“Freedom Rings”- April 1865: Johnson Takes Initiative, Attempting to Quell Southern Dissent

“Freedom Rings”
April 1865

Johnson Takes Intiative, Attempting to Quell Southern Dissent

 

Andrew Johnson is overwhelmed. In the past month, he has been thrown into a presidency that he never expected to be a part of and is forced to deal with angry southerners and an issue brought on by previous administration. He has been sent over two hundred death threats in the past week, by sources who remain anonymous. His supporters are frustrated, wanting Johnson to make it clear the penalty for treason and murder. They want to ensure his security so that the Union is preserved. Though, Johnson knows that retaliating with anger will only make the situation worse and tensions higher. Instead, he decides to approach them with less aggression than they are used to seeing from the Union. Johnson is different from Lincoln, more soft-spoken and less driven; not cemented in his beliefs (as Lincoln was) or unwilling to compromise. Then again, in Johnson’s case, the Confederacy doesn’t exist. In Lincoln’s case, the Confederacy was the main focus of his presidency.

 

In response to the death threats, Johnson addresses the whole country by giving a speech in the city where he grew up: Raleigh, North Carolina (a southern state). This is risky. He knows at any moment, he could meet the same fate as his predecessor. It wouldn’t be difficult (or impossible to imagine) for a dissenter to simply sit in the crowd and wait for the opportune moment to blow Johnson’s head to bits. He is barely guarded, as just 10 Union soldiers are here and almost nobody here agrees with his views or policies. Though, the one thing that made Johnson want to come here; of all places, is probably the thing that could keep him from getting killed: he is in his hometown. These people know him, some of them are all but family to him. Some of them are his family. “I know that in the past few months, you have felt betrayed and hopeless.”, Johnson begins. “I know that you feel like everyone in the North is to blame for the horrors you have had to face. I know that the war is over and this should never have happened. I promise you, my countrymen, my townspeople, we will fix this problem. We will restore peace to this great nation. We will compensate for your losses. We are not to blame for the mess that currently ails your country, the previous administration is. We are not them. The faces you see in political office today are not to blame for the dinosaur situation. Although i was vice president, President Lincoln never presented his project to me. Had he done so, i would have strongly advised him to scrap the thing entirely. I cannot undo what Lincoln did. I cannot bring back the lives of your family members. What I can do is aid in the rebuilding of your homes and your businesses. I can make your lives normal again, or as normal as they can be. Certainly, they will be more normal than they currently are, as they won’t be destroyed by monsters.” One man in the crowd walks as closely as he can to the platform on which Johnson is standing without getting shot by the armed guards around the President. “That all sounds great, Mr. Johnson,” the man says, “but how do you plan on getting me back my family? Your gargantuan creation; in the midst of terrorizing Pine Bluff, Arkansas, killed my wife and kids. Ate ‘em like they were chickens. I saw ‘em die right in front of my eyes and I was helpless to do anything for them. You talk about repairing the damage you’ve done, but all you can hope to do is give us materials. You can’t give us what really matters: our families.” Johnson stands there for a moment, completely silent. His armed guards are tense, gripping their rifles tightly. Johnsons heart sinks at what the man has said. He has been told something he already knows, but hearing it has only made the effect of this grm truth that much worse. “Thank you, everyone.”, Johnson says sheepishly. “That is all.” The crowd boos and roars loudly as Johnson walks away. “Yeah!”, a man in the crowd yells. “Got no response for that, do ya you fuckin’ pussy! That’s it, show us the piece of shit coward you are and run the fuck away, just like all your fucking soldiers…” The rest of the man’s coarse language and belligerent ranting is drowned out by the anger-fueled noise of the crowd. Johnson has tried to repair the damage done in the South, but feels that he has only done more.

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