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My Chat With Andrew Johnson
Woke up on Valentine's Day and decided to text the 17th president of the United States. It was okay. I think.
The hot new world topic recently is the Artificial Intelligence technology ChatGPT. If you believe everything you read on the internet machine, you are most likely afraid that this programming will replace you, but, in its defense, ChatGPT will help you write your cover letters for your next job. There’s no way this thing could replace the mediocre content I put out.
AI couldn’t appreciate your support of Okay History as I do.
The result wasn’t good.
It’s not even on the level of being okay. If you are interested in Bad History, then by all means, use ChatGPT and cringe at the jokes it makes about Ronald Regan getting shot. Who does that sort of thing?
The other day I found an interesting ChatGPT-like app that lets you speak to historical figures. Since I most recently read about the impeachment of Andrew Johnson, I figured I’d spend the morning of Valentine’s Day with the #39 ranked president.
Here’s how it went.
Andrew kicked off our conversation with a great disclaimer, one I can’t even get mad at because I have branded my newsletter in the same vein. I should probably put this at the top of my emails: Check everything I write.
I decided to ease into things. I’ve never talked to Andrew Johnson or any president before.
I have no quick way to verify this election count, but as a former state rep, US Congressman, and then Tennessee Governor, it makes sense for Johnson to take this next position.
His response about staying in the Union checks out.
The question of how Andrew landed on the Republican ticket in 1864 was more rhetorical, but that gets lost when texting, so I’ll give him a pass.
Lincoln dropped Hannibal Hamlin for Johnson, as Andrew said. Their National Union Party ticket ran against General George McClellan, whom Lincoln had fired because George was terrible. McClellan and his running mate, a Congressman from Ohio who was the Son-in-Law of Francis Scott Key, didn’t even support the Democratic party platform and lost handily.
Anyway, I recommend reading Reelection Lincoln when you have the chance.
Andrew sounds like a politician after my next question. It’s like, yeah, no kidding, he disagreed with Lincoln on the Radical Republicans.
Sorry, Abe, I can’t dig Thaddeus Stevens like you.
Johnson was a proslavery Unionist, so for him to tell me in 2023 that he wanted to end slavery is revisionist history, and Revisionist History is an entirely different brand.
Also, what’s with the idea that he was for limited voting rights regarding the Reconstruction?
I missed an opportunity to ask him about the 15th Amendment, which gave black men the right to vote, mainly because his leniency towards the Confederate states upsets me greatly and was a huge distraction.
It’s funny how Congress passed legislation in 1865 after Johnson became president when they weren’t in session. Andy went around making proclamations that pardoned Confederate soldiers and setting up governments in Confederate states to be seated in the next Congress because Andy, here, didn’t think secession was legal.
My rebuttal: Okay.
He didn’t take it the way I intended, seeped with sarcasm. This app needs a sarcasm font. I quickly jumped into the impeachment.
Andy thought the Tenure of Office Act was a political trap set by Thaddeus Stevens and brilliant Radical Republicans to ensure that true Republicans from Lincoln’s administration stayed in office. It probably was. It definitely was. Johnson fired the Secretary of War, Edwin Stanton, and the march to impeachment began.
I have no idea why I asked him who defended him. What does that do with anything interesting? I may be up at 5:45 am, but boy, I’m not thinking.
Here’s where our talk gets interesting. Of course, I would assume Johnson didn’t think he abused his powers with his Reconstruction plan, which basically was building the same Rebellion Outhouse but putting a fresh coat of paint on it. Smells great!
I get a little snarky with my response. In turn, he tries to lecture me, and I tell him, no thanks!
Stupid sarcasm font is unavailable; Andy here is thinking this Christopher Dake seems like a reasonable guy!
Then he bothsiderisms me, and I’m rolling my eyes at my dining room table in the dark.
I’m not sure where Andy decided he needed to turn this into a history class. A revisionist history, I might add (small, r, Malcolm). He spends this time in our conversation ignoring me while he lectures.
Trying to win back the conversation, I jumped in with a Grant question. I must be waking up!
He hated Grant. He offered Grant the Secretary of War gig, and Grant realized he was being used and declined. Yeah, hey Andy, maybe you could begin telling the truth instead of asking me some basic history questions. I know, I know, the disclaimer.
When asked how he achieved what he did not set out to do, his response was supported by wrong answers. Andrew Johnson sounds like the villain of a bad Disney movie after he was caught being villainous and is trying to weasel his way out.
He literally vetoed the 14th Amendment. I follow up his lies like I’m Chuck Todd on Meet the Press, so I jumped to racism, missing yet another opportunity.
Back in 1868, politicians like Johnson were perfectly fine marketing themselves as racist. Now he feels the need to hide it.
But I see right through him and slam him with two sentences and three words. Efficient.
Now I’m fired up. Johnson didn’t win the Democratic nomination in 1868, losing out to a guy named Horatio, but I still wanted to get a Grant dig in, and Andy ignored it.
Providing Johnson a chance at redemption, he went entirely into lying even more, supported no doubt by that dammed disclaimer.
I mean, what the heck? The Radical Republicans restricted African Americans’ freedoms, are you kidding me?
My response is the proper, professional response when speaking to a president. Andy returns to his lecture.
He blathers on about how he wanted lasting peace; then I hit him the hardest—the Okay History Presidential Rankings, which autocorrected to prudential – which, I believe, is an insurance company. Dang it!
I ignore the mistake and destroy him with the revelation - 39Th buddy! THREE-NINE!
Then he snaps back at my snark with his snark—this guy. NO, YOU’RE WELCOME, ANDREW! He’s starting to sound like my cousin Andrew, which isn’t good. It’s probably best to wrap this up.
See how polite I am? He’s a little too excited about getting the last word in, and I can’t help but think, this didn’t go entirely as I thought.
So that was my chat with Andrew Johnson. Probably not going to catch up with him anytime soon.
Monday is President’s Day, which means it’s anniversary day! The 2023 project announcement will take the place of the Maundy Monday Newsletter.
Have a great weekend. No disclaimers.