cover image The Impeachers: The Trial of Andrew Johnson and the Dream of a Just Nation

The Impeachers: The Trial of Andrew Johnson and the Dream of a Just Nation

Brenda Wineapple. Random, $30 (576p) ISBN 978-0-8129-9836-8

As scholar Wineapple (White Heat: The Friendship of Emily Dickinson and Thomas Wentworth Higginson) persuasively argues in this detailed and lucidly written history, the impeachment of Andrew Johnson, who ascended to the presidency after a mere six weeks as Lincoln’s v-p, was motivated by the impeachers’ view of Johnson’s actions as undermining the sacrifices Americans had made throughout four years of war. Many of Johnson’s fellow Republicans believed that his policies were antithetical to their aims of reconstructing the nation and helping millions of former slaves build new lives as free people. In February 1868, the House of Representatives voted to impeach Johnson, but this decision was based less on his alleged offense—violation of the Tenure of Office Act—than on his refusal to support his party’s aims. While previous scholars have viewed the impeachment, which failed to remove Johnson from office and allowed him to serve out his term, as an embarrassing political grudge fight, Wineapple argues convincingly that it clearly upheld the limits of presidential authority and the power of the constitutional system of checks and balances. Her arguments are novel and her prose lively (she describes the 14th Amendment as “a farrago of political jockeying, political compromise, and nagging anxiety about the future of a country where all people are created equal”). This book has much to offer enthusiasts of both historical and contemporary American politics. Illus. [em](May) [/em]