A Not So Amicable Inauguration

On January 2021, President-elect Joe Biden became the 46th president of the United States of America. Unfortunately, unlike any recent inauguration, the former president Donald Trump left and avoided all inaugural activities, not exhibiting the attributes of a democratic leader which he claimed to be for the past four years.

But as history shows, there is almost certainly a past story which is similar to current times. Back in the election of 1800, John Adams lost his second election to none other than Thomas Jefferson. Because the country had not worked out the kinks of the U.S. election of a President and Vice President, the election remained deadlocked for weeks, until it was decided that Jefferson would become the next president. Adams was not very happy and rudely left Washington quietly the morning of the inauguration. His son, John Quincy Adams would do the same when he was unseated by his political opponent, Andrew Jackson (one of Trump’s hero) and left the capitol the morning before Inauguration Day. Andrew Johnson was the next president to once again not represent U.S. diplomacy, refusing to attend the inauguration of his successor, Ulysses Grant.

On the morning of Inauguration Day 1869, a carriage arrived to collect Johnson to ride along side Grant in another carriage (because they didn’t want to ride in the same carriage together) to the capitol. Johnson at the last minute refused to ride in the carriage. When Abraham Lincoln was assassinated, Andrew Johnson his Vice President was forced to take the reins as leader of the free world. As he took office, he promoted Ulysses Grant the well loved general of the union army to commanding general of the U.S. Army. Both Johnson and Grant were on the same side of the war but their views would differ once the war was won for the union. Johnson wanted the nation to return to how it was before the war without slavery, keeping the black population as the lower class and vetoed many bills that promoted their advancement. Meanwhile Grant wanted to help newly freed blacks to begin their equalized assimilation into society. Johnson held a speaking tour around the nation to promote his policies and due to Grant’s popularity, brought him along. By the end of the tour Grant was not impressed stating after a rally which ended in disaster after the stage collapsed, killing many attendees, “I am disgusted with this trip. I am disgusted at hearing a man make speeches on the way to his funeral.”

The two became certified enemies when Johnson decided to remove Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton without approval from Congress. When the Senate reinstated Stanton, Grant who was given the position as interim secretary of war, decided to resign to give Staton his rightful position back. Johnson was infuriated. Because Johnson’s action to remove Staton was considered a violation of the Tenure of Office Act, Johnson was impeached.

Grant backed impeachment of Johnson, the first ever “president” to be impeached. Both Johnson and Grant sent heated letters back and forth, accusing each other of being liars. Johnson was acquitted by one vote from removal from office. Because of Johnson’s impeachment and his dislike by his own party, he was not elected by the Democratic Party (his party) as the candidate for the next election. Grant (Republican) however gained more partisan supporters as he completely broke away from his relationship with Johnson (Democrat), and won the election. The inauguration was scheduled for March 4th, 1869.

Johnson announced to his presidential cabinet that “we could not, with proper self-respect, witness the inauguration of a man whom we knew to be untruthful, faithless and false.” But the rest of his cabinet did not feel the same way as many were supporters of Lincoln and wanted to be in attendance for the inauguration. After further discussion with his cabinet, Johnson had a change of heart and decided to attend the inauguration. One of his cabinet members, Navy Secretary Gideon Welles was not happy with his decision and complained saying “so we are likely to form part of the pageant — be a tail to the Grant kite.”

Then the morning of the inauguration, Johnson seemed to delay leaving to attend the inauguration ceremony. Most of his cabinet members didn’t understand why Johnson was delaying, using his final work as his excuse for his delay. So here is the funny part. Unknown to his cabinet members, the night before, Johnson had sent Grant a letter, suggesting that they both ride in to the capitol together. Grant never replied 😂.

So Grant arrived at the Capitol alone, while everyone waited for Johnson to arrive. Everyone in attendance waited and waited, looking on for the attendance of Johnson and the fire of the gun to signal his arrival. News finally arrived that Johnson was too caught up in finishing up his work as president and would not attend. The ceremony resumed on while Johnson signed bills and pardoned a list of criminals. Sound familiar? He left Washington around noon and headed back to good ole Tennessee.

One quote from a newspaper at the time stated the following:

“When his own personality rose to a conspicuous height, it almost invariably suffered from the impetuous disregard of surrounding circumstances; when he remembered only himself and became excited with a sense of wrong, he almost invariably forgot the dignity of his station.”




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