was one of the founders of the modern Democratic Party. He was
part of the Jacksonian Democracy. He was Mayor of Greenville,
Tennessee. He was a strict constructionist and an advocate of
State's Rights. He was elected to Congress in 1843, and lost
his seat in 1852 because of the Gerrymandering of a Whig-dominated
legislature back home. He won the Governorship in 1853 and served
two full terms. And, then, he went to the US Senate in 1857.
He advocated the Homestead Act, and alienated the Southern Democrats.
He endorsed Stephen Douglas for President in 1860. Once the sectionalism
took over, Johnson backed John Breckinridge, further angering
the Southern Democrats, who now identified him as a symbol of
evil. And then, in a final insult to them, he allied himself
with pro-Union Whims to fight the secessionists in his home state.
When the Civil War began, Johnson was the only Senator from a
Confederate state who did not leave Congress. During the war,
he joined the National Union Party of Republicans and pro-war
Democrats. In 1864, Lincoln named him military governor of the
captured portion of Tennessee, and then in 1864 selected him
as his running mate on the National Union ticket. He was drunk,
when he delivered his inaugral speech, confirming rumors of alcoholism.
Within six weeks he was sworn in as President, facing the daunting
and complex task of reconstruction. His early-day philosophies
of limited government and strict constructionism reemerged, and
he allowed the former Confederate states to return to the Union
quickly, leaving the civil rights of the former slaves under
the control of the former slave-owners. Obviously, this incensed
the Radical Republicans in Congress. They began passing their
own programs over Johnson's many vetoes, implementing military
districts in the south and inspiring the President to aid the
Southern resistance and firing the barricaded Secretary of State
Stanton, who was the darling of the radicals. The Republican-controlled
House accused him on 11 counts, including several articles accusing
him of speaking ill of the House, but only three actually made
it to the Senate. After acquittal by one vote, on all three counts,
he became the lamest of all lame ducks. He unsuccessfully sought
the Democratic Party's nomination in 1868. He returned to Tennessee,
where after several failures to return to elective office, he
was reelected to the US Senate. He served only fives before dying
in office on July 31, 1875. His last surviving child died in
In the end, his most defining moment was one-vote margin of victory
against impeachment. Til now, he stood alone as the only President
Lyman Trumbull (R-Illinois), who is credited with the deciding
vote, explained his determination to acquit this way: "No future President will be safe who happens
to differ with the majority of the House and two-thirds of the
Senate on any measure deemed by them important."
And, now William Jefferson Clinton stands in the tiny shadow
of this all-but-forgotten President, hoping, yes, praying, to
follow in his footsteps. Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln, FDR,
JFK all aside, Clinton now wants to be like Andrew Johnson.
And, while I hope for his acquittal, I do recognize that this
is not America's finest hour.
Not to be frivolous, but if you're like me and wonder what Hillary
Clinton is thinking about these days,
here is her most recent syndicated column (12/30/98) published
in newspapers all over America.