Andrew Johnson's Presidency

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Why is Andrew Johnson's presidency important in American history?

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Notorious for being the first American president to experience impeachment and his leniency to post- Civil war confederate states, North Carolina native Andrew Johnson's presidency contributed to American expansion.  In 1867, Johnson's secretary of state, William Seward, negotiated a 7.2 million dollar deal with Russia.  The end result of this deal was the acquisition of the Alaskan Territory, adding 586,412 square miles of new land. Referred to by many as, "Seward's Folly," Johnson was chastised and mocked for this deal.  However, the deal, in terms of return from natural resources, proved to be quite lucrative to the American economy.  On January 3, 1959, oil rich Alaska became the fourth ninth state to join the union.

Though Johnson's presidency was shrouded with negativity, the acquisition and later statehood of Alaska proved to be a positive contribution to the expansion of the nation. 

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Andrew Johnson is important in American history for two major reasons.

First, he was the first president to be impeached.  He escaped conviction and was therefore not removed from office, but he was impeached.

Second, he was the president whose actions led to the creation of "Radical Reconstruction."  Johnson became president after President Lincoln was killed.  Johnson wanted to take a relatively lenient attitude towards the South in terms of what Southern states would have to do in order to be let back into the Union.  His leniency enraged the Radical Republicans in Congress.  Because of his leniency, they impeached him and also imposed Radical Reconstruction on the South.

Thus, President Andrew Johnson is important mainly in negative ways.  He is most famous for being impeached and for being too lenient (in the eyes of many) on the former Confederate states. 

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Why is Andrew Johnson noteworthy?

Andrew Johnson was the first president to take over for an assassinated president.  He was not college-educated, and when he was younger, he trained as a tailor--the only president with that kind of skill.  

Johnson's greatest contribution to history, however, was that he was the first president ever impeached.  He violated the Tenure of Office Act, an act which stated that the president had to get permission from Congress to relieve a Cabinet member of his duties.  Johnson fired the Radical Republican Edwin Stanton who was Lincoln's Secretary of War.  The Radical Republican-led Congress, who thought that Johnson was too lenient on the Southern states after the Civil War, started impeachment proceedings and placed the president on trial.  He was found not guilty, but the remainder of his presidency was unproductive.  Johnson was the first of three Reconstruction presidents, the other two being Ulysses Grant and Rutherford B. Hayes.  

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