Commentary: By 1867, Harpers Weekly had turned strongly against
President Johnson. This article from September and the following one in December show how
its editorial position changed as a consequence of Johnsons behavior.
In the speculations upon the Presidency we hope the Vice-Presidency will
not be forgotten. Three times in our history the Vice-President has been called to the
Chief Magistracy by the death of the President; and the three "accidental"
administrations have been among the most humiliating in our annals. But the president is
the most disastrous and disgraceful of all.
Soon after the accession of Mr. Johnson
to the Presidency, we told in these columns the history of his nomination. It was effected
by the friends of Mr. Seward, and was a "Conservative" movement. The substantial
and plausible argument urged was that, as the Convention was a "Union"
Convention, and contained many delegates who were "Union" men but not strictly
Republicans, it would be unfair to insist upon renominating the Chicago ticket of 1860,
which was a pure party ticket; and as Mr. Lincoln must inevitable be the chief candidate,
the second place should be given to some well-known Democrat who had been perfectly
faithful during the war. Having come so far it was very easy to go farther, and add that,
if there were such a phoenix as a well-known Democrat, who was also a Southerner, if
possible, also, an ex-slaveholder, and who had made himself especially conspicuous for
loyalty during the war, then Providence was peculiarly kind, and we had only to name him
and sweep on to victory.
Upon such general grounds, and certain
private, personal considerations belonging to party intrigue, Andrew Johnson was
nominated. It is, however, scarcely possible to know less about a candidate than was known
about him. To the outbreak of the war he had been a Senator of the violent Southern type.
Since the war began he had fiercely denounced his late political allies, and had been
subsequently made Military Governor of Tennessee, where he was heard of chiefly by
occasional vehement speeches. There were rumors of bad personal habits which were heard
privately; but no one could speak with authority, for nobody knew. Apparently nobody
cared. Sure of Abraham Lincoln, what mattered the rest? A Union party must have a Union
ticket. The Vice-President is a name merely. We must get all the strength we can. Three
cheers for Abe and Andy
Articles relating to Johnson's Background:
Andrew Johnson (small bio)
June 25, 1864, page 402
The Union Nominations
June 25, 1864, page 402
President Andrew Johnson
May 13, 1865, page 289
The President and the Secretary
May 20, 1865, page 306
September 15, 1866, page 583
September 15, 1866, page 584
September 14, 1867, page 578
December 7, 1867, page 770