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Impeached: The Trial of President Andrew Johnson and the Fight for Lincoln's Legacy

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ISBN13: 9781416547495
ISBN10: 1416547495
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Publisher Comments:

In 1868 Congress impeached President Andrew Johnson of Tennessee, the man who had succeeded the murdered Lincoln, bringing the nation to the brink of a second civil war. Enraged to see the freed slaves abandoned to brutal violence at the hands of their former owners, distraught that former rebels threatened to regain control of Southern state governments, and disgusted by Johnson's brawling political style, congressional Republicans seized on a legal technicality as the basis for impeachment — whether Johnson had the legal right to fire his own secretary of war, Edwin Stanton.

The fiery but mortally ill Congressman Thaddeus Stevens of Pennsylvania led the impeachment drive, abetted behind the scenes by the military hero and president-in-waiting, General Ulysses S. Grant.

The Senate trial featured the most brilliant lawyers of the day, along with some of the least scrupulous, while leading political fixers maneuvered in dark corners to save Johnson's presidency with political deals, promises of patronage jobs, and even cash bribes. Johnson escaped conviction by a single vote.

David Stewart, the author of the highly acclaimed The Summer of 1787, the bestselling account of the writing of the Constitution, challenges the traditional version of this pivotal moment in American history. Rather than seeing Johnson as Abraham Lincoln's political heir, Stewart explains how the Tennessean squandered Lincoln's political legacy of equality and fairness and helped force the freed slaves into a brutal form of agricultural peonage across the South.

When the clash between Congress and president threatened to tear the nation apart, the impeachment process substituted legal combat for violent confrontation. Both sides struggled to inject meaning into the baffling requirement that a president be removed only for high crimes and misdemeanors, while employing devious courtroom gambits, backstairs spies, and soaring rhetoric. When the dust finally settled, the impeachment process had allowed passions to cool sufficiently for the nation to survive the bitter crisis.

With the dramatic expansion of the powers of the presidency, and after two presidential impeachment crises in the last forty years, the lessons of the first presidential impeachment are more urgent than ever.

Review:

"Fresh from his masterful The Summer of 1787, Stewart takes on one of the seamiest events in American history: the vengeful impeachment of Lincoln's successor as president; the Senate failed to convict Andrew Johnson by a single vote. At issue was the continuation of Lincoln's plans to reintegrate the South into the union after the Civil War. But also at stake, as always, was party politics. Stewart takes readers through a tangled web of motives and maneuverings in lively, unadorned prose. He's skilled at characterizing his large cast of characters and, as a lawyer, has a practiced nose for skullduggery, of which there was much. Corruption deeply marred the entire impeachment effort. Justifiably, Stewart holds his nose about most of the people involved and admires few of them. As he sums it up, in 1868 'none of the country's leaders was great, a few were good, all were angry, and far too many were despicable.' Stewart offers little analysis and advances no new ideas about what he relates, but he tells the story as well as it's ever been told. B&w photos." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)

Review:

In 1864, fearing defeat in the presidential election, Abraham Lincoln broadened his Republican ticket by placing on it Andrew Johnson, a Tennessee Democrat who fiercely supported the Union. Although hostile to blacks, Johnson intensely disliked the Southern planter class. The Lincoln-Johnson combination prevailed, and in the spring of 1865, a month after taking the vice presidential oath, Johnson became... Washington Post Book Review (read the entire Washington Post review)

Synopsis:

David O. Stewart has practiced law in Washington, D.C., for more than a quarter of a century, defending accused criminals and challenging government actions as unconstitutional. He has argued appeals all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court and was law clerk to Justice Lewis Powell of that Court. Having defended an impeachment trial before the United States Senate, Stewart is currently writing a book on the Andrew Johnson impeachment trial of 1868.

Visit the author's website at www.davidostewart.com.

Synopsis:

By the author of The Summer of 1787, the bestselling and highly acclaimed account of the writing of the constitution, a dramatic re-creation of the impeachment trial of Andrew Johnson, which became the central battle of the struggle over how to reunite a nation after four years of war.

