JOHNSON, Andrew. Autograph manuscript, notes for the PRESIDENT'S ANNUAL MESSAGE TO CONGRESS IN 1868, [Washington, D.C., 20 October 1868]. 4 pages, 8vo (8 1/16 x 5 in.), in pencil on rectos only, neatly tipped onto the pages of a presentation binder with typed transcription, contemporary identifying docket in another hand on page 4 "note made by President in preparation of his annual message for 1868,", in fine condition, in a red slipcase.
A FRUSTRATED PRESIDENT SCOLDS CONGRESS: "I PREFER THIS DAY TO TAKE MY POSITION AMONG THE OPPRESSED PEOPLE THAN TO BE INAUGURATED INTO POWER...AS THEIR OPPRESSOR"
By late 1868, President Andrew Johnson's efforts to lead the nation through the Reconstruction of the South had been stymied by the Radical Republicans in Congress. Johnson was a loyal Union man during the Civil War, and the only southerner to remain in the Senate. As a reward for his loyalty, Johnson was named military Governor of Tennessee in 1862 and was given the nod to run as Lincoln's Vice President in the 1864 campaign. After Lincoln's assassination, Johnson assumed the reigns of government and confronted the task of reconstruction. His efforts angered Radical Republicans in Congress who felt that the President's lenient policy for allowing seceded states to return to the Union failed to offer sufficient punishment for four years of warfare or to protect the rights of the Freemen. The Radicals pushed their own agenda through Congress and, when Johnson opposed them, they sought to remove him from the presidency. Johnson was impeached on February 24, 1868 but the Senate failed to find him guilty by only one vote.
Five months after he was nearly removed from the White House, an angry Johnson prepared his annual message with the obvious intent of striking out at Congress. Johnson's notes for the speech begin with remarks upon the state of the nation under Congressional Reconstruction: "the condition of the States when the 39th Congress met in Dec 1865 all was peace: Since that period the constant effort has been to pull the states in peaces [sic] and keep up adgitation [sic], imparing all the industrial products, destroying public confidence penalizing the trade and commerce of the whole country." The second page (which has been partially rewritten by Johnson) indicates the President's belief that the South has sought peace, while the Federal Government only sought power: "The South commenced moving up into National life and was willing to abandon all sectional strife...When the burthens [sic] of the people can not be relieved, we should then be willing to help bear the yoke of oppressions. I prefer this day to take my position among the oppressed people than to be inaugurated into power over a vested constitution as their oppressor." Johnson's notes turn to financial matters and the endeavor to pay the national debt, before returning to one last assault upon Congress: "Greatest injury inflicted on states or nations is in excesive [sic] and bad legislations and the greatest good is their wise and timely repeal."
Johnson was denied renomination for the Election of 1868, but returned to Tennessee and was elected to the Senate. He is the only President to serve as a United States Senator after occupying the White House.
Provenance: Elsie and Philip D. Sang (sale, Sotheby Parke Bernet, 26 April 1978, lot 153).