Andrew Johnson: Plebeian and Patriot

By Robert W. Winston | Go to book overview
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While in Nashville as a member of the legislature, Johnson kept up a brisk correspondence with his Greeneville constituents, posting them on public affairs at the Capital and asking for the local news. Among the first letters he wrote was one to his friend William Lowery, bearing date October 4, 1841. Though the handwriting is juvenile and cramped, as if written by fingers made stiff by hard labor, the letter has a tone of confidence and of buoyancy. " GovernorPolk's Inaugural Address was fine," he wrote. "The Whigs are down in the mouth, and though they have a majority of one, the Democrats are going to block their game, they are planning to postpone the election of United States Senators for two years." Some months previous, Johnson had written a letter to Governor Polk. In a boyish hand, and with numerous misspelled words he wrote: "Unless I am 'rong' the terms of United States Senators expire March the 4th next," and suggested "an extra session of the legislature to handle the matter." Politics had evidently gone to the young fellow's head.1

In 1842, on retiring from the State Senate, Johnson began to aim at bigger game; his eye was fixed on a seat in Congress. For the past fifteen years, with his own hand, he had worked at the tailor trade. All day long he had measured customers, cut out garments and shoved the tailor's goose. Sitting on his workbench, he could be found with wax and thread, needle and thimble, in hand. Though his ears were erect and his mind alert for knowledge, he was intent on earning his daily bread. Not only not ashamed that he was a tailor but proud of it. "I always gave a snug fit," he would sagely remark, when afterwards some one joked him about his tailor days. And the business had grown and prospered. It now required five or six

Johnson MS.


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