1863-1865 Republican Congressional Committee.

Biographical sketch of Andrew Johnson, of Tennessee, together with his speech at Nashville, June 10, 1864, and his letter accepting the nomination as Vice President of the United States, tendered him by the National Union Convention, held at Baltimore, on the 7th and 8th of June, 1864 (Volume 2) online

. (page 1 of 2)
Online Library1863-1865 Republican Congressional CommitteeBiographical sketch of Andrew Johnson, of Tennessee, together with his speech at Nashville, June 10, 1864, and his letter accepting the nomination as Vice President of the United States, tendered him by the National Union Convention, held at Baltimore, on the 7th and 8th of June, 1864 (Volume 2) → online text (page 1 of 2)
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. ^vas bornia Raleigh, North Carolina, December 29, 1808. When he
was four years of age he lost his father, who died from the effects of
.exerbons to save a friend frbm drowning. At the age of ten he was ar^
prent.e to a tailor in Lis native city, with whom he%e..ved seveaTeat'
His mother was unable to afford him any,,educational advantages, and he
.ever attended school a d.y in his life.^^While learning his Ll, Low!
ever, he resolved to make an effort to educate himself. His anxiet; to be
able to read was particularly excited by an incident which is worthy of
mention A gentleman of Raleigh was in the habit of going into tne
tadors shop and reading while the apprentice and journeyman were at
work. He was an excellent reader, and his favorite book was a volume
of seeches, prmcipally of British statesmen. Johnso^v became interested
and h,s first ambition was to equal him as a reader, and become familiar'
with those speeches. He took up the alphabet without an instructor but
by applymg to .he journeymen with whom he worked he obtained a little
assistance.^ Having acquired a knowledge. of the letters, he applied for
the loan of the book which he had so often heard read. The owner made
h.m a. present of it, atid gave him some instruction on the use of letters in
■the form^ntum of words. Tims his finst exercises in spelling were in that
book. By perseverance he soon learned to read, and the Lours which he
devoted to his education were at night after he was through his daily
labor upon the .hop-board. He now applied himself to books from two
to three hom-s every night, after working from ten to twelve Lours at his
trade. Having completed his apprenticeship in the autumn of 1824 he
■went to Laurens Court House, S. C, where he worked as a journ.vm.n
for nearly two years. While there he became engaged to be married but
the match was broken off by the violent opposition of the girl's m.-ther
and friends, the ground of objection being Mr^JoHNsoN's youth and want
of pecuniary means. In May, 1826, he returned to RaleigL, where he
procured journey work, and remained oniil September^^^He then s.-t out
to seek his fortune in the West, carrying with him his mother, who w.s
dependent upon him for support. He stopped at Greenville, Tennessee,
and commenced work as a joarneyraan. He remained there about twelve
iBonths, married, and soon afterward went still further weatward • but


failing to find a suitable place to settle he returned to Greenville and com-
menced business. Up to this time bis education was limited in reading,
as be bad never bad an opportunity of learning to write or cypher ; but
under the instructions of bis wife be learned these and other branches.
The only time, bovv-ever, be could devote to them was iri the dead of night.
Tiie first office which he ever held was that of Alderman of the village, to.
which be was elected in 1828. He was re-elected to the same position,
in 1829, and again in 1830. In that yeaj- he was chosen Mayor, which
po,^ition be held for three years. In 1835, be was elected to -the legisla-
ture. In the session of that year be took decided ground against a scheme
of internal, improvements, which he contended would not only prove a
failure, but entad upon the State a burdensome debt. The measure was
popular, however, aud at the next election (1837) he was defeated. He
became a candidate again in 1839. By this time many of the evils be >
had predicted from the internal improvement policy which he bad opposed
four years previous were fully demonstiated, and be was elected by a large
majority. In 1840 be served as presidential elector for the State at large
on the democratic ticket. He canvassed a large portion of the State,
meeting upon the sturn^ several of the leading Whig orators. In 1841
he was elected to the State senate. In 1843 he was elected to Congress,
where, by successive elections, be served until 1853. During this peiiod
of service be was conspicuous and active in. advocating, respectively, the
bill for refunding the fine imposed upon General. Jackson at New Orleans
in 1815, the annexation of Texa*, the tariff of 1840, the war measures of
Mr. Polk's administration, and a Homestead bill, a measure which origi-
nated with him, upon which be has been justly termed the father of the h -
Homestead law. In 1853 be was elected Governor of Tennessee, after an
exciting canvass, in wljich be was opposed by Gustavus A. Henry. He
was re-elected in 1855, after another active contest, the competitor being •
Meredith P. Gentry. At the expiration of bis second period as governor,
in 1857 be was elected as tJnited States Senator for a fnll term, ending
March 3, 18G3. It was after the presidential election of 1860 that, in the
Senate, be proved himself worthy of his true democratic teachings and of
his early struggles with adversity, by taking ground against treason, and
by braining the southern aristocrats with an audacity and an eloquence
that carried consternation to their hearts, aud filled the Union men with

