Visiting Andrew Johnson's Grave
Here I am on December 3, 1996 in Andrew Johnson National Cemetery in
Greeneville, Tennessee, where the
cemetery's namesake is interred beneath an impressive eagle-topped monument.
We stayed in Greeneville the evening before,
and the morning dawned on, as you can see, a perfect blue-sky day in President
Johnson's hometown. We spent the morning visiting the
Johnson National Historic Site, where the humble log cabin that Johnson
used as his tailor shop, and which became the town's hub for political
conversation, has been preserved and enclosed within a brick structure
in which you can stand and gaze at the tailor shop and into the past. There in
that very building was where Johnson, the illiterate tailor, was taught to
read by his wife. There is where townsmen that he paid to do so would sit and
read newspapers and political speeches to Johnson while he stitched and mended
clothing. It was from these, the most humble and, to my mind, the most noble,
of all Presidential beginnings, came
the 17th President of the United States, the man who preserved the integrity
of the Constitutional form of government. Johnson, applying all he had
learned in his tailor shop, stubbornly refused to relinquish the
powers of the Chief Executive to a hostile Congress that sought to
turn the Presidential chair into nothing more than a rubber stamp. For this,
he was impeached by the House of Representatives (the first of two Presidents
to be impeached, and the only one of the two who broke a law that was
later held unconstitutional and who was therefore deemed justified in resisting
it; the other President was impeached on charges of perjury and obstruction of
then acquitted in the Senate by only a single vote short of the
two-thirds majority required. Only this single vote allowed him to complete
the term of the office he assumed on
the assassination of President Lincoln. Hated by contemporaries for refusing
to yield to Congress, Johnson lived to see his own vindication,
becoming the only ex-President to return to
Washington to serve in the Senate, where his triumphal entry into the chamber
that nearly wrecked him was announced by a standing ovation for the man who,
by then, was acknowledged as having saved the federal system of government.
This great man now lies beneath the turf of steep Sackett's Hill,
his body wrapped in the American flag, his head resting on a copy of the
Constitution he preserved. I admit to having a great respect for Andrew
Johnson; my visit to his gravesite filled me with a sense of his
true greatness, and I was gratified to see that his memory is kept so well
and yet so quietly in his proud hometown.
House Biography of President Johnson...
...Johnson's Place Among Prominent Tennesseeans...
...Hanover College's History
Department's page on President Johnson...
...Search for Rare Books on President Johnson...