Stewart traces the impeachment saga to the social and political revolutions that rocked the South with the end of slavery and the Civil War. As president after Lincoln’s assassination, Johnson, a Tennessee Democrat, not only failed to heal the nation’s wounds but rubbed them raw, ignoring widespread violence against the freed slaves and encouraging former rebels to resume political control of the Southern states. His high-handed actions were opposed by the equally angry and aggressive Congress, led by rep. Thaddeus Stevens of Pennsylvania, an ardent foe of slavery who aimed to rebuild American society on principles of equality and fairness.

The titanic collision between Congress and the president was diverted into a legalistic dispute over whether Johnson could fire his own Secretary of War. Inept lawyering by Johnson’s prosecutors, combined with political deals, saved Johnson by a single vote in the Senate.

Impeached challenges the traditional version of this pivotal moment in American history, which portrays Johnson as pursuing Lincoln’s legacy by showing leniency to the former rebels. Impeached shows the compelling reasons to remove this unfortunate president from office, reveals the corrupt bargains that saved Johnson’s job, and credits Johnson’s prosecutors with seeking to remake the nation to accord with the ideals that Lincoln championed and that the Civil War was fought for.

About the Author

David O. Stewart is the author of the highly acclaimed The Summer of 1987: The Men Who Invented the Constitution and Impeached: The Trial of President Andrew Jackson and the Fight for Lincoln’s Legacy.

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OneMansView, April 8, 2010 (view all comments by OneMansView)
A bit too narrowly focused (3.7*s)

This book focuses almost entirely on the details of the entire impeachment process of Andrew Johnson in 1868. The story told by the author has several key components. First, the intransigent Johnson, almost immediately upon assuming the Presidency in 1865, permitted the old Southern aristocracy to form state governments and seek to rejoin the Union, while concurrently implementing Black Codes that essentially kept newly freed men in a state of total subservience – all of which tremendously antagonized the dominant Congressional faction, the so-called Radical Republicans, who were astounded that rebels who tried to destroy the Union at such a horrendous cost would be allowed to resume their former lives with few consequences. Johnson would not compromise with Congress, either vetoing their Reconstruction legislation or refusing to enforce its provisions. Second, Johnson so frustrated Congress that after twice failing to impeach Johnson, a Tenure of Office Act was rammed through Congress by the redoubtable Thaddeus Stevens of PA on the hopes of entrapping Johnson in an illegal act. Third, his dismissal or suspension of Edwin Stanton as the Secretary of the War Office without Senatorial approval gave the House a basis for constructing eleven highly vague and confusing articles of impeachment based largely on violations of the constitutionally dubious Tenure Act. Fourth, the ensuing Senate trial was so long and drawn out with interminable legalisms being resolved that the merits and substance of the indictments and the overall concerns of the Republicans were almost buried. Fifth, of great concern to the author, were the indefatigable and far-ranging efforts of political allies to buy enough votes, either through promises of control of patronage or outright bribes, to acquit Johnson.

The author’s telling of this disgraceful chapter in American history is quite tedious and repetitious. Many characters, some quite obscure, were involved in the impeachment proceedings and in the influence schemes with very little net impact. The author devotes little space to the political dynamics of the times. With huge majorities in both the House and the Senate, it is never clear why the Republicans lost the drive to follow through on the reconstruction of Southern society, although the absence of inspired political leadership is suggested. Furthermore, the specific Congressional reconstruction aims are scarcely discussed, with only vague mention of such measures as the Freedman’s Bureau, the Civil Rights Act of 1866, the Reconstruction Acts of 1867, etc. The book essentially takes up where Garrett Epps’ DEMOCRACY REBORN stops in his discussion of the revolutionary nature of the Fourteenth Amendment of 1866 and is certainly dependent on a book of the breadth of Eric Foner’s RECONSTRUCTION to provide the background in which Johnson’s impeachment was played out.

The author is best in his attempt to put Johnson’s impeachment in broad historical perspective. Perhaps foremost is the issue of what constitutes an impeachable offense; sheer incompetence is difficult to construe as “high crimes and misdemeanors.” Yet the notion that impeachment is simply a judicial determination concerning a crime belies its highly political nature. Stevens, recognizing the unlikelihood of proving criminal behavior, constructed a highly political eleventh article of impeachment based on Johnson’s ignoring and bypassing the Radical Republican’s policies. Of course the vote buying of the jurors, that is the Senators, has no equivalency in a strictly legal setting.

