The Impeachers
America's first presidential impeachment: A prize-winning author tells the story of the efforts by heroic citizens to preserve the victories of the Civil War by removing a bigoted president who ruled as if he were king.When Abraham Lincoln was assassinated and Vice-President Andrew Johnson became "the Accidental President," it was a dangerous time in America. Congress was divided over how the Union should be reunited: when and how the secessionist South should regain full status, whether former Confederates should be punished, and when and whether black men should be given the vote. Devastated by war and resorting to violence, many white Southerners hoped to restore a pre-Civil War society, just without slavery, and the pugnacious Andrew Johnson, who was no Lincoln, seemed to share their goals. With the unchecked power of executive orders, Johnson ignored Congress, pardoned rebel leaders, promoted white supremacy, opposed civil rights, and called Reconstruction unnecessary. Congress had to stop the American president who acted like a king.With her extensive research and profound insights, Brenda Wineapple dramatically restores this pivotal period in American history, when the country, on the heels of a brutal war, was rocked by the first-ever impeachment of a sitting American president. And she brings to vivid life the extraordinary characters who brought that impeachment forward: the willful Johnson and his retinue of advocates--including complicated men like Secretary of State William Seward--as well as the equally complicated visionaries committed to justice and equality for all, like Thaddeus Stevens, Charles Sumner, Frederick Douglass, and Ulysses S. Grant. Theirs was a last-ditch, patriotic, and Constitutional effort to render the goals of the Civil War into reality and to make the Union free, fair, and whole.Advance praise for The Impeachers"With scholarly authority and literary grace, Brenda Wineapple has written the best account we have of the impeachment and trial of Andrew Johnson. The Impeachers clarifies, as only a responsible historical work can, an increasingly urgent public question: by what standards ought Congress to consider impeaching and removing a sitting president? As ever, Wineapple's work exemplifies how objectivity need not come at the expense of dramatic engagement, let alone shrewd personal and political judgments."--Sean Wilentz, George Henry Davis 1886 Professor of American History, Princeton University

The Impeachers Details

TitleThe Impeachers
Author
LanguageEnglish
ReleaseMay 21st, 2019
PublisherRandom House
ISBN-139780812998368
Rating
GenreHistory, Politics, Nonfiction, Biography, North American Hi..., American History, Presidents

The Impeachers Review

  • Christopher Saunders
    January 1, 1970
    Engaging account of Andrew Johnson's disastrous presidency, centering on Congress's failed efforts to impeach him. Wineapple knows this period and these personages well, having covered them in previous works like Ecstatic Nation, and does an excellent job crafting the rush of Reconstruction figures into a cohesive narrative. Johnson, taking office after Lincoln's assassination, squandered an initial outburst of goodwill as his plans for Reconstructing the South prove a betrayal of racial ideals. Engaging account of Andrew Johnson's disastrous presidency, centering on Congress's failed efforts to impeach him. Wineapple knows this period and these personages well, having covered them in previous works like Ecstatic Nation, and does an excellent job crafting the rush of Reconstruction figures into a cohesive narrative. Johnson, taking office after Lincoln's assassination, squandered an initial outburst of goodwill as his plans for Reconstructing the South prove a betrayal of racial ideals. He pardons and coddles Southerners even as they work to rebuild the edifice of white supremacy, while dismissing blacks as inferior and unworthy of rights or protection, and attacking Republicans in Congress, the military and his own cabinet as disloyal traitors. Johnson's portrayed, harshly though convincingly, as a thin-skinned near-madman who rages against his enemies, embarrasses himself with public intoxication, racist rants and inflammatory speeches; he comes to view racial equality and the rule of law itself as a conspiracy against him. As Johnson schemes and stonewalls, the postwar South descends into race riots and terrorism against freed blacks and white Republicans; in the North, lingering wartime idealism battles with a yearning for normalcy and reconciliation. Meanwhile, Congressional Republicans debate the feasibility of impeachment, couching their efforts as principled opposition to Johnson's destructive agenda - and conniving the Tenure of Office Act, designed to protect Secretary of War Edwin Stanton from dismissal to force a showdown. The tale's contemporary relevance is obvious, though Wineapple wisely leaves such comparisons between the lines. She ably sketches Johnson, Republican leaders like Stanton, Thaddeus Stevens (Congress's crabbed, sulfrous racial egalitarian), Charles Sumner (who married conviction and caution in equal measure) and Benjamin Butler (mercurial, memetically ugly but a gifted lawyer), with a smattering of celebrities, writers and activists - Frederick Douglass, Mark Twain, Georges Clemenceau and Walt Whitman among them - providing commentary. Most authors, even those sympathetic to Johnson's foes, couch impeachment as a legally dubious mistake; Wineapple disagrees, arguing it was a necessary if disreputable step to curb Johnson's abuses of power and obstruction of civil rights legislation. Historians will undoubtedly debate her interpretation; readers, especially those reading with an eye to modern politics, must decide for themselves. Either way, it's a well-written, sharply observed look at a perilous time in American history, where Americans faced a choice between chaotic reforms, an unequal but deceptively comforting status quo...and an unstable president acting as a law unto himself.
