Andrew Johnson's Presidency

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Why did radical Republicans believe that Andrew Johnson would support their agenda?

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One reason that Radical Republicans thought ("hoped" is perhaps more apt) President Andrew Johnson would support their agenda is that they knew that he, as a southern Unionist, hated the planter class. Johnson was a social outsider from Tennessee, and believed that the large slaveholding planters had dragged the South...

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One reason that Radical Republicans thought ("hoped" is perhaps more apt) President Andrew Johnson would support their agenda is that they knew that he, as a southern Unionist, hated the planter class. Johnson was a social outsider from Tennessee, and believed that the large slaveholding planters had dragged the South into the Civil War, while ordinary white southerners had to pay the price, often with their lives. Many also believed he lacked the political will to stand up to Congress. These assumptions proved to be based on miscalculations. For one thing, Johnson had no sympathy at all for African Americans. He was a white supremacist through and through. Therefore he fiercely resisted, usually by veto, Radical Republican attempts to promote racial equality in the South. He vetoed, for example, the Civil Rights Act of 1866 and a bill reauthorizing the Freedmen's Bureau. Second, Johnson had a very limited view of the powers of the federal government. While he did not believe the southern states had the right to secede, neither did he think the federal government had the power to legislate for social equality in the former Confederacy. Thus he pursued a very lenient approach to Reconstruction, one which was embodied by "black codes" that restricted the rights of freedmen and by expansive pardons for former Confederate leaders. This approach brought him into conflict with Republicans in Congress, and contributed to the political climate that surrounded his impeachment.

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I assume that you are asking about the radicals' agenda with regard to Reconstruction and the South.  If so, the radical Republicans thought that President Johnson would support their agenda because he was known to hate the Southern elites.

President Johnson was himself a Southerner.  However, he was not a member of the elites.  Instead, he came from a poor family and had no education.  He made his living at first as a tailor.  Because of this, he had no love for the Southern planter elite.  The radical Republicans believed that this animosity towards the elites of the South would translate to support for their desire to treat the South harshly during Reconstruction.  They were, of course, wrong, and Johnson would defy them, leading to his impeachment.

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