Friday, May 18, 2007

The Avenger Takes His Place

When I walked to the library yesterday morning to pick up a book on hold for me, I surprised myself with the book I brought back. Browsing through the New Books display, one book on the nonfiction shelf caught my eye. The cover first and then the title caused me to pick it up and decide I wanted to read this book: The Avenger Takes His Place, with the subtitle Andrew Johnson and 45 Days That Changed the Nation. Howard Mean's book was published in 2006, but was in our library for the first time.

Walking home, I pondered this president I knew so little about....or more honestly...nothing. Reading the preface I found some consolation that historians had all but ignored him. Johnson is mentioned only in passing in Ken Burns's PBS series The Civil War. The preface states that Shelby Foote pays little attention to him. The only President Andrew I knew was Andrew Jackson. Now I found it interesting that while Andrew Jackson was our 7th president, Andrew Johnson was our 17th president. His presidency followed the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln. Also of interest to me was that when Johnson became President there was no one in line to take his place if something happened to him. New details kept me wanting to know more: that he was drunk and loquacious when he was sworn in as Vice President, and that here was a southern senator who cared passionately about preserving the Union and made enemies in the South because of his "thunderous denunciation of secession."

To add to my interest, browsing the New York Times this morning, Wednesday, the 16th of May, a footnote caught my eye: "On May 16th 1868, the United States Senate failed by one vote to convict Andrew Johnson as it took it's first ballot on one of 11 articles of impeachment against him, (Johnson was acquitted of all charges)."

See where the cover of a book, and a dramatic title, can lead you?