On inauguration day, 1865, Americans heard what Frederick Douglass deemed more akin to a sermon than a speech. He was referring, of course, to Abraham Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address – the main attraction. The opening act was something of a flop.
Andrew Johnson, having recently arrived in Washington City a bit under the weather, had earlier that day consumed several glasses of whiskey (he was from Tennessee, after all) to clear his head and steady his nerves.
Red faced and quite obviously intoxicated, he delivered – after his inauguration as vice president – a rambling and incoherent speech that meandered around glory and democracy until Hannibal Hamlin (Lincoln’s first VP) had to cut him off.
Lincoln, incensed, instructed his cabinet to keep an eye on him for the rest of the day. But he came to his defense nevertheless, stating “I have known Andy Johnson for many years; he made a bad slip the other day, but you need not be scared; Andy ain’t a drunkard.”
Even so, poor Andy never shook the “drunken tailor” image. And that was just the beginning of his problems.
You can find out how things turned out for Mr. Johnson in my couse on Reconstruction.