From We’re History by Todd Arrington:
ne hundred and fifty years ago today, on March 13, 1868, the U.S. Senate began the impeachment trial of President Andrew Johnson. A Tennessee Democrat who remained loyal to the Union during the Civil War, Johnson had been placed on Abraham Lincoln’s 1864 reelection ticket as the ultimate example of sectional reunion. During that campaign, the Republicans temporarily re-branded themselves the “Union Party,” and what better epitomized national union than a northern Republican and a southern Democrat running together? No one ever expected Andrew Johnson to become president—but no one expected John Wilkes Booth to murder Lincoln, either.
But Booth did exactly that, and on April 15, 1865, Johnson became president. Since Congress was in recess until December, Johnson had a free hand in what he called “restoring” the former Confederate states to the Union.
Despite agreeing to be Lincoln’s running mate in 1864, Andrew Johnson was no Republican. At heart, he was an old Jacksonian Democrat who hated the rich planters who treated folks like him with disdain and also loathed his black neighbors. While Lincoln viewed the Republican Party and the national government as tools to expand equality for all, Johnson wanted to control Reconstruction policy in order to return power to southern Democrats like himself and maintain white supremacy. In summer 1865, he pardoned all but about 1,500 former Confederates.
Categories: United States History