Ahbough Andrew Johnson supported Breckenridge for President in
1860, he did so in the honest belief that he was speaking the wishes of
bis constituents. It was this fact that rendered his antagonism to the
rebellion and to the traitors during the period be remained in the Senate,
as well as subsequently when he was called by the President to take the
military governorship of Tennessee, when that State bad been swept by
false appeals and fabricated votes out of the Union, so effective, and gave

such great weight to his objections to those with whom he had hceii for-
™erly connected.

It was on Tuesday and Wednesday, the 19th and 20th of December,
1860, when Governor Johnson saw that the traitors had determined' to
secede from the Union, that he broke ground against them in a speech of
such power and snch force that it was with great difficulty the galleries
could be restrained in giving utterance to their feelings and gratitude. In
order to show its ffiect, we annex the following letter of John W. Forney,
Esq., written at the time :

"The eloud that has been hangino; over the capitol and the country has lifted.
The Union has foun'i a gallant defender in the American Congress in the person of
the living Andrew Jackson of the South-^namely Andrew Johnnson, Senator iVom

" He concluded his two day's speech at half past four o'clock this afternoon. His
manner and his language carried consternation to the hearts of the fire-eaters.
They listened to his strong sentences with amazement. He recognized the existing
Union as the greatest blessing conferred by ftod upon man, after the Christian
religion. ' He argued that to increase the number of States under the present Con-
stitution was to enlarge the benefits to humanity here and all over the world, while
a diminution of them was to cause disaster and death.

" Tn the course of his remai-ks he reproduced the history of the purchase of Loa-
seiana, Florida, and the annexation of Texas. In alluding to Florida he turned to
Mj". Yutee, the Senator from that State, and reminded him that the time was when
he had come to Congress imploi-ing for the admission of his State into the American
Union. He asked him, in the event of the secession of Florida, could that Statue fet
up a claim to sovereignty when the very soil of the State belonged to, and was paid
for bj', the Union, whose sovereignty she has recognized on her admission? If so,
she coul 1 destroy the parent who gave her birth and vitality.

" Mr. Johnson irtroduced, with overwhelnning effect, the Ostend manifesto, which
originated in the South, and was based upon the idea that when an adjoining State
became troublesome to its neighbor, and daisgerous to our eafety, the doetfines of
aatural self-preservation demanded the subjugation of that State, even by the force
of armi».

" If South Carolina, a small member of the Confedei-acy, went out of the Union
for the purpose of destroying it, plunging millions of human beings into distress,
■and annihilating the hopes of 'the friends of freedom throughout the world, she must
and could be subjectedl according to the terms of the Osteod manifesto, in order to
save the Republic.

" His whole speech was crowded with points and facts, and when the Senate
adjourned the hearts of the Union men beat proudly. The tide has been turned.
The word has been spoken from the home of Jackson. Our threatened liberties
have at last found a southern defender. The reign of terror, inaugurated by dis-
appointed presidential aspirants, is fast passing away."

In concluding his s[>eech Mr, Johnson said :

'•I have done it in view of a duty that I felt I owed to my constituents ; to my
children ; to myself. Without regard to consequences, I have taken my position ; ■
and when the tug comes, when Greek shall meet Greek, and our rights are refused
after all honorable means have been exhausted, then it is that I will perish in the
kst breaah; yes, in the language of the patriot Emmet, 'I will dispute every inch


of ground ; I will burn every blade of grass ; and the last entrencbman t of freedom
fthall be rby grave.' Then let us stand by the Constitution, and in preserving the
Constitution we shall save the Union ; and in saving the Union we save this, the
greatest Government on earth."

