genuine hatred of all forms of aristocracy and oppression, and a patriotism so ardent that it amounts to a passion, almost a religion." We mean nothing disrespectful when we add that Andrew Johnson does not belong to that high order of American statesmen where stand such men as Alexander Hamilton and Wm. H. Seward. While he undoubtedly possesses a remarkable tenacity of purpose, and is to be accorded perfect honesty in his political views, it is impossible for him to command that kind of popular confidence which was given to Mr. Lincoln. Unlike the latter, Mr. Johnson possesses a mind rather impassioned than argumentative. His exhibition of temper, his intemperate, and often indecent, denunciation of his political opponents remind us rather of the demagogue than of the unimpassioned and well-balanced statesman. Whether we deem him right or wrong, his speeches before the people always have had essentially the same characteristics – the same strength and the same weakness. He never forgets, or lets you forget, that he is "the humble individual who is now addressing you;" he seems always apprehensive lest we shall lose sight of the sacrifices which he has borne or the service which he has done; if we do not agree with him politically we may expect to be called "traitors;" if any opponent has denounced him, we may be sure that he will return the blow with interest, thus putting himself upon the level of his intemperate and it may be vulgar antagonist. These characteristics are the result, in part, of his peculiar temperament, and, in still greater part, of his political education. The strongest speeches he has ever made – and those most free of the characteristic weakness to which we have alluded – were those made by him in the Senate in the winter of 1860 and the following summer. Indeed when speaking before the Senate he appeared as a very different style of orator than when addressing the people. Before the latter his speeches are disconnected, full of repetitions, and not even his official position as Chief Magistrate of the United States is sufficient to keep him within the limits of good sense and decorum.

These weaknesses are no arguments against his policy, any more than the same sort of weaknesses displayed by Thaddeus Stevens are arguments against the policy of Congress. We have always spoken freely of this sort of rhetoric, on whichever side it has been used. Neither Mr. Stevens’s denunciations of the President and his supporters, nor the indecorous epithets applied by President Johnson to his opponents, will weigh much with the people. They will dodge this rhetoric of thunder, and decide the great issue which is now before them according to their appreciation of the question involved, and we feel sure that their verdict will accord with reason and with their patriotic instincts.

Articles relating to Johnson's Background:
Andrew Johnson (small bio)

June 25, 1864, page 402

The Union Nominations
June 25, 1864, page 402

President Andrew Johnson
May 13, 1865, page 289

The President and the Secretary of State
May 20, 1865, page 306

Andrew Johnson
September 15, 1866, page 583

Andrew Johnson
September 15, 1866, page 584

The Vice-Presidency
September 14, 1867, page 578

The Vice-Presidency
December 7, 1867, page 770


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