Reprinted from Mark O. Hatfield, with the Senate Historical Office, Vice Presidents of the
United States, 1789-1993 (Washington: U.S. Govt. Printing Office, 1997).
Andrew Johnson (1865)
Citation: Mark O. Hatfield, with the Senate Historical Office. Vice Presidents of the United States, 1789-1993
(Washington: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1997), pp. 213-219.
Introduction by Mark O. Hatfield.
The inauguration went off very well except that the Vice President Elect was too drunk to perform his duties &
disgraced himself & the Senate by making a drunken foolish speech.
—Senator Zachariah Chandler
Vice President-elect Andrew Johnson arrived in Washington ill from typhoid fever. The night before his March 4,
1865, inauguration, he fortified himself with whiskey at a party hosted by his old friend, Secretary of the Senate
John W. Forney. The next morning, hung over and confronting cold, wet, and windy weather, Johnson proceeded to
the Capitol office of Vice President Hannibal Hamlin, where he complained of feeling weak and asked for a tumbler
of whiskey. Drinking it straight, he quickly consumed two more. Then, growing red in the face, Johnson entered the
overcrowded and overheated Senate chamber. After Hamlin delivered a brief and stately valedictory, Johnson rose
unsteadily to harangue the distinguished crowd about his humble origins and his triumph over the rebel aristocracy.
In the shocked and silent audience, President Abraham Lincoln showed an expression of "unutterable sorrow," while
Senator Charles Sumner covered his face with his hands. Former Vice President Hamlin tugged vainly at Johnson's
coattails, trying to cut short his remarks. After Johnson finally quieted, took the oath of office, and kissed the Bible,
he tried to swear in the new senators, but became so confused that he had to turn the job over to a Senate clerk.1
Without a doubt it had been the most inauspicious beginning to any vice-presidency. "The inauguration went off