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  • Ben Babcock
    January 1, 1970
    I grew up in the ’90s, and I vaguely remember on TV when I was a kid some kind of scandal involving this guy named Bill Clinton, whom I knew as the President of the United States. The word impeachment kept getting thrown around, but of course I didn’t really know what that meant. Fast-forward 20 years, and the word has resurfaced as a possible fate for the current President, Donald Trump—and this time, I knew what the word meant, but I didn’t really understand what impeachment entails. So Brenda I grew up in the ’90s, and I vaguely remember on TV when I was a kid some kind of scandal involving this guy named Bill Clinton, whom I knew as the President of the United States. The word impeachment kept getting thrown around, but of course I didn’t really know what that meant. Fast-forward 20 years, and the word has resurfaced as a possible fate for the current President, Donald Trump—and this time, I knew what the word meant, but I didn’t really understand what impeachment entails. So Brenda Wineapple’s book on the impeachment of Andrew Johnson came into my life at an opportune time. The Impeachers explains the nature of presidential impeachment through a case study of one of the only two presidents ever to be impeached. However, it is much, much more than that. It’s really a snapshot of American history immediately following the American Civil War. Thanks to NetGalley and Random House for the eARC.Here in Canada, we learn some very bare-bones American history (which means we learn slightly more than the average American does about American history). So obviously I knew what the Civil War was, what it was about, causes, etc. I knew the names Lincoln and Grant and (vaguely) Johnson. As history classes in school often do, however, they elide the difficult reconstruction parts that follow any massive conflict. I had known the Civil War was a thing, and that it had led to Emancipation. Never did I really pause to think what that actually looked like, how the Confederate states were readmitted into the Union, the immediate effects of emancipating slaves in the South, the violence that ensued … but of course, the moment Wineapple starts describing the headaches, problems, and loss of life, it was immediately obvious. Just because the Union had “won” the war didn’t mean everyone in the South was suddenly going to magically be all right with living next to free Black people. Duh.So Wineapple spends the first part of the book on a brief history of the United States right at the beginning of Johnson’s presidency: Lincoln assassinated, the country still fractured, legislators deeply divided on what an equitable Reconstruction looks like. Wineapple frames this as Johnson essentially being the wrong man at the wrong time, his temperament and ideology inappropriate for the task of Reconstruction. As I mentioned above, lots of this was new to me. I had no idea about Johnson’s political views on secession, suffrage, etc. Wineapple also covers a lot of the animus and internecine racial conflict in the South. She doesn’t mince words: the Union might have won the war and abolished slavery, but that didn’t end racism any more than Obama’s election in 2008 ended it. White people were lynching Black people (and white allies) quite openly. The overall effect is to belie the comfortable idea that the violence and unrest in the present-day United States of America is somehow a new or different condition than earlier in its history. So many people seem interested in “returning” to the better days, of making America—dare I say—great again. Although Wineapple doesn’t come right out and say it, we can infer that there is a strong possibility America was never “great” in that sense. Indeed, even with the civil war “won,” the idea that the former Confederate states would simply return to the Union was not a foregone conclusion….So, impeachment trial itself aside, The Impeachers provides such valuable insight into US history just after the Civil War. How does it fare with the impeachment though?Honestly, there are more details here than I probably wanted. This will be an excellent reference for anyone who is a student of this era. Wineapple is careful to go into the backstories of anyone who might be anything more than a passing player in this drama; there are even photos! Believe me, I’m not criticizing the book for these attributes—but they do add up for a somewhat drier experience than I typically look for in my history books. This is just a case of mismatched book and audience, though, not a reflection on the book’s quality.When we finally get to the impeachment trial, things feel more anticlimactic. Again, Wineapple wants to recount everything