It was not to be expected that his first great speech sgainst the slave-
holding traitors should not occasion consternation. If it had come from
a northern man, even from a northern Democrat, one v/ho had voted for
Douglass or for Breckinridge, they would have disregarded it ; but when
spoken by Andrew Johnson, a southern Senator, who had voted for and
sustained John C. Breckinridge in the immediately preceding presidential
Section, they saw what the effect upon the southern mind must be,
and they became infuriated, and by one after the other in speeches of
great ability and accrimony, the heroic Johnson was opposed in argument^
ridiculed and attacked. This warfare lasted throughout the best part of
January, 1861 ; and on the 5th and 6th'of February, 1861^ Mr. Johnson
rose and made an elaborate and powerful reply, principally addressing,
himself to the arch traitor Jefferson Davis, and his satelite, Judah P.. Ben-

During his administration as Military Governor of Tennessee, he has
proved himself the most reliable and earnest supporter of the Administra-
tion and the cause of the Union, and also took a decided stand in favor of
emancipation in Tennessee.

Grand and heioic.was the action of Johnsqn when General Bueil was
forced to retreat before the hordes of Bragg and Kirby Smith, and was-
willing to surrender the city of Nashville i;i the bands of- the enemy,
Johnson declared that he would sooner be buried under the luins of the
ciiy than to surrender. His energetic and deterfftined protest had a magic
effect. Buell left a small force for the defence of Nashville, whils-t Buoli
was driven to the Ohio, ' Nashville was preserved,. /






FKIDAY, JUNE 10, 1864.

Governor Andrew Johnson, after thanking the assembly for the com-
pliment they had bestowed on him, and a few other preliminary remarks,
proceeded to say, that we are engaged in a great struggle for free govern-
ment in the proper acceptation of the term.

So far as the head of the ticket is concerned, the Baltimore Conventioa
had said, not only to the United States, but to all the nations of the
earth, that we are determined to maintain and carry out the principles of
free goVernnient. [Applause.] That Convention announced and con-
firmed a principle not to be disregarded. It was that the right of seces-
sion and the power of a State to place itself out of the Union, are not
recognized. The Convention had declared this principle by its action.
Tennessee had been in rebellion against the Government, and waged a
treasonable war against its authority, just as other Southern States had
done. She had seceded just as much as other States had, and left the
Union as far as she had the power to do so. Nevertheless, the National
Convention had declared, that a State cannot put itself from under the
national authority. It said, by its first nomination, that the present Pres-
ident, take him altogether, was the man to steer the ship of State for the
next four years. [Loud applause.]

Next it said— if I may be permitted to speak of myself, not in the way
of vanity, but to illustrate a principle^"We will go into one of the re-
bellious States and choose a candidate for the Vice-Presidency." Thus
the Union party declared its belief that the rebellions States are still in
the Union and that their loyal citizens are still citizens of the United
States. And now there is but one great work for us to do, that is to put
down the rebellion. Our duty is to sustain the GovernmcAit, and help it
with all our might to crush out a rebellion which is in violation of alUhat
is right and sacred. .



Governor Johkson said he had no impassioned appeal to make to the
people in his own behalf. He had not sought the position assigned him
by the National Convention. Not a man in the land can truthfully say
that I have asked him to use his influence in my behalf in that body, for
the position allotted to me, or for any other. On the contrary, I have
avoided the candidacy. But vrhile I hav.e not sought it, still, being con-
ferred upon me unsought, I appreciate it the more highly. Being con-
ferred on me without solicitation, I shall not decline it. fApplause.]
Come weal or woe, success or defeat, sink or swim, survive or perish, I
accept the nomination, on principle, be the consequences what they may.
I will do what I believe to be my duty. I know there are those here who
profess to feel a contempt for me, and I, on the other hand, feel my supe-
riority to them,


I have always understood that there is a sort of exclusive aristocracy
about Nashville which affects t6 condemn all who. are not within its little
circle. Let them enjoy their opinions; I have heard it said that

•'■Worth makes the man and want the fellow."

This aristocracy has been the bane of the slave States ; nor has the
North been wholly free from its curse. It is a class which I have always
forced to respect me, for I have ever set it at defiance. The r6spect of
the honest, intelligent, and industrious class I have endeavored to win by
my conduct as a man. One of the chief elements of this rebellion is the
opposition of the slave aristocracy to being ruled by men who have risen
from the ranks of the people.

