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Andrew Johnson: From Tailor to President

December 12, 20236 min read

“I feel incompetent to perform duties...which have been so unexpectedly thrown upon me.” - Andrew Johnson

Andrew Johnson was born December 29, 1808 in Raleigh, North Carolina. Andrew's story is all about working hard and not giving up, starting from a simple beginning and reaching the highest office in the country.

Andrew's childhood wasn't easy. He grew up in a family that didn't have a lot of money. They struggled, and Andrew didn't get to go to school like other kids. Instead, he was homeschooled. His mom taught him how to read and write. Even though life was tough, Andrew learned to work hard and loved to learn new things.

When he was just 14, Andrew started working with a tailor, learning how to make clothes. But Andrew was interested in more than just sewing. He loved talking about politics and getting involved in community activities. People noticed how well he spoke and how much he cared about making his community better.

Andrew worked in different local jobs, like being an alderman (a kind of local leader), mayor, and state legislator. These experiences helped him later when he got into big national politics.

Democrats and Republicans Should Work Together

Abraham Lincoln was the 16th President of the United States. It was a big deal because he was the first person from the Republican Party to win the Presidential election.

The Republican Party was new back then, starting in the 1850s. They believed in stopping slavery. Andrew Johnson was Lincoln's Vice President, but he was from a different party called the Democrats. This was interesting because Lincoln wanted both parties to work together during the war between the North and the South.

Lincoln chose Johnson to be his Vice President because he wanted everyone to be friends, even if they were from different sides. Johnson was a Southern Democrat, and Lincoln thought having him on the team could help bring people from the South and North together.

Lincoln's idea of having people from different teams work together was called a "Union" or "National" coalition. He wanted to show that everyone in the country could be friends, no matter where they were from. This was important during a time when the country needed to heal and be together again.

Post-Civil War President

In 1865, soon after General Lee surrendered and ended the Civil War, something big happened. A man shot and killed Abraham Lincoln. Andrew Johnson was the Vice President, so he had to take Lincoln’s place.

Now the task of bringing the country back together (Reconstruction era) was on Johnson’s shoulders. Johnson wanted to be lenient and forgive the Southern states quickly, which caused some disagreements with Congress. His plan allowed former Confederate states to rejoin the Union by creating new state governments if they agreed to a few conditions, like giving up slavery.

However, Johnson's approach faced criticism because it didn't do enough to protect the rights of newly freed African Americans. He even said no to some important rules meant to help them. This led to conflicts over how to rebuild the country. The arguments got so bad that the House of Representatives tried to remove Johnson from office in 1868. But he finished his term as the President and did not run again.

One good thing that he did as president was that he bought Alaska from Russia. At the time, people thought it was a waste of money because it was a frozen wasteland. They called it Johnson’s “polar bear garden” and ‘Seward’s Folly” (because a man named Seward made the purchase for him). But after the discovery of gold in 1898, everyone realized it was far from folly!

Life after the Presidency

When Andrew left the White House in 1869, he tried to keep working in politics. Unfortunately, the fights during his presidency had made some people not like him as much. Even though he faced challenges, Andrew kept talking about important issues. In 1875, he was elected to the U.S. Senate, but sadly, he died that same year.

Andrew Johnson's legacy is about never giving up, even when things are really hard. He had a tough time as President, trying to help a country that was hurt by a war. Some people didn't agree with what he did, but he stuck to his beliefs. Even though his time as President was filled with arguments, his journey from a tailor's apprentice to the leader of the country is a part of American history that reminds us to keep going, no matter what.

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Free Printable Activity

Download and print our FREE 17th President Andrew Johnson word search puzzle, using terms and phrases from the article above. Be sure to visit our Free Resources page for more educational activities to print for free.

Free President Andrew Johnson Word Search Puzzle

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