Andrew Johnson was often accused of public drunkenness, but it seems stories were mostly exaggerated. The most famous was his inauguration as vice president, but this here is the entire story:
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
a doubt it had been the most inauspicious beginning to any vice-presidency.
"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," Michigan Republican Senator Zachariah
Chandler wrote home to his wife. "I was never so mortified in my life, had
I been able to find a hole I would have dropped through it out of sight."
Johnson presided over the Senate on March 6 but, still feeling unwell, he then
went into seclusion at the home of an old friend in Silver Spring, Maryland. He
returned to the Senate only on the last day of the special session, March 11.
Rumors that had him on a drunken spree led some Radical Republicans to draft a
resolution calling for Johnson's resignation. Others talked of impeachment. President Lincoln,
however, assured callers that he still had confidence in Johnson, whom he had
known for years, observing, "It has been a severe lesson for Andy, but I
do not think he will do it again."