• Andrew Johnson Wept In Private Over Impeachment Proceedings

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    ANDREW JOHNSON ascended to the presidency after Abraham Lincoln’s assassination.  He was the country’s 17th president.  A serious dispute occurred when Johnson fired Edwin Stanton from his cabinet and attacked Congress for its policies on Reconstruction following the Civil War.


    Offering a four-page 4 ½ x 6, ALS, October 4, 1889, from Harvard literature professor BARRETT WENDELL (1855-1921) to “My dear Mr. Huren,” describing Johnson’s distraught state during the impeachment proceedings.  Johnson’s sincere effort “to do his best” was fatally flawed by a virulent racism that would have exposed the freedmen to a Southern white population reconstructed in name only.


    Wendell writes, “The story of Andrew Johnson is this. I have it directly from the man concerned. This was an intimate friend of Mr. Hugh McCulloch, who you may remember was Johnson’s Secretary of the Treasury. During the impeachment, this gentleman who chanced to be in Washington, called on Mr. McCulloch, the Secretary...asked him his opinion of the President.


    “’I think him,”’ said the visitor, ‘impolitic but thoroughly honest:’ ‘You must tell him so,’ said Mr. McCulloch.


    “In spite of protestations, the visitor was hurried to the White House & into some inner room, where they found Johnson alone. There he was asked to repeat to the President what he had said to the Secretary. With natural hesitation he did so. When he came to the word ‘Honest’ Johnson sprang to his feet, held out both hands, & literally weeping, grasped the hands of the visitor, too much affected to speak.


    “I know of a few more pathetic scenes than this...ignorant, patriotic Johnson, maddened by the hounds of party politics, believing himself doomed to stand alone for what he believed right, & actually affected beyond the range of speech by the meeting with a single man who was willing to avow belief in his honesty. Johnson, you remember, would not disavow the union when the secessionists of Tennessee put a rope around his neck, a vulgar fellow he was no doubt – a common man of the common people. But in the end, I believe, he will be recognized as one who did his best.  Sincerely yours, Barrett Wendell”



    Johnson was acquitted by one vote in the U.S. Senate. After his presidency, he returned to Tennessee. He was elected to the U.S. Senate in 1875, making him the only president to afterwards serve in the Senate. He died five months into his term.  His strong opposition to federally guaranteed rights for black Americans is widely criticized. Historians have consistently ranked him as one of the worst presidents in American history.


    Letter has one horizontal mailing fold and light toning. Overall excellent condition.


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