In the current “age of impeachment,” Andrew Johnson has gained a new historical relevance. But Johnson’s career is notable for more than his impeachment, with much to tell us about Civil War–era politics and the complexity of Reconstruction, through a trajectory that is one of the most compelling, and strange, in presidential history.
Johnson was born into poverty but rose quickly in Tennessee politics, serving as governor before moving on to the US House of Representatives and then the Senate. Despite being a slave owner, Johnson was the only senator of a Confederate state not to resign when his home state seceded. Johnson walked a fine political line between sectional interests, and while his Southern Unionist position inspired Lincoln to choose him as his running mate in 1864, Johnson’s sympathies for the South would generate enormous controversy when he succeeded Lincoln as president. The eventual impeachment process—Johnson escaped dismissal from office by a single vote—provides a fascinating look at a critical era in American history as Congress and Johnson’s own cabinet conspired to make him the most embattled of presidents.
This digital edition of Johnson’s papers—which also covers notable events in a career that spanned decades and included the Homestead Act and the Alaska Purchase—collects the complete contents of the print edition’s sixteen volumes. This online archive is fully searchable and is interoperable with other titles in the Antebellum, Civil War, and Reconstruction collection, as well as all of Rotunda’s American History Collection.