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Andrew Johnson by Annette Gordon-Reed
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"Just because Andrew Johnson was a bad president doesn't mean he was unimportant" said, Annette Gordon-Reed in her speech at Chautauqua. Her new biography of Andrew Johnson, part of The American Presidents series, not only takes the reader through Johnson's early life and political career but explains why his actions as president had negative impacts that were felt until very recently.

Starting from a poor family with a father who died young, Johnson was very ambitious and fought his way slowly up the political ladder with a combination of firebrand speeches and good timing. He was a racist who nevertheless remained in the Senate even though the majority in his state voted to seceed. He ultimately supported the end of slavery, probably because he realized he had burned so many bridges with the South that he would need northern votes to win future elections. He made strange arguments while stubbornly holding fast to his original positions. For example, when he realized he was going to have to support the end of slavery, he argued that it (slavery) facilitated race mixing. He claimed that "the South's 'once pure' blood had 'been contaminated' by the blood of black people.

While hating the planter class of the South, because it had oppressed him as a child, he believed that the slaves cooperated in this oppression and, hence, he hated them too.

The book is brief largely because Johnson, who didn't learn to write until he was taught by his wife when he was a young man, never became comfortable with writing and left few letters and no journals. Using other sources, however, Gordon-Reed provides a good sense of the man as well as the analysis of his actions as president. ( )
  RebaRelishesReading | Jul 26, 2013 |
This is a vicious attack on Johnson; a very negative assessment of his character. It should be read together with other biographies, such as Stryker's and Lomask's. ( )
  davidveal | Mar 20, 2011 |
Gordon-Reed's biography of Andrew Johnson shows us succinctly that a president can do harm. She shows that character of a president might be a key to how a president performs. But, how can we judge the character of a president? ( )
  dherrick52 | Feb 26, 2011 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0805069488, Hardcover)

A Pulitzer Prize-winning historian recounts the tale of the unwanted president who ran afoul of Congress over Reconstruction and was nearly removed from office

Andrew Johnson never expected to be president. But just six weeks after becoming Abraham Lincoln's vice president, the events at Ford's Theatre thrust him into the nation's highest office.

Johnson faced a nearly impossible task—to succeed America's greatest chief executive, to bind the nation's wounds after the Civil War, and to work with a Congress controlled by the so-called Radical Republicans. Annette Gordon-Reed, one of America's leading historians of slavery, shows how ill-suited Johnson was for this daunting task. His vision of reconciliation abandoned the millions of former slaves (for whom he felt undisguised contempt) and antagonized congressional leaders, who tried to limit his powers and eventually impeached him.

The climax of Johnson's presidency was his trial in the Senate and his acquittal by a single vote, which Gordon-Reed recounts with drama and palpable tension. Despite his victory, Johnson's term in office was a crucial missed opportunity; he failed the country at a pivotal moment, leaving America with problems that we are still trying to solve.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 14:09:41 -0400)

A portrait of America's seventeenth president describes Andrew Johnson's failed efforts to bring about reconciliation following the Civil War, the antagonism of congressional leaders who sought his impeachment, and his legacy for the present.

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