Andrew Johnson: A Study in Courage

By Lloyd Paul Stryker | Go to book overview

LXXXVIII
VINDICATION

IT was a strange and altered country on which Johnson looked. The corruption of the carpet-bag negro governments in the South had their counterparts in the North. The war seemed to have polluted every channel of the nation's life. Demoralization was everywhere. Crude new rich men appeared upon the scene. Tweed finally went to jail, but Grant's friends, Jim Fisk and Jay Gould, were flourishing. The bench and the bar were both debased. The Credit Mobilier revealed corruptions such as to make the whole government seem scandalous. Ill-gotten luxury, gambling, bribery, embezzlement and depravity made the lovers of their country tremble for the Republic.1

The year 1873, with its financial panic, came and went. With increasing restlessness the American people were watching Grant and his henchmen in Washington and elsewhere. In the fall of 1874 a resolute electorate came to the polls, and chose a Democratic House of Representatives,--the first in fourteen years. The friends of decency were refreshed to learn that, in Massachusetts, Ben Butler had been defeated in his effort to return to Congress.2 In New York, Samuel J. Tilden was elected governor by 50,000 votes.3 The conscience of the country was awakening from its long sleep. There seemed hope even for the South. Now if ever was the time for Andrew Johnson!

In the early winter of 1875 a successor to Senator Brownlow was to be chosen by the legislature of Tennessee. In what seemed a desperate endeavor, Johnson determined that this time he would not fail. With all of his old fire, he entered the campaign and once more canvassed the entire state. Campaigning then seemed no less fraught with danger than in those days, when he had courted death to stand up for a principle. Especially

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