in as much detail as possible, drawing out the inevitable acquittal (uh … sorry, spoilers) that we know must be coming. Again, if detail is what you want, then you will not be disappointed. I really just wanted to know what happened and hear Wineapple’s take on the how and why.On the other hand, all of the back and forth helps us understand what impeachment is and is not. Firstly, it’s not clearly laid out in the Constitution. This first presidential impeachment was very improvisational and ad hoc. It’s not a criminal procedure—it’s a political one, despite the Chief Justice presiding. Finally, its political origins mean it hangs more on the well-chosen words and backroom deals of political vote-grubbing than it does on any type of evidentiary support. At the end of the day, Johnson is acquitted not because he’s “innocent” of the articles of impeachment but because enough senators had doubts, or professed to have doubts because it was more politically expedient for them to do so.I understand now better the issues at stake as people call for the impeachment of Donald Trump. It’s not just a procedural but an inherently political decision. And, without meaning to downplay the direction in which the United States is currently heading, this book reminds us that there have definitely been Constitutional lacunae previously in American history. It’s true that we don’t really know what Americans and their government will do if Trump finally crosses some kind of line he hasn’t already crossed with apparent impunity—but the United States has actually been in similar situations before. Now, I don’t say this to be reassuring in any way. Instead, I just want to observe that The Impeachers is a good lesson in why learning one’s history is so important: if we remember where we’ve been, we have a better sense of the precedents that can shape our future.Anyway, as a non-American who doesn’t often read about American history, this was a pretty OK read. A little too technical/detailed for my history-reading tastes. A student of history might be more appreciative of that kind of thing, though. This definitely improved my understanding of an important period of American history and helped put some current events in a new perspective. If we take that to be part of history books’ purpose, then on that scale, The Impeachers succeeds.
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  • MJBurroughs
    January 1, 1970
    The Impeachers: The Trial of Andrew Johnson and the Dream of a Just Nation by Brenda Wineapple is an engrossing history of one of the most important moments in American history: reconstruction after the Civil War. This was a period that was never taught too much in school at least from my experiences. It could have been that I just wasn't paying enough attention in class, but that's a story for another time. Due to my obsession with Ken Burns documentaries, I have a fairly good grip on the narra The Impeachers: The Trial of Andrew Johnson and the Dream of a Just Nation by Brenda Wineapple is an engrossing history of one of the most important moments in American history: reconstruction after the Civil War. This was a period that was never taught too much in school at least from my experiences. It could have been that I just wasn't paying enough attention in class, but that's a story for another time. Due to my obsession with Ken Burns documentaries, I have a fairly good grip on the narrative of the Civil War. But once Lincoln was assassinated, I don't remember learning about much between that point and the 20th century. Andrew Johnson has the honor of being the first president to be impeached, and this was a piece of trivia I actually knew, especially from being raised in the era of Bill Clinton's trial in the late 1990s, but that was about it. This book spares no detail in setting the stage for how our country came to this crossroads, and all of the important people involved. I'll try my best to summarize: Abraham Lincoln, seeking reelection in 1864, in the midst of that pesky Civil War, needed to bring balance to his campaign ticket. Johnson, a staunch believer in Union preservation, but from the southern state of Tennessee was just what Lincoln needed to appease the less radical voters. Unfortunately, after his tragic assassination, nothing seemed to go according to plan. Johnson was sworn in as president, and to everyone at the time, seemed committed to the progression and activism required to put the pieces of the country back together. Rebuilding the Union after the Civil War meant progressive ideas that were frankly tough to swallow for people located below the Mason-Dixon Line. After all, there were around 4 million Americans newly freed from the shackles of slavery and looking for their deserved basic