Contrary to the contention that impeachment undermines constitutional structure, the author contends that the impeachment process acts as a safety value for the American political system. While it may fail to remove a president, it does tend to expose what is disagreeable to a large segment of the electorate and to subsequently moderate the offending behavior – a partial and safe remedy. The author takes to task those who suggest that the Republican senators who voted for Johnson’s acquittal were men of principle willing to sacrifice for the greater good of the country. It is quite clear that such a notion is entirely fanciful. Perhaps the most well-known advocate of this view is none other that John F. Kennedy in his PROFILES IN COURAGE, who suggests that Kansas Senator Edmund Ross’ vote for acquittal was a tremendous act of courage. In actual fact, immediately after the vote, Ross cashed in the many chips that had been directed his way and had Johnson appoint numerous individuals of questionable ability and ethical standards to a variety of governmental positions that had definite money making potential.

Lincoln’s legacy is only indirectly a part of this book. Johnson held Lincoln’s general ideas that the Union should generally be lenient towards Southerners but hardly his views on the equality of men. But Lincoln’s plans did not foresee the Southern developments that became evident soon after the War’s end. As the author suggests, Lincoln’s legacy is not one of policy, but one of concern for the Union and his fellow man. The fight that culminated in Johnson’s impeachment was one over whether a president has the power to essentially negate the sacrifice and good intentions of an entire nation. It is an enduring question as to the course the nation would have taken had Lincoln lived.

While the book is laborious and narrowly focused, it does cover the players surrounding Johnson’s impeachment, certainly an important, though sordid, occurrence in our history. Johnson remains elusive as his extreme obstinacy and willingness to antagonize others is hard to picture in a president. Other than a tendency to over consume alcohol, the author gives little basis for such a dysfunctional personality. The author provides a brief review of the directions that the lives of several of the key players took in subsequent years, but the situation in the South in ensuing years is barely mentioned.
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mott woolley, July 22, 2009 (view all comments by mott woolley)
A fight for Lincoln's legacy - that is the way David O. Stewart describes the impeachment of President Andrew Johnson. In his recently published book about this impeachment - an epic war between a Congress bent on vindicating Lincoln, and a President equally bent on vindicating Lincoln - Stewart acknowledges in his Preface how, for most of his adult life, he simply did not appreciate the meaning of President Johnson's impeachment and the issues at stake in the Senate trial. In his new book Impeachment The Trial of President Andrew Johnson And The Fight For Lincoln's Legacy he explains this trial and gives each side so fair a description it is easy to see how the matter was decided by just one vote. The legacy of Lincoln is that difficult.

In his Preface, Stewart puts himself at the top of the list of Americans who have misunderstood Andrew Johnson's impeachment trial. In doing so, he joins ranks with Chief Justice William Rehnquist who also wrote a book about the Johnson impeachment. This trial is fascinating because it is nothing less than a trial of what America means. The Stewart book is much easier to read than Rhenquist's book. Formerly a law clerk to United States Supreme Court Justice Lewis Powell, Stewart's first book, The Summer of 1787, is a biography of our Founders' Constitution. As he explained in that book, and as everyone knows, the Founders had not come to terms with the flaw in our constitution on the issues of race and equality. Lincoln did. What interests Stewart, and why his new book about Johnson's impeachment is so interesting, is this: Andrew Johnson insisted that the Southern States should be allowed to re-enter the Union without doing more than was needed to give effect to the 13th amendment (abolition of slavery), but Congress, without the support of all the citizens in America, wanted to give effect to Lincoln's legacy by imposing upon the South the 14th amendment over its objection which, if implemented, would have extended the meaning of Lincoln far beyond the mere abolition of slavery. Johnson believed (he firmly believed) the 14th amendment was unconstitutional because it was passed without counting the votes of the Southern States. That is, Congress would not let the Southern States take their seat in Congress unless they first ratified the 14th amendment. What kind of democracy is that?

