Andrew Johnson: A Study in Courage

By Lloyd Paul Stryker | Go to book overview

XIII
JOHNSON NOTIFIED OF HIS NOMINATION

As soon as Andrew Johnson's nomination became known in Tennessee, a mass meeting of the Unionists was called at Nashville. He spoke to this gathering and was "hailed with great acclamation."1 "I accept the nomination on principle," he said, "be the consequences what they may. I will do what I believe to be my duty."

"I know there are those who profess to feel a contempt for me," he continued, "and I . . . feel my superiority to them. I have always understood that there is a sort of exclusive aristocracy about Nashville which affects to condemn all who are not within its little circle. . . . This aristocracy has been the bane of the slave states; nor has the North been wholly free from its curse. It is a class which I have always forced to respect me, for I have ever set it at defiance. The respect of the honest, intelligent and industrious class I have endeavored to win by my conduct as a man. One of the chief elements of this rebellion is the opposition of the slave aristocracy to being ruled by men who have arisen from the ranks of the people. This aristocracy hated Mr. Lincoln because he was of humble origin, a railsplitter in early life. One of them . . . said to me one day: 'We people of the South will not submit to be governed by a man who has come up from the ranks of the common people as Abe Lincoln has.' He uttered the essential feeling and spirit of the Southern rebellion. Now it has just occurred to me, if this aristocracy is so violently opposed to being governed by Mr. Lincoln, what in the name of conscience will it do with Lincoln and Johnson?"2Wendell Phillips' operations at that time would have furnished a complete answer to his question.

Johnson continued: "I believe that man is capable of self-gov-

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