liberties and human rights. Post war, more radical members of Congress believed that after a costly conflict to decide its meaning, the Constitution was to be taken literally, for the rights of ALL who lived under it. Johnson however, seemed to have other ideas...I hope you can forgive my ignorance, but I had no idea Andrew Johnson was such a complete sack of crap. Johnson proclaimed that, "This is a country for white men, and as long as I am president, it shall be a government for white men." Of course, Johnson's line of thinking wasn't unheard of, but it's clear through the study of this book that Johnson as president didn't have the balls to confront everything that was happening around him. Tough decisions needed to be made, not only about freedmen, but about how the former members of the Confederacy were to be confronted and dealt with. While Congress passed numerous Reconstruction Acts to guarantee liberties and keep Confederates from controlling the states, Johnson worked against them, and tried tirelessly to block their execution. As Johnson and members of Congress fought tooth and nail, one could imagine the prospects of the country once again falling apart, and something drastic needed to be done. In 1868, Andrew Johnson was formally impeached.Ok, enough of the history lesson out of me, I want to examine and talk more about the writing style of the book. It's a quite interesting blend of informational text combined with lyrical story telling. With quotes and musings of persons of note sprinkled in with the narrative, The Impeachers reads like an entertaining documentary spread out on paper. Despite the vastly intellectual subject matter, the style lends itself to be comfortably read with ease, so long as you spare the time to read it. My only struggle was trying to figure out just the right voice actors speaking the lines in my head.After the Bill Clinton proceedings in the 1990s, we say the word "impeachment" with a far different thinking than those from generations long before. While the interpretations of impeachment have come a long way from "high crimes and misdemeanors", the Andrew Johnson trial forever shifted its use to enforce the intended balance of power in our government. It's truly amazing to me how after over 150 years from both the Civil War and the Johnson impeachment, the vestiges of their respective results plague our thoughts and actions to this very day.Verdict: The Impeachers: The Trial of Andrew Johnson and the Dream of a Just Nation by Brenda Wineapple is a brilliantly cultivated history of the struggle between legislative and executive that framed the era of Reconstruction after the American Civil War. Enjoyable to read while still being fully engrossing, this book is well worth the investment of time that it takes for a full appreciation. It's a heavy handed thing to say in the political climate we're in, but I think it's warranted: those who do not learn history, are all but doomed to repeat it.A special thanks to Random House Publishing Group for generously supplying an advanced review copy to TehBen.com, all views and opinions are my own.Review to be published on tehben.com on May 1st, 2019
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  • Casey Wheeler
    January 1, 1970
    This book is well written and researched. I have read about the presidency of Andrew Johnson, but this is the first that goes into detail about his impeachment. It is well a well known fact that Andrew Johnson was not one of the better Presidents that we have had lead our nation. He worked to overturn many of the intended consequences as a result of the southern states losing the Civil War and extended extreme racial bias on a wide basis for another century and more. The book goes into detail ab This book is well written and researched. I have read about the presidency of Andrew Johnson, but this is the first that goes into detail about his impeachment. It is well a well known fact that Andrew Johnson was not one of the better Presidents that we have had lead our nation. He worked to overturn many of the intended consequences as a result of the southern states losing the Civil War and extended extreme racial bias on a wide basis for another century and more. The book goes into detail about the many people who played a role in the impeachment and trail of Johnson and does so in an informative manner.I recomend this book for those looking for more information on the specifics of the first impeachment trail of a President in the United States.I received a free Kindle copy of this book courtesy of NetGalley and the publisher with the understanding that I would post a review on Net Galley, Goodreads, Amazon and my fiction book review blog. I also posted it to my Facebook and Twitter pages.
