Knowing the Presidents: Andrew Johnson

Andrew Johnson

Seventeenth President, 1865-1869


A Unionist Democrat from Tennessee, Andrew Johnson was put on the ticket by Lincoln in 1864 in an effort to reach union sympathizers in the Border States.


Andrew Johnson had to navigate the reunification and reconstruction of the Union while addressing issues such as African-American civil rights. He failed badly, to the extent that his ineffective leadership brought impeachment charges against him principally associated with his alleged violations of the Tenure of Office Act and the Command of the Army Act.

Unable to mediate the interests of anti-slavery radicals (such as abolitionists) and those of the majority of the South, Johnson also proved inadequate to the tasks of dealing with Congress and reconstructing the nation.

Major Acts:

During Andrew Johnson’s tenure, foreign policy was largely handled by the Secretary of State William H. Seward. Alaska was acquired from Russia; the French, led by Napoleon III, were driven from Mexico; and relations with Great Britain were repaired.


Andrew Johnson’s racism and antipathy towards African-American civil rights were a harbinger for similar attitudes to come during Reconstruction.

The first president to be impeached—but not convicted or removed from office—Johnson often contends with James Buchanan for the title of worst president.