Reverdy Johnson
Benjamin Franklin Perry

In 1846, Mr. Crittenden, of Kentucky, pointed out to me, in the Senate Chamber, Reverdy Johnson, then a Senator from Maryland, as the first lawyer at the bar in the United States. He was so regarded by the Senate twenty years ago, and has ever since maintained his reputation as one of the first of American lawyers. He is now a very old man, but his mind seems as clear and as strong as it ever was, and his speeches are as able as they were when he first took his seat in the United States Senate. He has opposed and exposed, with great ability, all the unconstitutional legislation of congress for the last three years, and defended with equal ability and zeal the rights of the Southern States. Unfortunately he became alarmed, eighteen months ago, at the Republican threats of confiscation, and yielded his assent to the Reconstruction Military Bill. This surrender of Mr. Johnson, to the threats of the Republicans and his own fears, had a most baneful influence throughout the Southern States. It was ill-timed and most unfortunate. President Johnson was vetoing the bills, and writing his incomparable messages against them, whilst the Maryland Senator was voting for one of them, and urging its adoption by the Southern people. This encouraged Governor Brown, of Georgia, and other politicians of his school, to break ground in favor of the adoption of these abominable measures. The people became apathetic and indifferent to the terrible dangers which threatened them. It seemed, at one time, that the spirit of the people was crushed out in the Southern States, and that they were disposed to submit to any wrong, usurpation or oppression on the part of Congress.

When I went to Washington after my election to the United States Senate, I requested Mr. Johnson to present my credentials to the Senate. He did so, and spoke of my having been a Union man. Sumner replied to him, and seemed well posted as to all my antecedents during the war. He mentioned that I had accepted a judge under the Confederacy at the close of the war. I suppose some renegade in Charleston, had furnished him with this information. Mr. Johnson seemed to regard it as a compliment that I had selected him to present my credentials to the Senate, and called to see me the next day. I met him in the Philadelphia Convention in 1866, and was with him on the sub-committee on resolutions and address to the people of the United States. The address had been prepared by Mr. Raymond, of the New York Times. A considerable portion of it in reference to the war, was stricken out on motion of Reverdy Johnson, as being offensive to the South. The address, as adopted, was a very admirable one, but the author, very soon, repudiated the whole of it, and went back to the Republicans.

Reverdy Johnson is a man of medium height and size, with a blemish in one eye, which disfigures him very much. His appearance is not striking or attractive. He is a native of Maryland, read law in Annapolis, has been Attorney-General of the United States, and several times elected to the United States Senate. He has recently been appointed Minister to England, and his nomination was confirmed by the Senate, notwithstanding his opposition to the impeachment of President Johnson. He will make an able representative of our government at the Court of St. James. I see it stated in the newspapers that Mrs. Lincoln is to accompany him to England, on a visit, as she says, to Queen Victoria.


Reminiscences of Public Men by Ex-Gov. B. F. Perry, pages 135-136
John D. Avil and Co., Printers and Publishers, 3941-43 Market Street, Philadelphia, 1883