Government and Politics

The American Party System

Did all Southern lawmakers leave Washington once the South seceded?

All but one: Even after the South seceded and the first shot of the war was fired at Fort Sumter, South Carolina, Senator Andrew Johnson (1808–1875) of Tennessee opted not to leave the Union. The fact that Johnson did not stick with the state he represented may seem a surprising move, but it reveals one of his most fundamental and fiercely held beliefs: He maintained an unswerving trust in the Constitution. Consequently, he viewed secession as not only treasonous but illegal.

His decision to remain with the Union proved politically advantageous to Johnson, a Democrat: In 1862 President Abraham Lincoln (1809–1865) appointed him military governor of Tennessee. When Abraham Lincoln went on to a second term in office (in March 1865), Johnson was his vice president. He had held this job for a scant six weeks when Lincoln was assassinated (April 14) and Johnson assumed the presidency.


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