Andrew Johnson: Plebeian and Patriot

By Robert W. Winston | Go to book overview
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CHAPTER IX
THE COME-BACK

Andrew Johnson had passed his sixty-second birthday when he retired from the Presidency. His consuming thought, at that time, was that he had been misunderstood and his administration misrepresented. He was not satisfied with a mere verdict of acquittal. He wished an endorsement, and a vindication. Therefore, after a short rest he set out to feel the pulse of the people, visiting Knoxville, Chattanooga, Murfreesboro, Memphis and Nashville. In the western and middle sections the response to his appeal was cordial. He had become an object of curiosity--his career had been so checkered and so full of danger he was classed with Sam Houston, Dave Crockett and Andy Jackson. In his speeches he was careful to say that he was a candidate for no office. He intended to devote "the remainder of his life to a vindication of his character and that of his State." "I will indulge in no set speeches," he would say, "but I will have a few simple conversations with the people here and there." At Knoxville, after his first "conversation" of two hours or more, it was plain, however, that Napoleon was back from Elba; that Andrew Johnson had to be reckoned with. The masses crowded around him, as in former days, and the Radicals became thoroughly alarmed.1 His voice rang out clear and strong, he was "as robust and vigorous, as positive and self-reliant" and his facts and figures as full and convincing as when first heard on the hustings, thirty years before. At Memphis his reception was significant. Near the spot where eight years before "the blackest negro slave in town" had set fire to a figure of "the traitor," great crowds gathered to honor the returned "patriot" and "hero." It soon became plain that Johnson was out for a purpose, that he was after the United States Senate and would

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1
Jones, Life, p. 343.

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