Andrew Johnson: A Biography

Andrew Johnson: A Biography

Andrew Johnson: A Biography

Andrew Johnson: A Biography

Synopsis

A fine biography, the first in twenty years. Trefousse (history, CUNY and Brooklyn College) uses new material to study the enigmatic tailor- president. Annotation(c) 2003 Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)

Excerpt

Of all the presidents of the United States, Andrew Johnson stands out as unique—unique in having been the only one to be impeached, unique in not having attended school for a single day, unique in originating in such poverty that even those who doubt the "log cabin myth" in the history of the presidency accord him a place of exception, and unique in returning to the Senate six years after leaving the White House. There is, however, an enigma about the tailor-president that has never been fully solved, a mystery that makes any final assessment of his accomplishments difficult. How was it that a statesman who experienced a spectacular rise from homeless newcomer to governor and senator, a political leader who succeeded in routing not only the powerful organizers of the opposing party but also the numerous antagonists in his own, a general who ruled with an iron hand as military governor in Tennessee, could be so seemingly inept in carrying out the functions of the office of president of the United States? What was it that made Andrew Johnson in 1861 first defy Southern opinion by staying loyal to the Union and then in 1865 and 1866 challenge a Northern majority in Congress to break with the party that had elected him vice president?

The answers to these questions have long troubled his biographers. From early adulation to speedy castigation, from renewed rehabilitation to resurgent accusation, the reputation of the seventeenth president has fluctuated with the passing of time. His most astute biographers have been satisfied with brief treatments, while all of the full-length Lives tend . . .

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