Andrew Johnson: Plebeian and Patriot

By Robert W. Winston | Go to book overview

CHAPTER IV
THE GREAT RECONSTRUCTION

Two years had gone by since Lee surrendered, and the Southern States were still out of the Union and the fight between the President and Congress growing fiercer. After the 1866 election Johnson realized that his "swing around the circle" had not worked and that the people as well as the politicians seemed to be against him. But he was determined to fight on and, with his back to the wall, meet the enemies of the Constitution. In this conflict he had the support of his entire cabinet except Stanton. Gideon Welles, "the old bushy- bearded Connecticut deacon," as Governor Andrew laughingly called him, was more aggressive than Johnson himself; Seward was equally loyal, though Welles declared he was "always dancing around the Radicals"; and so were Attorney-General Stanbery, McCulloch, Randall and Browning. The cabinet, in fact, were becoming genuinely attached to the fearless, lonesome and determined President. His abstemious and heroic life, the loyalty of his wife and daughters, their wholesome, unpretentious lives, and the general atmosphere of the White House appealed not only to the cabinet but to thoughtful people in the country at large. It was a fine thing to see Spartan virtue and simplicity in high place.

After his unfortunate speeches in 1866 the President conducted his controversy in courteous and parliamentary language. Yet he gave offense to the practical, conservative Republicans who wished the deadlock ended. These men were wounded because the President constantly referred to the legislative body as only a part of Congress. They knew that Congress, as then constituted, had legislated for many years. Fessenden, Grimes, Henderson, Sherman, Bingham and other Senators and Congressmen, who knew and appreciated what Johnson had done for the Union, were personally fond of him,

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