Andrew Johnson: Plebeian and Patriot

By Robert W. Winston | Go to book overview

CHAPTER III
SUCCESSOR TO ANDREW JACKSON

In the twenties, when Johnson moved to Greeneville, there was living in the neighboring city of Knoxville a man of such a stern sense of duty, so unaffected and ruggedly honest, he was known as "The Cato of America." And he too, like Jackson and Johnson, was a native of North Carolina. Hugh Lawson White was a very strong character. In fact, he was Andrew Jackson's right-hand man for a while, and Andrew Johnson's ideal. Aristocratic, tall, spare and dignified, with long, flowing curly locks and a benign countenance, Judge White was yet simplicity itself, and the most approachable of men. Later he was a candidate for President against Martin Van Buren.

Sometimes a law student would call at Judge White's home to be examined for license to practice law, and the judge would be away, perhaps in the cornfield plowing. Up and down the rows he would go, swinging to the wobbly plow handles and guiding "Old Dobbin" at the same time. Presently, at the end of a row he would look up, wipe the sweat from his eyes, and discover the applicant for license. "Just follow along behind me, my son," he would quietly remark, slapping his horse with the reins. On they would go, judge and student, discussing Coke and Blackstone and the Rule in Shelley's Case, and plowing the corn as they went. After an hour or so, the judge would knock off work, go back to his office, and announce the result of the examination. Of course such a thoroughgoing individual was a man after Andrew Johnson's own heart; and when the judge and Jackson "broke," Johnson wavered in his support, leaning, however, to the Cato of the plow handles, in fact, supporting him for President in 1836. But this period of disloyalty was short, and soon after entering politics Andrew Johnson became a Democrat of the Jackson kind, not a Democrat in the party sense but a universal Democrat, looking to democracy to cure all the evils of life.

-26-

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