This was an outrage in Andrew Johnson's mind; for, if seated at once, the Southern States would have been able to block the 14th amendment. In this way, the will of a majority of the American people on the question of race relations with the Negro would have been given lawful effect. That is what Andrew Johnson wanted. Whose approach more faithfully gave effect to the meaning of Lincoln and our Founders' constitution: Johnson's or Congress'?

As Stewart explains, Congress sought to do to Andrew Johnson what it had done to the Southern States: override his constitutional rights as President and move America forward as envisaged by Lincoln. It was Johnson's refusal to abide by the implications of the 14th amendment that moved Congress to seek his ouster from high office. Would Lincoln - a champion of government by the people, have sided with Andrew Johnson in resisting how Congress rammed through the 14th amendment? How poorly told this story is in our high schools! Put another way, the impeachment trial was nothing less than America's ordeal in trying to come to terms with the meaning and words of Abraham Lincoln. As Stewart explains, to advance the Negro cause, Congress came perilously close to the excess of the French Revolution during the Johnson impeachment. Indeed, Clemenceau, who later sat across the table from Woodrow Wilson at the Versailles Peace Conference, and was a cub reporter for a French newspaper in Washington at the impeachment trial, described the anti-Johnson leader in Congress at the time, Thaddeus Stevens, as America's Robiespierre. "Justice" can be a very dangerous thing

It would be a wonderful if our high schools could explain our history as clearly and as well as Stewart explains the extraordinary battle waged over the question of Johnson's fitness to be President. He was, among other things, a raging alcoholic.

The Senate trial, as brought to life by Stewart, had less to do with Johnson than it did with Lincoln and what Lincoln's legacy was to be. Not surprisingly, David Herbert Donald, who many believe has written the best single volume biography of Lincoln, highly recommends Stewart's new book. It is that good. The endorsement of this book by David Herbert Donald is particularly significant for another reason. Almost all historians who write about Lincoln and our Civil War and the plight of the Negro in our history, cite Donald's Pulitzer prize biography of Charles Sumner. Charles Sumner was the Senator almost beaten to death on the Senate floor by an outraged Senator from the South just before the Civil War. He was deeply frustrated by Lincoln as President. After the assassination of Lincoln, Charles Sumner helped lead the cause to impeach Johnson. As Donald has explained, if Thaddeus Stevens was America's Robeispierre, Sumner was our Danton. Interestingly, Sumner spent much of his time in Europe - particularly Paris, where his view on America's meaning was formed.

What is most interesting about Stewart's new book is a fact we all know but probably have not fully appreciated. By dint of our Founders wisdom, the standard set for impeachment kept Johnson in office notwithstanding Johnson's coldhearted view of the role of the Negro in America's future. This probably saved our nation, as Stewart explains. How we came to terms with the legacy of Lincoln during the Johnson impeachment trial was constrained by the constitution, the People's ultimate expression of their collective will. Reading the constitution as it was understood by the Founders doomed Congress' effort to remove Johnson. But reading the constitution as it was understood by the Founders, ironically, had led Lincoln to overthrow it and free slaves notwithstanding he had no constitutional authority to do so save and except his war power. At war's end, what basis was there in our constitution to validate Lincoln's act in freeing the slaves? The Founders' constitution, by setting the legal threshold of what is an impeachable offense, assured the right of a man like Johnson to remain in office despite the determination of Congress to remove him (and for good reason, some would say, did Congress seek to remove him). Johnson's victory gave voice to the People as expressed in our constitution, and not their representatives duly assembled in Congress. This book is a gem. In an odd way, the ability of Johnson to survive the impeachment trial by one vote is an affirmation of Justice O'Connor's observation that affirmative action is extremely dangerous and must one day end if we are to get on peaceably as a nation. This raises an interesting question: to what extent was Lincoln faithful to the will of the People? Johnson has been condemned for giving effect to the People's will and Lincoln is the hero in our history but who of the two more faithfully obeyed our Founders' constitution? This is just another way to ask whether an activist judge is better than a judge who is not an activist. As Stewart explains, it is an irony of great difficulty that the Founders preserved the will of the People in a constitution which all but makes it impossible to impeach a person whose views are repungnant to many.

