Andrew Johnson: Plebeian and Patriot

By Robert W. Winston | Go to book overview
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CHAPTER VI
LINCOLN AND JOHNSON

"No man has a right to judge Andrew Johnson in any respect," said Lincoln on one occasion, "who has not suffered as much and done as much as he for the Nation's sake."1 Now in June 1864, when Lincoln spoke these words, no one knew better than he whereof he spoke. Two years before he had taken Johnson from a bomb-proof seat in the Senate and transferred him to the enemy's country. During that time the two men had been in almost daily communication and a common understanding had arisen between them.

Totally unlike in mental equipment and in physical proportions, Lincoln and Johnson were nevertheless bound together during the Civil War with hoops of steel. They first became acquainted in 1847, when Lincoln was a Whig Congressman from Illinois, and Johnson a Democratic Congressman from Tennessee. As they were men of small means they set up no establishments in Washington, nor did their wives accompany them during the session of Congress. Small rooms at a boarding house and "a mess together on Capitol Hill" were the best they could afford.2 Now a Whig Congressman who voted forty-two times for the Wilmot Proviso, as Lincoln did, and a Democratic Congressman who voted forty-two times against that measure, as Johnson did, were not likely to be very intimate. In fact, they seem to have had little acquaintance at that time, certainly no intimacy.

But in March 1861, when they next came together, they had a common purpose, the task of saving the Union.3 Scarcely had President Lincoln arrived in Washington when Senator Johnson's bugle note sounded down Pennsylvania Avenue and

____________________
1
Life and Services of Andrew Johnson (anonymous), p. 209.
2
Tarbell, Lincoln, Vol. II, p. 2.
3
Julian, Recollection, p. 221.

-243-

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