This aristocracy hated Mr. Lincoln because he was of humble origin,
a rail-splitter in early life. One of them, the private secretary of Howell
Cobb, said to me one day, after a long conversation, " We people of the
South will not submit to be governed by a man who ha« come up from
the ranks of the common people, as Abe Lincoln has." He uttered the
essential feeling and spirit of the Southern Rebellion. Now, it has just
occurred to me, if this aristocracy is so violently opposed to being gov- .
erned by Mr. Lincoln, what, in the name of conscience, will it do with
Lincoln and Johnson ? [Great laughter.]

I reject with scorn this whole idea of an arrogant aristocracy. I be-
lieve that man is capable of self-government, irrespective of his outward
circumstances ; and whether he be a laborer, or shoemaker, a tailor, a
grocer. The question whether man is capable of self-government, I hold
with Jeffersoft that government was made for the convenience of man,
and not man for the government. The laws and constitutions were de-
signed as mere instruments to promote his welfare. And hence, from this


principle, I conclude that governments can and ouglit to be chanocd and
amended to conform to the wants, the requirements, and progress ot the
people, and the enlightened spirit of the age. [Loud applause.]

Now, if any of you secessionists have lost faith in man's capabiliry of
self-government, and feel unfit for the exercise of th's great right, go
straight to reheldom, take Jeff Davis, Beauregard, and Bicigg for your
masters,"and put their collars on your necks.


And here let me say that now is the time to recur to these fun'huuental
principles, while the land is rent with anarchy, and upheaves wit'a the
throes of a mighty revolution. While society is in this disordered state,
and we are seeking security, let us fix the foundations of the Government
on principles of eternal justice which will endure for all time. There is
an element in our m'dst who are for perpetuating the institutii)n of slavery.
Let me say to you, Tennesseeans and men from the Xoithern States, that
Slavery is dead. It was not murdered by me. I told you long ago what
the result would be if you endeavored to go out of the Union to save
slavery, and that the result would be bloodshed, rapine, devastated fields,
plundered vilkgps and cities, and therefore I urged you to remain in the
Union. In trying to save slavery you killed it, and lost your own free-
dom. Your slavery is dead, but I did not murder it. As Macbeth said
to Banq-uo's bloody ghost :

" Never shake thy gorv locks at me.
Thou can'st not say I did it."

Slavery is dead, and you must pardon me if I do not mourn over its
dead body; you can bury it out of sight. In restoringj^the State leave out
that disturbing and dangerous element, and use only those parts of the ma-
chinery which will move in harmony.


Now, in regard to emancipation, I want to say to the blacks that liberty
means liberty to work and enjoy the fruits of your labo'\ Idleness is not free-
dom. I desire that all men shall have a fair start and an equal chance in the
race of life, and let him succeed who has the most merit. Tiiis, I think, is
a principle of heaven. I am for emancipntion for two reasons : first, be-
cause it is right in itself; and second, because in the emancipation of the
slaves we break down an odious and dangerous aristocracy. I think we
are freeing more whites than blacks in Tennessee. I want to see slavery
broken up, and when its barriers are thrown down, I want to see indus-
trious, thrifty em'grants pouring in from all parls of the country. Come
on ! we need your labor, your skill, your capital. We want your enter-
prise and invention, so that hereafter Tenuesse may rank with New Eng-


land in the arts and mechanics, and that when we visit the Patent Office at
Washington, where the ingenious mechanics of the free States have placed
their models, we need not blush that Tennessee can show nothing but a
mouse-trap, or something of about as much importance. Come on ! We
greet yon with a hearty welcome to the soil of Tennessee. Here is soil
the most fert'le in every agricultural product ; a delightful and healthy
climate, forests, water-power, and mines of inexhaustible richness ; come
and help us redeem Tennessee, and make her a powerful and flouishing


