Andrew Johnson Becomes President

Saturday, April 15, 1865

Lithograph of Andrew Johnson, ca. 1865. Courtesy of the Smithsonian Institution.

With the death of Abraham Lincoln, Vice President Andrew Johnson, a War Democrat from Tennessee, becomes president of the United States. With the Civil War essentially ended, Johnson's presidency is defined by the readmittance of the Southern states into the Union and by Reconstruction politics. Johnson clashes with the "Radical Republicans" who control Congress and consider Johnson's policies to be too lenient toward the rebel South. The Republican-controlled House of Representatives goes so far as to impeach Johnson (a first in American history), and Johnson escapes indictment in the Senate by just one vote. One of his final acts is to issue a general pardon to everyone who had taken part in the rebellion, including Jefferson Davis.

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