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  • KJ
    January 1, 1970
    I received an advance ebook copy of this book in return for my honest review.For anyone interested in getting a more in-depth idea of the thoughts of the key Congressional figures in Andrew Johnson's impeachment trial and the dilemmas with which they grappled, this book is for you!! The author's thorough research into the extensive cast of characters involved in this particular historical event shines through on each page. The book adopts a chronological narrative form, which allows each person I received an advance ebook copy of this book in return for my honest review.For anyone interested in getting a more in-depth idea of the thoughts of the key Congressional figures in Andrew Johnson's impeachment trial and the dilemmas with which they grappled, this book is for you!! The author's thorough research into the extensive cast of characters involved in this particular historical event shines through on each page. The book adopts a chronological narrative form, which allows each person to come onto the stage in the book only when they entered into center stage during the events of 1867. With this decision, the author has made the huge cast more accessible and minimizing confusion over who is who.Andrew Johnson is only one character in this book on his trial and serves as a great companion piece to the previously-published book on Andrew Johnson's impeachment trial "Impeached: The Trial of President Andrew Johnson and the Fight for Lincoln's Legacy" by David O. Stewart.There are a couple of places where the author adds in little details about the historical figures that sometimes seem more like a way to spice up the writing, as these little tidbits of their lives are of little relevance to the particular topic at hand. But this is minimal and does not detract from the information in the book.I did feel that sometimes there were moments where the content delves too deeply into the motives and motivations of historical figures that I felt we were straddling the line of speculation as well. The narrative makes little use of words and phrases such as "may have," "could have," "perhaps," and "maybe," so it is difficult to tell where the line between solid evidence and historian speculation occur.However, I still believe that this is a solid read for anyone wishing to understand more about not only the trial, but the political climate surrounding Andrew Johnson's impeachment, the causes, the reactions, and the temperament of the population at large. The many quotes taken from females commenting on the subject was particularly refreshing to see as well. There is a sense - not deliberately stated - that women were actively involved during this time as well, not only fighting for women's suffrage, but commenting upon, witnessing, opining, and - in the case of Vinnie Ream - more than a sideline involvement in the events. As the author mentions near the end of the book, many of the dilemmas with which these historical figures grappled are still unsolved during today. Very apropos for anyone interested in seeing where our current situations have already appeared in history. Definitely worth the read!
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  • Steve
    January 1, 1970
    Overall, I found this to be a very good read- it's extremely informative, well researched, and I thought it did a good job getting into the personalities who were at the heart of the push to impeach President Johnson, as well as the history of his path to the presidency. If I had any complaint, it would be that I thought the book jumped around a bit, which at times made it a bit harder to read. Couple that with the few really dry parts in the book (it has to happen- this is a book about politics Overall, I found this to be a very good read- it's extremely informative, well researched, and I thought it did a good job getting into the personalities who were at the heart of the push to impeach President Johnson, as well as the history of his path to the presidency. If I had any complaint, it would be that I thought the book jumped around a bit, which at times made it a bit harder to read. Couple that with the few really dry parts in the book (it has to happen- this is a book about politics, after all), well- some chapters were just a pain to read through. This isn't true of the whole book, however, and I'd say that anyone with at least some interest in the subject should pick this one up.
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  • Jason Park
    January 1, 1970
    A wonderful history of Andrew Johnson’s impeachment that reminds one just how little American politics has changed. My full review: https://medium.com/@jpark_21/the-impe...
