"FREE ANDREW JOHNSON M.C., LEONIDAS BAUGH ESQR": ANDREW JOHNSON AUTOGRAPH FREE FRANK ENVELOPE, ADDRESSED TO THE EDITOR OF A VIRGINIA NEWSPAPER, LEONIDAS BAUGH, AND SIGNED BY JOHNSON
JOHNSON, Andrew. Autograph free frank. No place, circa 1852. Beige envelope, measuring 5-1/2 by 3-1/3 inches, sealed with wax. $1600.
Scarce autographed free frank envelope, likely from Andrew Johnson's term as a member of the House of Representatives from Tennessee, addressed to a Virginia newspaper editor, Leonidas Baugh, and signed by Andrew Johnson.
Envelopes addressed in this manner serve as examples "of the use of the 'franking privilege,' which allowed Members of Congress free postage for official business. The Member's signature and stamp reading 'free' was the simple format for postage leaving the House beginning in the late 18th century" (History, Art, & Archives, United States House of Representatives). This envelope was addressed sometimes between March 4, 1843–March 3, 1853, the period during which Johnson served as a member of the House of Representatives from the 1st District of Tennessee. He made "a name for himself as an advocate of extreme economy, he was also the sponsor of a homestead act, a measure to enable every head of a family to enter 60 acres of public land free of charge. These policies estranged him from more conservative members of the Democratic party, including President James K. Polk, although he strongly supported the war with Mexico. They also alienated him from such southern spokesmen as Jefferson Davis because they would not benefit slaveholders. That he was an orthodox defender of slavery (he himself acquired some eight or nine slaves) and firmly insisted on the superiority of the white race made no difference: many southern leaders considered him unreliable" (ANB). Johnson has addressed this free frank to Leonidas Baugh, a businessman and the editor of the Abingdon Democrat from 1849-53. A Southern Democrat, Baugh favored slavery and government policy that favored slaveowners. When he later ran for the Virginia House in 1860, he nevertheless argued against secession, believing that the election of Lincoln could be resolved by waiting four years and putting a man more sympathetic to Virginia's situation in power. Faint postmark. Expected tears from envelope opening, but wax seal almost entirely intact.
Slight soiling to envelope, signature bold and clear. Near-fine condition.