I wish Steven Spielberg would make a movie of the story told in Stewart's book - it would rival Schindler's List if done right. One vote is all that kept Johnson in office. The tragic aspect of this story is that bribery, not anything else, procured this one vote. What a story this is! And how well Stewart tells it!
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Product Details

ISBN:
9781416547495
Subtitle:
The Trial of President Andrew Johnson and the Fight for Lincoln's Legacy
Author:
Stewart, David O.
Publisher:
Simon & Schuster
Subject:
United States - General
Subject:
United states
Subject:
Politics and government
Subject:
United States - Reconstruction Period (1865-1877)
Subject:
Government - Executive Branch
Subject:
Political History
Subject:
Johnson, Andrew - Impeachment
Subject:
Lincoln, Abraham - Influence
Subject:
US History-1860 to 1920
Copyright:
Publication Date:
20090512
Binding:
Hardback
Grade Level:
General/trade
Language:
English
Illustrations:
Y
Pages:
464
Dimensions:
9.25 x 6.25 in

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Related Subjects

History and Social Science » US History » 1860 to 1920
History and Social Science » US History » 19th Century

Impeached: The Trial of President Andrew Johnson and the Fight for Lincoln's Legacy Used Hardcover
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Product details 464 pages Simon & Schuster - English 9781416547495 Reviews:
"Publishers Weekly Review" by , "Fresh from his masterful The Summer of 1787, Stewart takes on one of the seamiest events in American history: the vengeful impeachment of Lincoln's successor as president; the Senate failed to convict Andrew Johnson by a single vote. At issue was the continuation of Lincoln's plans to reintegrate the South into the union after the Civil War. But also at stake, as always, was party politics. Stewart takes readers through a tangled web of motives and maneuverings in lively, unadorned prose. He's skilled at characterizing his large cast of characters and, as a lawyer, has a practiced nose for skullduggery, of which there was much. Corruption deeply marred the entire impeachment effort. Justifiably, Stewart holds his nose about most of the people involved and admires few of them. As he sums it up, in 1868 'none of the country's leaders was great, a few were good, all were angry, and far too many were despicable.' Stewart offers little analysis and advances no new ideas about what he relates, but he tells the story as well as it's ever been told. B&w photos." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Synopsis" by , David O. Stewart has practiced law in Washington, D.C., for more than a quarter of a century, defending accused criminals and challenging government actions as unconstitutional. He has argued appeals all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court and was law clerk to Justice Lewis Powell of that Court. Having defended an impeachment trial before the United States Senate, Stewart is currently writing a book on the Andrew Johnson impeachment trial of 1868.

Visit the author's website at www.davidostewart.com.

"Synopsis" by , By the author of The Summer of 1787, the bestselling and highly acclaimed account of the writing of the constitution, a dramatic re-creation of the impeachment trial of Andrew Johnson, which became the central battle of the struggle over how to reunite a nation after four years of war.

Stewart traces the impeachment saga to the social and political revolutions that rocked the South with the end of slavery and the Civil War. As president after Lincoln’s assassination, Johnson, a Tennessee Democrat, not only failed to heal the nation’s wounds but rubbed them raw, ignoring widespread violence against the freed slaves and encouraging former rebels to resume political control of the Southern states. His high-handed actions were opposed by the equally angry and aggressive Congress, led by rep. Thaddeus Stevens of Pennsylvania, an ardent foe of slavery who aimed to rebuild American society on principles of equality and fairness.

The titanic collision between Congress and the president was diverted into a legalistic dispute over whether Johnson could fire his own Secretary of War. Inept lawyering by Johnson’s prosecutors, combined with political deals, saved Johnson by a single vote in the Senate.

Impeached challenges the traditional version of this pivotal moment in American history, which portrays Johnson as pursuing Lincoln’s legacy by showing leniency to the former rebels. Impeached shows the compelling reasons to remove this unfortunate president from office, reveals the corrupt bargains that saved Johnson’s job, and credits Johnson’s prosecutors with seeking to remake the nation to accord with the ideals that Lincoln championed and that the Civil War was fought for.

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