  • KarnagesMistress
    January 1, 1970
    Was I reading history, or current events? Switch up the names and some specific topics, and you wouldn't know the difference. A nation deeply divided upon cultural lines, a sitting President beloved by none, not even even his own party, who likes to go off on tangents ("Would the President really allow him to print the entire interview-- and that the President was laughing? Perhaps he'd like something off the record? Not at all, [the President] happily answered, not at all." That's from page 245 Was I reading history, or current events? Switch up the names and some specific topics, and you wouldn't know the difference. A nation deeply divided upon cultural lines, a sitting President beloved by none, not even even his own party, who likes to go off on tangents ("Would the President really allow him to print the entire interview-- and that the President was laughing? Perhaps he'd like something off the record? Not at all, [the President] happily answered, not at all." That's from page 245 in this book, not a current periodical. We're considering impeachment, why wouldn't they?Before now, here's pretty much all you learned about Andrew Johnson in school: became President when Lincoln was assassinated, oversaw Reconstruction, was impeached. And that was all you ever learned about Andrew Johnson. Until now, that is, when we, the collective, American we, need to learn about Andrew Johnson, because those who fail history are doomed to repeat it. They impeached a President, why shouldn't we?Brenda Wineapple is so skillful, she answers these questions without overtly mentioning the present situation. She reports on the present by illuminating a heretofore murky past. To say this book is timely is a gross understatement. It's more of a fun read than you might expect, too. I found myself laughing out loud at several sections.One final suggestion: watch (or re-watch) the movie Lincoln before you read this book; you'll want the images of Tommy Lee Jones's Thaddeus Stevens and Jared Harris's U.S. Grant (as well as sundry others) in your head as you read. This book will also satisfy the 2019 Watauga County Public Library Reading Challenge categories: A book published in 2019; A book by an author you've never heard of before; A book with a Victorian setting; A book you would recommend to someone else; A book about a career you wanted as a child (President); A book with a courageous character; A book about American history; A nonfiction book published in the last five years. I received this book for free through Goodreads Giveaways on Thursday, April 25, 2019. It is an advance uncorrected proof.
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  • Donna Pingry
    January 1, 1970
    If only a decent president had followed Abraham Lincoln! Andrew Jackson was a much bigger crook than Nixon yet Nixon at least had enough honor to leave. This book got long winded in many parts but that's politics for you. I didn't know anything about the Radical Republican Party before I read this book. I find myself wondering why none of this is required high school teaching. Just like today, political opinions are easily bought and paid for. Promises and honor lay in the dust. Our generation i If only a decent president had followed Abraham Lincoln! Andrew Jackson was a much bigger crook than Nixon yet Nixon at least had enough honor to leave. This book got long winded in many parts but that's politics for you. I didn't know anything about the Radical Republican Party before I read this book. I find myself wondering why none of this is required high school teaching. Just like today, political opinions are easily bought and paid for. Promises and honor lay in the dust. Our generation is still struggling with the evil caused by that time and we've learned absolutely nothing. So sad.
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  • Italo Italophiles
    January 1, 1970
    This is an important, relevant, well-written book that should be required reading by all in the U.S., especially by those in positions of power, those who believe the impeachment process can really remove a sitting president, and those woefully ignorant of U.S. history.What I thought was great about the book:Vast research shows through via details that bring the huge cast of people, and the times, to life. The history felt recent as opposed to far away and unimportant.It shows the process meant This is an important, relevant, well-written book that should be required reading by all in the U.S., especially by those in positions of power, those who believe the impeachment process can really remove a sitting president, and those woefully ignorant of U.S. history.What I thought was great about the book:Vast research shows through via details that bring the huge cast of people, and the times, to life. The history felt recent as opposed to far away and unimportant.It shows the process meant to remove a corrupt or incompetent president from office to avoid a revolution, by explaining the first time it was used, against Lincoln's successor the incompetent and racist Andrew Johnson, on the grounds of violating the law and the constitutional rights of congress.The book shows clearly the evils of white supremacy, and the waste of war, and many of the evil acts carried out against freed slaves by former-Confederates.It presents a glimpse of what might have been, for freed slaves and their descendants, if Lincoln had lived, and if Johnson had been removed from office, and if the North had not been exhausted by the former-Confederates' constant obstructionism. The North won the war but lost the battle for justice for former slaves.The list of personages at the end was a wonderful study list for further research by this reader.Things that disappointed me about the history, and a bit about the book: The book made clear that race relations in the U.S. have moved not so very far from that era due mainly to the former-Confederates' obstructionism and violence (and later due mainly to the Dixiecrats, et. al.), and due to disgraceful aspects of human nature.The author spelled out racial slurs in full in quotes, which only normalizes those evil words for the reader. It is time to stop that, really, really stop that normalization.Impeachment is shown as a poor tool to remove a criminal or incompetent president due to the corrupt and partisan participants in the process. A parliamentary vote of no-confidence is much more efficient.The author used euphemisms that by now should be retired in histories, such as “his intimate friend” to mean a man's mistress.My biggest issue with the book is that the author doesn't spell out clearly that Johnson did indeed have children by at least one of his slaves. The last living one's striking resemblance to his true father is really proof enough, so the Jefferson-story DNA tests are not really necessary. This is important because it surely influenced Johnson's, and all former slave owners', opposition to granting full civil-rights to former slaves. Full rights would have meant under the laws of the time that the illegitimate children would have had inheritance rights. Johnson's race-mixing would have come out and his family would have had to share their wealth more equally. He gave some things and favors to his children born to his slave, but it was far from equal to what his legitimate children received. His last illegitimate child died in poverty, with the public even recognizing this evil and trying to put together a pension for him. He had to work as a doorman in advanced old age at a hotel named for Johnson, like an exhibit for the patrons.I received a review-copy of this book; this is my honest review.
