Description

    Andrew Johnson Excellent Autograph Letter Signed: Never attending school himself, Congressman Johnson writes his friend, Nashville newspaper editor and future U.S. Senator Alfred O.P. Nicholson, about sending his eldest son away "to Chool [sic] him in that way which will be of most use to him in practible [sic] life." In 1861, Johnson voted "Nay" when Nicholson was expelled from the Senate for supporting the Confederacy.

    Signed: "A. Johnson", one page, 8" x 10". Greenville, Tennessee, September 8, 1845. To Hon. Alfred O.P. Nicholson. In full: " Friend Nicholson, I write this letter for the purpose of asking your opinion of a manual labor school I see has been recently established five miles east of Nashville- In the Agricultural paper published in your city there is a long account given of it- most of those articles are written for the purpose of giving institutions of this sort popularity, frequently when they are deceptions upon the public- I want to know your opinion for my self, not to be made use of for any other purpose- If you are acquainted with the proprietor give your opinion of him and then how you think his plan will do &c &c-. My oldest son Charles is now Sixteen years of age and I would like to send him from home to Chool [sic] some wheare [sic]- my object is to Chool [sic] him in that way which will be of most use to him in practible [sic] life- and in sending him from home you know it is important for me to consult economy- Most of these manual labor SChool's [sic] have proved to be failures, so far as my information goes- Please give me your opinion of this experiment, whether it is succeeding upon correct principles, or so far upon the novelty of things. There is nothing new of interest in this section of the State. I must say, there is nobody spoken of in all this region for Senator but your own dear self. As usual."

    Andrew Johnson, 18, married Eliza McCardle, 16, in 1827. Already a tailor, he never went to school but he knew his letters and could read a bit, so his wife, who had a basic education, taught him writing and arithmetic. He always had difficulty with his spelling and that is evident in this letter. In 1828, Johnson became an alderman of Greenville, Tennessee, and was Mayor of Greenville from 1830-1833. After serving in the Tennessee House and Senate, Johnson represented Tennessee in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1843-1853 before becoming Governor of Tennessee (1853-1857) and U.S. Senator (1857-1862).

    Alfred O.P. Nicholson (1808-1876) was admitted to the bar in 1831 and commenced practice in Columbia, Tennessee, where he also edited the Western Mercury. He later served in the U.S. Senate (1840-1842) and Tennessee State Senate (1843-1845). Moving to Nashville, he edited the Nashville Union (1844-1846) and became a director and then president of the Bank of Tennessee (1846-1847). Nicholson declined an appointment to President Pierce's cabinet in 1853, then edited the Washington Union (1853-1856). Returning to the U.S. Senate, he served from 1859 until March 3, 1861 (Andrew Johnson was the other Senator from Tennessee), when he withdrew, anticipating the secession of his state which seceded on May 7, 1861. On July 11, 1861, the Senate, by a vote of 32-10 (Andrew Johnson voted "Nay"), expelled Nicholson and nine other southern Senators who "have failed to appear in their seats in the Senate, and to aid the government in this important crisis, and it is apparent to the Senate that said senators are engaged in said conspiracy for the destruction of the Union and government, or with full knowledge of such conspiracy have failed to advise the government of its progress or aid in its suppression." Nicholson's Senate colleague, Andrew Johnson, was loyal to the Union. He served until March 4, 1862, when he resigned, having been appointed by President Lincoln as Military Governor of Tennessee with the rank of Brigadier General of Volunteers. He held this office until he was sworn in as Lincoln's Vice President in 1865. Nicholson later served as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Tennessee from 1870 until his death. Two photographs of engravings of Nicholson are included with this letter.

    Charles Johnson (1830-1863) was the eldest son and second of five children born to Eliza and Andrew Johnson. In this letter, written while Congressman, Johnson states that "My oldest son Charles is now Sixteen," but , in fact, Charles would celebrate his 16th birthday five months later, on February 19, 1846; his daughter Martha was 16, turning 17 on October 25th. In 1849, four years after his father wrote this letter, Charles became the first co-editor of the Greenville Spy. While studying to become a pharmacist, he became an alcoholic. In the Civil War, Colonel Charles Johnson served with the Middle Tennessee Union Infantry as an assistant surgeon and recruited Tennesseans for the Union Army. It is suspected that alcohol caused his fatal fall from a horse in 1863.

    This letter is in fine condition, with light wrinkles at the upper and lower edges. There is a minor tear in the upper right corner. Handwritten letters of Andrew Johnson have always been scarce. This full-page letter penned by an unschooled father stressing the importance of finding a good school for his son is especially desirable and would be a wonderful addition to a presidential collection. From the Gary Grossman Collection.


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