But in calling a convention to restore the State, who shall restore and re-
establish it ? Shall the man who gave his influence and his means to ^lestroy
the Government? Is he to participate in tne great work of reorganization ?
Shall he who- brought this misery up->n the State be permitted to control
its destinies? If this be so, then all this precious flood of our brave sol-
diers and officers,- so freely poured out, will have been wantonly spilled.
All the glorious victories won by our noble armies will go for nauuht, and
all the battle-fields which have been sown with dead heioes during this re-
bellion will have been made memorable in vain. Why all this carnage and
devastation ? It w;ts that treason might be put down and traitors punished.
Therefore I say that traitors should take a back seat in the work of restor-
ation. If there be but five thousand men in Tennessee loyal to the Con-
stitution, loyal to freedom, loyal to jus' ice, these true and faithful men
should control the work of reorganization and reformation absolutely.
(Loud and prolonged applause.) I say that the traitor has ceased- to be a
citizen, and, in joining the rebellion, has become a public enemy. He for-
feited his right to vote with loyal men when he renounced his citizenship
and sought to destroy our Government.

We s.iy to the most honest and industrious foreigner who comes from
England and Gerniany to dwell among us, and to add to the wealth of the
country, "Before you can be a citizen you must stay here for five years."
If we are so cautious about foreigners who voluntarily renounce their
homes to live with us, what should we say to the traitor who, although
born and reared among us, has raised a parricidal hand against the Govern-
ment which always: protected him ? My judgment is, that he should
be subjected to a severe ordeal before he is restored to citizenship.
A fellow who takes the oath mere-y to sav^ his property and denies the
validity of the oath, is a perjurged man and not to be trusted. Before
these repenting rebels can be trusted let them bring forth the fruits of
repentance. He who helped to make all these widows and orphans who
drape the streets of Nashville in mourning, should suffer for his great crime.



G^JT'l ''•'" '"' 7" ^''"^'- ^' '■''' ^^^«*^«y this rebellion. With
Grant thundenng on the Potomac before Richn.ond, and She.man and
Thomas on thcr march toward Atlanta, the day will ere long be ours.
W,I1 any . madly persst in rebellion ? Suppose that an equal number be
slam ^n every ba.tle, it is plain that the .esult must he the u.t.r ex.irmina-
.on o the rebels. Ah, these r.bel leaders have a strong personal reason
forhodm,rout-to save their necks from the haher ; and these leaders
m«st feel the power of the Government. Treason must be ma^le odious
and traitors must be punished .nd impoverished. Their great plantations
must be seized and divided into small farms and sold to honest and in-
dustnous men.


The day for protecting the lands and negroes of these authors of rebel-
lion IS past. It is high time it was. I have been most deeply pained at
some things which have come under my 'observation. We get men in
command, who, under the influence of flattery, fawning, and caressing,
grant pn.tec.ion to the rich traitor, while the poor Union man stands out
Jn the cold, often unable to get a receipt or a' voucher for his losses.
(Cries of" That's so » from all parts of the crowd.) The traitor can get
lucrative contracts while the loyal man is pushed aside, unable t^ obt.in
a recognition of his just claims. I am telling the truth. I care nothing
for stripes and shoulder-straps. I want them all to hear what I say. I
have been on a gridiron for two years at the sight of these abuses. I blame
not the Government for these wrongs, which are the work of weak and
worthless subordinates. Wrongs will be committed under every form of
flrovernment and every administration. For myself I mean to stand by the
Government till the flag of the Union shall wave over every city, town,
hill top and cro^s road in its full power and majesty.


The nations of Europe are anxious for our overthrow. France takes ad-
vantage of our mternal difficulties and sends Maximilian off" to Mexico to
set up a monarchy on our borders. The day of reckoning is approaching.'
The time is not faj- distant when the rebellion will be put down, and then
we will attend to this Mexican aff'air, and say to Louis Napoleon, " You
can set up no monarchy on this continent. (Great applause.) An expe-
dition into Mexico would be a sort of recreation to the brave soldiers who
are now fighting the battles of the Union, and the French concern would
be quickly wiped out. Let us be united. I know there are but too parties
now, one for the country and the other against it, and I am for my country.

I am a Democrat in the strictest meaning of the terra. I am for this
Government because it is democratic — a Government of the people. I am


for putting down this rebellion, because it is ^ar against democracy. He


Online Library1863-1865 Republican Congressional CommitteeBiographical sketch of Andrew Johnson, of Tennessee, together with his speech at Nashville, June 10, 1864, and his letter accepting the nomination as Vice President of the United States, tendered him by the National Union Convention, held at Baltimore, on the 7th and 8th of June, 1864 (Volume 2) → online text (page 1 of 2)