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  • Joel
    January 1, 1970
    (Note: I received a free copy of this book through Goodreads Giveaways.)The impeachment of Andrew Johnson was not a subject ever covered in much detail in history class. School left me with the impression- not very accurate, it turns out- that Johnson had been ambushed by political enemies who deliberately passed an unconstitutional law just so he could violate it and thus be impeached. Why did it all happen? That was never made very clear. So I was happy to read a book which would clarify all t (Note: I received a free copy of this book through Goodreads Giveaways.)The impeachment of Andrew Johnson was not a subject ever covered in much detail in history class. School left me with the impression- not very accurate, it turns out- that Johnson had been ambushed by political enemies who deliberately passed an unconstitutional law just so he could violate it and thus be impeached. Why did it all happen? That was never made very clear. So I was happy to read a book which would clarify all that.I almost regret it. This is a book all about political scheming, vicious squabbling over small political advantages, and legal hair-splitting over microscopic details, with the central question- what, exactly, constitutes an impeachable offense- unresolved even to the present day. At times it’s fascinating, but for long stretches I felt like gnawing off my own leg rather than continue reading. And I don’t think that’s the fault of the author; Wineapple probably did the best she could with an inherently tedious subject. Certainly her research is impressive.But I do appreciate knowing that, at its heart, beneath all the sordidness, the impeachment was a civil rights battle. Johnson had spent his entire time in the White House trying his level best to prevent newly freed slaves from gaining any sort of equal rights (such as the right to vote); trying to baffle Reconstruction; trying to keep former Confederates from facing any consequences in the aftermath of the Civil War. Prior to reading this book, I had no understanding of just how bad a President Andrew Johnson was. I can’t say that I know whether he “deserved” impeachment, but the Congressmen who impeached him had good cause to want him gone.Bottom line: this isn’t really a book for casual readers; but if you have a deep, detailed interest in American history, you’ll probably want to read it.
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  • Elizabeth Forsberg
    January 1, 1970
    This was a fascinating story of all the competing interests that collided during the impeachment of Andrew Johnson. The biographical details of the senators, congressmen, and officials involved in the process made it clear that they were not perfect men, but that many of them tried to do what was right for the country. In fact, it seemed that many of the radical Republicans were more advanced in their understanding of human rights than the population at large. The hideous examples of racism and This was a fascinating story of all the competing interests that collided during the impeachment of Andrew Johnson. The biographical details of the senators, congressmen, and officials involved in the process made it clear that they were not perfect men, but that many of them tried to do what was right for the country. In fact, it seemed that many of the radical Republicans were more advanced in their understanding of human rights than the population at large. The hideous examples of racism and tribalism that are described seem almost incomprehensible now but are so important in the demonstration of what was at stake. Finally, the unnamed specter hovering over the whole narrative is very clearly the current president of the United States. Although it may have been impossible to avoid, it would have been a more pleasant reading experience without him skulking in the background.
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