Following Donald Trump’s announcement that he would not attend Joe Biden’s Inauguration, people on social media wonder why former US President Andrew Johnson missed his successor’s ceremony.

Today, January 20th, 2021, marks the Inauguration Day of Joe Biden who will be sworn in as the next President of the United States.

Donald Trump will not attend Biden’s Inauguration ceremony at the US Capitol, making him the fourth American President to break the long-running tradition.

As some people are looking forward to watching the live ceremony, some have delved into the past and wonder why late US President Andrew Johnson broke the tradition and skipped the Inauguration Day of his successor, Ulysses S. Grant.

Andrew Johnson, Photo by Library of Congress on Unsplash

Who was Andrew Johnson?

Andrew Johnson was the 17th president of the United States who served from 1865 to 1869.

He was born in Raleigh, North Carolina, and worked as a tailor apprentice in several frontier towns before settling in Greeneville, Tennessee.

Johnson served as an alderman and mayor there before being elected to the Tennessee House of Representatives in 1835. Johnson was elected to the House of Representatives in 1843.

He briefly served as a Vice-President under Abraham Lincoln’s administration and was sworn in as a President on April 15th, 1865 after Lincoln’s assassination in the same year.

Why did Andrew Johnson miss the Inauguration?

Johnson skipped the Inauguration ceremony of his successor, Republican Ulysses S. Grant, in 1869.

American writer Ron Chernow has offered his thoughts about that and wrote in his biography Grant (via Time):

“For two months before the Inauguration, the outgoing President dithered over whether to attend. In January, [Johnson] grumbled that Grant was ‘a dissembler, a deliberate deceiver’ and swore he would not ‘debase’ himself by going to the ceremony.”

The New York Times (quoted by a report from The New York Herald) notes that a carriage arrived to collect Johnson on the morning of Grant’s ceremony but it was turned away.

Instead of attending his successor’s Inauguration, Johnson spent his last hours at the White House doing paperwork.

Why was Andrew Johnson impeached?

The House of Representatives voted to impeach Johnson on February 24th, 1868, alleging that he had violated the Tenure of Office Act. The federal law stated that a President could not remove federal appointees without the consent of Congress.

The impeachment trial began in March 1868 and lasted nearly three months.

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